Ethan Smith: “I feel like we have done something truly remarkable.”

Raptors EC have a very unique way of structuring their organisation. It boils down to a group of friends all contributing in different ways to make it work. It is done out of pure passion and love for the game. However, regardless of their small size, they still have a very formidable team.

Before their name was put into the stars with their victory over Endpoint, UKCSGO sat down with one of the owners Ethan Smith to talk about how Raptors EC works, how the organisation can come to compete against the bigger names, and also what the expectations are for the future.

After the event we also spoke to Ethan to get his impressions on their victory at ESL Premiership, and how it may change some of the plans for the organisation for the future.

I want to first talk about the structure of your organisation. You have such a unique structure due to you guys being a group of friends. Can you run me through how Raptors EC works?

As you say, we just started off as a big group of friends. There were six of us and it slowly grew. We have had a couple of people leave since. We have Brad Heaton who you have seen before as the CEO, but we don’t really like using these corporate terms because at the end of the day, we are just friends. We run Raptors EC really well in my opinion. I try to look after the social side of it, the marketing side. Brad Heaton is the general CEO, and Alistair “Krizmo” Swift does the operations. We then have a couple more people who have just come in. We want to add people to the organisation but at a slower pace, we don’t want to rush it and get too much to handle. I just feel like it is an easier way to do it. People you trust and know are going to do the work. We are at a point now where we are trying to expand and get a bit bigger and get more staff.

So you say it works for you guys. Do you feel like your structure is better than these bigger corporate organisations? Do you feel like you have an advantage over them?

I don’t really see it as a job, it is more of a passion thing. You don’t want to put people into a role where they haven’t trained. You have jobs that people might train for years and years to do, but might not enjoy it when they get into it. What we try to do is say “This is a general role, and if you want to branch out and do something” that is fair enough. I started out doing more of the finance stuff, and we said to each other, “If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, have a go at something else.” That really works out for us, we don’t want to put people in a role that they don’t enjoy. As we progress a bit more that is when we get more serious roles. We do multi-task what we do in the organisation, people do social stuff, community stuff, finance stuff. It just depends on who is running it and what works well for them. For us, it works perfectly.

Raptors EC owners watching the ESL Premiership Finals

Looking at your CS team, you started in 2020, and from a lot of people’s perspectives, you have risen out of nowhere and are now one of the most revered organisations within UKCS. How does it feel to be there since the beginning, and to watch it all unfold? How do you see yourself progressing?

It is unbelievable, to be honest. When you first start out you don’t expect things to happen so quickly. We had a great team with Joseph “Godku” Fowkes, Zachary “seiren” Bland, Tom “Troutu” Troughton and Ben “C60” Saberton, we love all of them a lot. We have had a lot of players who are here today. But then we had XRAVEL release their team a couple of months back, in December time. We had an internal discussion and we thought “If we don’t take this opportunity, it will haunt us.” We took the opportunity, got them picked up and the ball has been rolling ever since and I have absolutely loved it. We are looking to always try and get bigger and better, to support the players as much as possible. Anything they need we try to sort out. Overall it has been a great 12 months for us.

Raptors EC are smaller compared to these bigger organisations. How are you able to compete when all these bigger teams have some more experienced players and consistent bootcamps?

I think it is important to put a lot of trust in them. They are all the ones with the skill and ability, backing them up as much as possible is quite an important thing. We do try and put as much trust in them because we know how good they are, absolutely amazing players. I think it helps that they know we are doing our part on our side. We just got sponsored by ‘Dragoni’ which we are buzzing about, we feel like this progresses us a lot. We are just trying to build a brand as well as having the players. We do not want to let them down if we don’t do our part and try to build a great organisation.

Looking at this event, you came through the second open qualifier. How did it feel to look from an organisational perspective to watch your team qualify by beating ITB of all teams?

It was unbelievable. It was a bit of a disappointment with the first two invited qualifiers, and I know the players are disappointed with that which they are going to be, they knew deep down they could have done a slightly better job than they did. In the end, it is CS, and anything can happen. You put Into The Breach on this pedestal knowing what they have achieved in the past couple of months, so when you look at it from a perspective of “we beat them once, we beat Endpoint, anyone in this scene is beatable, it is just all about confidence.”

Drawing on that point, you are the fourth seed, being the lowest-seeded invited team, With that logic you used, do you potentially see your team winning it out?

Definitely, I know what the players are capable of. If we weren’t good enough then we wouldn’t put so much trust in them and try to bring them to all these events. We know what they can do and I 100% think we can win it all. In the end, it comes down to the players to perform on the day and we are just here to support.

There has been some controversy around this event about people not coming. From your perspective, would you have come if you hadn’t qualified?

We did have this discussion, and it is quite hard to say. In my opinion, it was quite a disappointing thing that ESL did four qualifying spots. You are paying for the players to come here and it is quite an expensive event, there is no denying that it does cost a lot. If we hadn’t qualified we wouldn’t have come. Now I have got here and seen who has come to the LCQ, I think I would have kicked myself if we didn’t turn up. The thought process was it wasn’t a good idea because of how much it costs, but I am glad we are here and have gotten past the qualifiers.

Raptors EC owners trying to keep composure while watching the finals


In general, what are your expectations for the organisation? What is next?

Trying to expand the business at the end of the day, because that is what it is, it is a business. As I said before we don’t want to rush things, we want to make it as structured as we possibly can. We do not want to overdo ourselves. We want to expand but slowly and try to make it as good of a business as we can. It is our first time doing this, we are not exactly experts, but we are gaining experience as we are doing it. In the last year, we have absolutely smashed it. We really progressed as people and as an organisation.

Finally, can you put into words how it would feel to see your team win this event?

It would be quite unbelievable, to be honest. It is something that would be hard to comprehend unless it is actually happening, I never thought we would be playing on a stage at Insomnia. But I think it is one of those where you have to wait till it happens to experience it and think about what is going on. You don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself, take things as they come and really run with it when you are there.


Questions post-event:


Coming into this LAN you guys were confident to win, but how does it feel from an organisational standpoint to claim the trophy?

It’s quite hard to actually put it into words. We’re absolutely buzzing for the players, we know how much hard work and dedication they put into this game and it’s such a great feeling watching it all playoff. As an organisation, I feel like we have done something truly remarkable. I hope this is more of a wake-up call to UKCS in the fact that it’s not just going to be the titans of the scene winning it every year. We haven’t been around for long compared to other organisations, and this achievement will hopefully be the first of many.

Raptors EC owners wielding the ESL Premiership trophy

Can you try and explain some of the emotions you faced while watching your team play on stage?

This was the first time we got to play on stage, but genuinely one of the most rewarding things ever. At the same time though it was a bit of a sickly feeling, no matter what I think the nerves do get the best of you. Knowing how confident the team were and how well they were playing was a massive boost. We believe in them as much as they believe in us I think.

With this recent success, how does it change your plans with the organisation?

I don’t think we have changed any of our plans. We had clear goals and we’re trying to achieve them one by one. We know what we want and know what direction we are trying to head towards. Competitive success doesn’t always mean commercial success, so we’re working hard together on how we can project Raptors to that next step, which I think will come very soon.