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From Schalke to EXCEL: Tim Reichert’s story of growing high-potential teams

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(ESI Illustration) Tim Reichert. Image credit: EXCEL Esports

Tim Reichert’s name might not be all that familiar to most esports fans in Europe, but his work and legacy certainly are. One of the founders of SK Gaming, former Head of Esports at Schalke 04 Esports, and a client manager for Media Com Germany, Reichert is a man of many talents. Most recently, he’s been putting those skills to work as the new Head of Esports for British esports organisation EXCEL Esports. 

Esports Insider sat down with Reichert late last year to discuss the ins and outs of his new position, plans for the future, and his overall vision as the leader of an organisation that is, by many accounts, still waiting to realise its full potential.

EXCEL was probably not a company you’d immediately guess Reichert would go to after a successful period at Schalke, but Reichert is sure he made the right decision and feels very good about his future. However, to address the elephant in the room first: why did Tim Reichert start working for EXCEL?

“I did like what I did at Schalke and there were plenty of different opportunities out there, but for me, I came to the conclusion that working on an organisation, working with teams and players, working with the content department was something that I still wanted to continue,” he said. “I looked at different options and EXCEL had, actually, a really nice package.”

Reichert added that he saw a lot of progress in EXCEL and a lot of potential. “I want to be in a business where your work is visible and you can be effective”, he explained. For him, EXCEL is the best place to be able to do that right now — although there is still a lot of work to be done.

EXCEL vs G2 Esports LEC LoL
EXCEL vs. G2 at the LEC. Image credit: Michal Konkol/Riot Games

Doing a lot with little

The second elephant in the room is, of course, Schalke 04. Reichert started his career at Schalke in 2015, and has been instrumental in the growth of its esports section. When the football club faced financial difficulties and was relegated to the second tier of the German Bundesliga in 2021, the decision was made to sell its LEC slot to Team BDS for €26.5 million (~£22.1m).

The time at Schalke was an interesting one for Reichert, and the German team’s ex-Head of Esports noted that he did not anticipate being in the club for such a long time, especially during the first two years. The beginnings of Schalke 04 Esports were, as Reichert put it, very rough, even for a person who actually played professional football in his life.

He described how at the start, the club did not invest as much into esports as he would’ve hoped, and the entire project was slow to develop in the initial stages. What finally got the ball rolling was the first appearance in the EU LCS 2018 Summer Playoffs in Madrid. “This changed everything for the organisation”, Reichert said.

“This was a big risk. It was not like it was for other League of Legends companies and teams, it was a big gamble based on the outside perspective and the fan perspective because with that money you could have bought a good player for your football team.

“It’s not like a small six-digit investment like it was in 2016, it was a heavy investment at that time, but Madrid changed everything. And when we did invest, and when we started making real revenues and when we also figured out how to convince partners to join our journey, it got bigger and bigger.”

As a matter of fact, Schalke 04 Esports was experiencing steady growth just before the pandemic hit the world. Then, Schalke, as well as a number of other teams and companies, was hit hard, and the time was especially frustrating to Tim Reichert and his team. In a weird twist of fate, it was Reichert’s esports department that helped Schalke’s traditional sports side of the club deal with financial difficulties.

“We were successful, even with limited resources we hired very high profile players and very good guys for the most important areas, like the content creation area,” Reichert said. “We made amazing content and we had good storylines with our teams. But still, there was the other side which was a drama you couldn’t imagine in your worst dreams. COVID, plus getting relegated to the second Bundesliga.”

Tim Reichert at Schalke
Tim Reichert (left) worked as the Chief Gaming Officer at football club Schalke 04. Image credit: Schalke 04

RELATED: EXCEL partners with sports fashion retailer JD SPORTS

Teamwork

Reichert learned a lot about the ins and outs of how to make a profitable organisation, and perhaps even more importantly, how to manage expectations and keep a steady stream of revenue in the esports world.

Reichert’s advice to football clubs (and other sports teams trying to get into esports) starts reasonably simple: make a budget and stick to it. This is probably the hardest part for the sports team leaders in the beginning. After that, the esports department needs to have a stable business plan that everyone involved must commit to.

However, Reichert also added a bit of controversial advice: “Commit to a team sport, and not something like FIFA or Fortnite. Every successful sports organisation in the world is based on a team sport and not on a single-player sport. There are no teams for tennis clubs or big teams for table tennis. It’s just non-existent. So you should look into something team-related and not single-player related. I still agree with FIFA for football clubs but next to that – focus on a team sport.”

