On the 7th July 2023, ITB announced their talent pipeline on Twitter. This was followed up two months later on the 7th of September, with the announcement of their first Pipeline player, James “bevve” Slinn. UKCSGO sat down with Co-Founder Sam Macedonio to find out more about the project and where he is aiming to take it.
To start, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the scheme and what you’re hoping to achieve with it?
The primary purpose is to enable UK CS:GO players opportunities to develop their talent, thus widening the pool of ‘available’ UK CS:GO professionals that can viably compete at a high level. After the Major and with CYPHER and volt being poached, we were forced to decide between continuing to push for top 10-15 but go EU, or lower our ambitions and retain a U.K. majority. If this pipeline is a success, that sort of decision making wouldn’t be necessary in the future.
It is not an issue in France or Germany, for example, and we have comparable population sizes and player-bases. As I said in our announcement article, I don’t think this is the result of a lack of skill, but support, motivation, financing and infrastructure. Teams like Endpoint have done a lot in this regard, but we’d like to share the burden – especially following our success at the Paris Major. Despite the fact we now have a EU majority roster, we will never forget the support we received or our roots.
Have you got a timeframe for when you’re hoping to meet these goals?
It won’t happen overnight, but I’d hope within a year we’ll have made some form of impact. We’ll also be targeting talented VALORANT players to entice them back to Counter-Strike as CS2 comes out. There is no shortage of UK talent in VALORANT, and if you can click heads you can click heads.
We’ll be targeting talented VALORANT players to entice them back to Counter-Strike as CS2 comes out
How did you come up with and settle for this model?
We brainstormed internally and I spoke with several people in the scene on how to make the best impact – this is ultimately what we concluded on.
This is the first time something like this has been done in the CS scene. Why did you choose this over a more traditional academy roster?
Endpoint and several other teams across the ecosystem have tried the Academy model with varying degrees of success, but not all have lasted. I’d say it would be short-sighted and redundant of us to follow suit and think we can do differently, so we’re trying something else. I hope it’ll translate into something longer lasting and with a ‘deeper’ impact.
Would there not be a potential conflict of interest if the pipeline players were playing against the main roster?
Arguably, yes. But players always want to win, and even if a Pipeline player is against us I can’t imagine them not playing to their fullest extent. Regardless, our main roster is focused on competing at a Tier 1 / high Tier 2 position. We won’t be competing in ESEA Advanced and tournaments of a comparable level, where our Pipeline players are more likely to be active.
For prospective applicants, what’s the selection / vetting process like?
There is no formal selection or vetting process. I’d encourage people to reach out, share their plays, motivation for joining, and/or suggest players with real potential to compete at a high level. We’ll then discuss internally and see if we can align. We’re also actively scouting across VALORANT too.
And with both Punico and Neil_M on the management team, who is responsible for the pipeline?
It’s a joint effort – Neil obviously has his finger in many pies across the UK ecosystem and Punico is an excellent scout. I also watch as many games as possible. That said and as mentioned above, we can use all the help we can get identifying players, and we welcome any message.
Is there potential for players to be called up to the main roster if they’re performing well?
When can we expect to see this project take shape and be publicly announced?
It’s already live – we’ve got our first recruit in bevve, and have several more lined up. It’s not something we’ll rush and will be progressively adding players throughout the following year.
As mentioned, bevve has already been announced as the Pipeline’s first player. We sat down with him recently to hear his thoughts on the project, and for him to clear up some common misconceptions people have had: