Cloud9-owned London Spitfire were one of the founding fathers of the Overwatch League as the sole representative for the United Kingdom and wrote themselves into the history books by winning the very first postseason playoffs in 2018. However, since this surprise upset on the big stage, the org have embarked on a controversial, and somewhat baffling, fall from grace.
Despite slipping under everyone’s pre-season radars, Cloud9’s London Spitfire announced themselves on the big stage with a stunning comeback from 2-0 down to take a 3-2 win over New York Excelsior, who had gone at a near-perfect 9-1 during the regular season, at the Stage 1 finals.
Spitfire wouldn’t appear in another playoff finals for the remaining stages of the regular season but they did sneak into the postseason playoffs as one of the wildcards, having finished the campaign in 5th with a 24-16 record. Once again, it would be on the biggest stage against all the odds that London Spitfire would showcase their true potential, downing the Los Angeles Gladiators, Los Angeles Valiant, and then finally Philadelphia Fusion 2-0 in the very first Overwatch League grand final.
Park “Profit” Joon-yeong was named the finals MVP, the org bagged itself a cool $1.2 million in total prize earnings, and London Spitfire etched their name into the history books as the league’s first grand champions.
It was something they could never again live up to.
The slump begins
Even in their successful 2018 campaign, there were signs that the org found success harder to come by when the pressure was on. The fact that the team failed to reach another final in the regular season after their Stage 1 victory hints at the sort of trends the community could eventually come to expect in the years to come.
It was in the 2019 OWL season, with a whole new level of pressure and expectation now applied to them from the community, that the demise of London Spitfire had well and truly set in.
As the Overwatch League expanded to twenty teams, London Spitfire entered the season retaining the entirety of their playoff-winning side. Still, a variety of internal tensions would cause head coach Kwang-bok “Coach815” Kim to depart the team in the middle of Stage 3, a body blow to the org. They would soldier on throughout the remainder of the season without a head coach, failing to qualify for the Stage 4 playoffs and only making it to the expanded postseason thanks to a grueling play-in, only to get dumped out after consecutive losses to New York Excelsior (1-4) and eventual champions San Francisco Shock (0-4).
Hitting new lows
The 2020 Overwatch League brought with it some more questionable acquisitions and reshuffles from the org. In October 2019, both tank Hong “Gesture” Jae-hee and 2018 MVP Park “Profit” Joon-yeong were allowed to move to Seoul Dynasty, with the latter continuing to showcase his pedigree by becoming the first player in OWL history to claim 10 000 eliminations during the 2020 campaign. As well as the star names in the server, coach Kim “Jfeel” Jeong-min, another veteran from the Spitfire’s inception, has also departed.
In reply, there was a mishmash of five signings brought through the door by the org, though only support player Lee “Highly” Sung-hyeok had any official Overwatch League experience, with Lim “SanGuiNar” Kyu-min, DPS players Lee “Schwi” Dong-Jae, Lim “Glister” Gil-seong, and tank player Choi “JMAC” Dae Han only ever playing in Overwatch Contenders.
In short, there was a certain (high) level of talent that was allowed to leave (often to rival orgs, no less), and a noticeably lower level of talent being brought in.
A grim-looking future for London Spitfire
The 2020 Overwatch League campaign marked a new low in London Spitfire’s increasingly controversial downfall, with the side finishing rock bottom of the main season Asia Region with a 6-15 record, and second to bottom in the same region for the Melee Madness midseason tournament with a 1-3 final haul.
So far, 2021 has brought with it more controversial roster upheavals and a continuation for these sorts of records in the server.
The all-South Korean roster was replaced ahead of the 2021 campaign in favor of a more internationally diverse lineup led by UK damage player Dominic “Hybrid” Grove and Justin “reprize” Hand as coach for the first time. By May 2021 however, reprize had become the latest victim of a Spitfire upheaval and was replaced by his assistant coach Mads “fischer” Jehg.
At the time of writing, London Spitfire are currently 0-10 in the 2021 Overwatch League, joint rock bottom in the regular season as one of just three sides in the league without a win to their name. For an organization that looked to build out a serious legacy as one of Overwatch’s greatest sides on the back of a spellbinding showing in the game’s inaugural tournament, it’s been a damning fall from grace for fans and the community to witness. What makes things even worse for London Spitfire is that it’s hard to see where anything resembling a revival is going to be sourced from, with so much upheaval running rife around the organization still.