EXCEL rebrand
EXCEL underwent a rebrand in 2021. Image credit: EXCEL

Fixing issues

Addressing his plans and future at EXCEL, Reichert honestly admitted that his perception of EXCEL was not the greatest while he was in Schalke — although he saw a lot of potential there.

“There was something missing about the teams and the communication to the audience,” Reichert added. “I also addressed that when I had my conversation with EXCEL when we discussed the potential entrance of myself. They were already aware of that, and it was not like I needed to make them aware of it.”

There are currently a lot of internal changes going on in EXCEL and those processes do require a lot of time, Reichert said. However, he feels like he’s on the same page with the organisation, and that’s one of the main reasons he decided to join EXCEL in the first place.

“I have high hopes for the people working here on EXCEL’s end. And a lot of them are not even visible or fans do not even know all that has happened here in a year, internally. Hopefully, we can show them something much better in the future and we can provide them with way more fun and entertaining results.”

Image credit: Michal Konkol / Riot Games

The final goal

The main priority is to entertain the gaming and esports audience, Reichert said and added that this will be the priority for EXCEL in the future because any organisation, be it traditional sports or esports, simply exists for its fans. The second priority is to win, of course. Reichert notes that achieving goals, getting trophies, and having good results are a given when it comes to the organisation’s plans for the future. The main goal, however, is definitely entertaining the audience and broadening the EXCEL fan base.

Reichert concluded: “EXCEL is changing, and this is one of the messages I want to send. Yes, a lot of things are happening, and I’m really happy to be a part of that. I’m also just a small piece in the bigger picture, trying to contribute to the success as well as I can, and hopefully, the people will be satisfied with that.”

EXCEL started its new LEC season with two losses, one to Team BDS and the other to G2, but also with a win against Europe’s new ‘super team’, Vitality. The organisation also secured a partnership with sports retailer JD Esports earlier this month.

The ‘final goal’ of EXCEL is to become a true global contender in the esports industry. That is helped by investments and a set of new hires that bolstered the ranks of the organisation during 2021. The focus on people is apparent when speaking with Reichert, and he pointed out that growing an esports brand is simply very much about people.

RELATED: EXCEL ESPORTS bolsters commercial team with new hires

“[EXCEL] added amazing creative people to the content team, and that added up to strong growth in the community. That’s what the idea is about — it sounds simple, but it’s super hard to execute at the end. I think it’s important for us to show the world that we will compete with the best, and we won’t just make playoffs, we aim higher.

“But also, it’s about leveling up on the human resources, leveling up on the people working for EXCEL, and creating the most entertaining and fun content for our audience. Because you attract audiences with entertaining stuff, you don’t attract audiences just because you’re based wherever or you’re telling a big story.

“You need to give the audience consistent content so that the audience is willing to follow you and be a part of your journey.”

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Team Spirit, Virtus.pro and NaVi roster movements ahead of DPC 2023

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The CIS teams are on the move to reform a new powerhouse roster for the upcoming Dota Pro Circuit 2023 (DPC 2023). After the Eastern European teams’ poor showcase of results at the International 11 (TI11), it wasn’t surprising that even the TI10 Champs, Team Spirit themselves, are up for a roster shuffle.

Team Spirit parts ways with TORONTOTOKYO

Team Spirit announced the departure of their mid-player, Alexander “TORONTOTOKYO” Khertek. Renowned for his calm and wise demeanor during drafting discussions, the young prodigy is also infamously known for typing “ez game” at TI10.

Anyways, the departure from Team Spirit was by no means a good sendoff. Team Spirit had the worst run in their career-long TI participation, where BOOM Esports eliminated the defending champ at sixteenth place. While there were rumors about the internal conflict among Spirit players prior to TI11, which may have led to their poor performance. It’s difficult to envision Spirit crumbling so drastically after just winning the PGL Arlington Major 2022 beforehand.

TORONTOTOKYO’s new team

Speaking of rumors, word has it that there is a CIS super-stack in the making, consisting of Ivan “Pure” Moskalenko, Danil “gpk” Skutin, Egor “Nightfall” Grigorenko, Vitalie “Save-” Melnic, and TORONTOTOKYO himself.

These are high-profile players, who have played for powerhouses, such as Virtus.pro and Entity. Traditionally, Pure, gpk and Nightfall are carry players, who are best known for their position 1-3 roles respectively. This begs the question of where TORONTOTOKYO fits into the roster.

Well, it seems like TORONTOTOKYO will be taking the backseat in the team by playing as hard support. He was spamming position-5 support role in pubs since TI11 concluded, so the rumors seem to fit into the puzzle.

Virtus.pro welcomes young blood

VP has had a decent DPC season, all things considered. They placed thirteenth, just shy of 0.5 points after Valve re-calibrated their DPC points calculation. Sure, it’s unfortunate, but VP certainly didn’t let that stop them from qualifying for TI11.

