Oliver using Esports to help tackle knife crime

ECLECTIC is an appropriate word to use when describing Oliver Weingarten. But then there are many other adjectives which can be applied to both his family background and his career.

The Glaswegian is co-founder of the grassroots Esports organisation LDN UTD.

For the uninitiated, Esports is a form of competitive sports using video games.

But, before that, lawyer Oliver garnered a wealth of experience as general counsel at football’s Premier League and working for Formula One, among other roles.

“With LDN UTD, we have a big focus on community and driving social awareness,” Oliver told me.

“Everyone who comes through the LDN UTD doors will learn about health, nutrition and life skills.

“Earlier this year, we decided to tackle a societal issue in knife crime.

“We teamed up with grime artist P-Money and a property company which owns a shopping centre in Lewisham where there is a high rate of knife crime.”

South London, however, is a long way from Oliver’s early years in Scotland.

The son of a Brazilian father, Mauro, and Scottish mother, Lorna — who met in Israel — Oliver grew up a fanatical Glasgow Rangers supporter — a team he still follows today.

Raised in an observant Jewish family in the Giffnock area of Glasgow, the 41-year-old was hooked on football after his maternal grandfather, Vienna-born Freddie Miller, took him to his first game at Ibrox.

Then, whenever the Brazilian national team was on television, he and his dad would be transfixed by the Samba stars.

Oliver’s paternal grandfather, an Auschwitz survivor, was a Polish immigrant to Sao Paulo, while his second cousin, Fabio Wanjgarten, is the minister of communications to Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

It was in his formative years that Oliver, whose grandmother, Sylvia Miller, still lives in Glasgow, decided he wanted to become a sports agent.

A former pupil at Hutchesons’ Grammar School, he read law and German at the University of Strathclyde and took a Masters in sports law at Manchester Metropolitan University.

In 2002, Oliver secured a training contract at London solicitors Olswang, where he focused on litigation, sport and media.

Two years later, he was appointed legal service executive at the Premier League — where his boss was Mancunian Simon Johnson, who is now chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council and chairman of the Rugby Football League.

Oliver said: “I don’t think I would have got the job with the Premier League had it not been for having Olswang on my CV.

“Simon actually left three months after I joined the Premier League, so it became a case of sink or swim for me.”

His title changed to general counsel and he became involved in numerous legal issues, such as negotiating and drafting sponsorship agreements, protecting the value of the organisation’s broadcast contracts and working with media rights’ licensees.

He also formulated the Premier League’s anti-piracy strategy for China and managed domestic and international audio-visual, mobile, radio and internet clip agreements.

“At the time, its broadcasting rights were under threat from video-sharing websites such as YouTube,” the father-of-three recalled.

“We needed to show rights-holders that we were protecting them, so we successfully sued YouTube in a class action suit in America.”

One of the perks was attending Premier League games every week, which, being a neutral, he described as “not exactly a chore”.

It was in 2011 that Oliver was headhunted to become secretary general of the Formula One Teams’ Association.

The organisation was formed in 2008 to give the teams a united voice in negotiations with the FIA and the Formula One Group regarding the sport’s future.

“I wasn’t sold on the role immediately,” explained Oliver, who is married to Claire.

“I was a fan of David Coulthard and Nigel Mansell when I was younger, but did not know much about Formula One.

“They were also based in Geneva, but we had just bought a house and Claire was pregnant.

“I was pretty open-minded when I went to the interview, which took place at McLaren’s headquarters in Woking.

“It started at midday and it didn’t finish until 6pm as I was totally sold on the role.

“Claire had called me about 20 times because she hadn’t heard from me!”

He advised the F1 teams when it came to negotiations with the commercial rights holders, and relocated its main office from Geneva to London.

He also ran into former F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone on occasion.

“He didn’t like dealing with us because he saw us as a union,” Oliver said. “My first encounter with him was at the Singapore Grand Prix in 2014.

“He gave me an odd handshake and said to me, ‘we will show you how things aren’t done around here’.”

FOTA was disbanded in 2014, though, due to politics, a lack of money and teams running out of political muster, according to Oliver.

“The sport is crying out for an association to navigate issues at the moment,” he added.

“I was disappointed, but it was not a blow to my confidence or integrity.”

He went on to become general secretary of the Formula E Teams’ Association before establishing a boutique sports agency called OWA.

It delivers sporting and business intelligence to a number of private equity and blue chip companies.

Among the many projects Oliver has established is a fans’ forum, for supporters of football, F1 and darts, which brings them closer to their sporting idols.

He still runs the company, but is currently concentrating on LDN UTD.

“Esports has become huge in the last couple of years,” Oliver explained. “It is one of the fastest-growing consumer industries in the world.

“The UK market is less developed than America and Asia, and I struggled to find investment at first.”

Sky Sports faced criticism recently from some of its subscribers for broadcasting an Esports football tournaments on one of its channels.

It is something for which Oliver has strong feelings.

He explained: “Esports is not really for linear broadcasters.

“You have to look at how millennials consume their sport — they want it in short form and on demand on every platform, so Sky Sports was probably not the right platform.

“The older generation may not understand Esports because they cannot comprehend people paying to watch other people play computer games.

“But that is a simplistic view — you only have to look at the numbers to see how popular it is.”

Esports, he said, also has a growing market in Israel, where he has worked as an adviser for American-Israeli sports engagement start-up Heed.

“I would argue that the investment market in Israel is more advanced because it is so used to start-up companies,” Oliver continued.

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