Fast forward to TI11 Last Chance Qualifier, Team Liquid and Secret hoarded the top seeds, ending VP’s TI11 dream. Regardless, VP is still a staple in DPC, which has consistently cultivated new line-ups. As such, they announced a new stack of young players for DPC 2023.

Recruiting players from five different teams, VP has their eyes set on creating the next generation of CIS powerhouse. Evgeniy “Noticed” Ignatenko from BetBoom might just be the only notable player, who has somewhat of a background after BetBoom played in TI11. Besides that, the rest of the team are from unknown origins, and go by the names, Koma`, squad1x, sayuw, and Dukalis.

Natus Vincere releases Solo and Noone

Navi shared a similar journey with VP at the TI11 Last Chance Qualifier, falling just short despite making it to Singapore. With that, the veterans, Volodymyr “Noone” Minenko and Alexey “Solo” Berezin left Navi. Although Navi never met the expectations of a well-established powerhouse, having Noone and Solo’s guidance gave Navi some relevancy.

Anyways, Nikita “Nicky`Cool” Ostakhov and Arman “Malady” Orazbayev take up the vacant roles left behind by their predecessors. Like many other new powerhouses, there seems to be a trend in picking up young blood. The two players are phenomenal in the pubs, so hopefully that transitions well into world-class performance for Navi.


The trio of CIS powerhouses have their eyes set on the new DPC season, whereas a rumored powerful stack is in the making. Considering how drastically the competitive scene has shifted in favor of South American and Western European teams. CIS needs to step up its games in order to stay relevant in DPC 2023.

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Brazilian CS:GO player slams quality of practice in North America

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Just days after winning the $20,000 CBCS Invitational 2022 in Brazil over 00 Nation, paiN Gaming have traveled back to North America to play their last matches before the player break. Rodrigo “biguzera” Bittencourt, paiN’s No. 1 star, is not happy at all to practice again with NA teams, though.

“How I missed practicing in NA,” biguzera ironically said today. “[Practicing in] Brazil is a thousand times better than here. Now I see why this region [NA] is so successful,” biguzera added, calling out how the NA players have been practicing.

Biguzera is not the first and likely won’t be the last player to complain about the quality of CS:GO practice in NA. This has historically been a concern in the region and the practice only got worse after the COVID-19 pandemic because several organizations stopped investing in the competition and almost all relevant tournaments shifted to Europe, which forces the only few good teams from NA like Team Liquid to spend most of their time practicing in Europe to have a chance of winning such big tournaments.

This is also the overall perception in Brazil as well. Most of the Brazilian teams move to NA to attend NA leagues and try to qualify for big tournaments, but with the practice being so bad nowadays, it’s unclear if that is the best approach for Brazilian teams. One of biguzera’s fans asked him if paiN could not move to Europe because they will “unlearn” how to play CS in NA.

The quality of practice in NA won’t likely change anytime soon unless organizations try to nurture talent in the region like Evil Geniuses is doing with its Blueprint project and tournament organizers invest in the grassroots scene.



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Uncrowned king steps down: Ame takes time off from Dota 2 as LGD begins huge rebuild

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Ame, one of the most respected position-one players in the Dota 2 world, revealed that he’ll be taking time off from competitive play today. The news came as a surprise for fans, as PSG.LGD has been one of the most consistent teams in the game’s history.

With even an Aegis in their collection, LGD has been placing top six at The International since 2017. Ame has been a core part of that success since he was recruited from CDEC Youth.

Ame has been a constant in multiple iterations of the LGD roster, which were all one step away from greatness. Ame fell one step short of lifting the Aegis twice in his career, running up in the event in 2021 and 2018 while securing the top four in the remaining ones except for TI11.

Though placing fifth in the most prestigious Dota 2 event of the year is an accomplishment of its own, TI11 marked the worst result for LGD in the event since 2017. Knocking on the door of success this many times only for the door to remain closed can take a toll on players’ mindset toward the game, and it looks like Ame is looking for a complete refresh with this break.

“We’re following the player’s wishes and respecting his personal development needs,” LGD said. “Ame’s status is inactive, temporarily away for rest.”

Ame’s future is currently unknown, but he seems to have the full support of LGD no matter what he decides. Considering Ame has been competing at the top of the Dota 2 mountain for six years now, this is a well-deserved break for the Uncrowned King who fans hope to finally crown when he returns from his break.

With a pillar removed from its roster, LGD only remains with two members in its active squad, NothingToSay and y’, opening the door for a major rebuild.

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