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WESA

The New Esports Regulations On Team Ownership Are Unpopular But Badly Needed

Joss Wood March 20, 2017

New regulations issued by the World Esports Association this month have not met with immediate enthusiasm.

The most controversial change is to insist that a single entity may not own multiple teams. WESA states:

“Under the Multi-Team Ownership Prohibition, no team is permitted to be completely or partially owned or controlled by a person or entity that owns or controls another esports team or organization participating at WESA sanctioned events.”

For those teams that are affected by the change, WESA says that its Executive Board may grant a period of up to 18 months for them to comply with the new rule.

Ken Hershman, executive chairman and commissioner of WESA explained:

“At WESA, we are committed to creating industry-wide standards in esports that benefit member teams, their players and the esports industry at large. These new standards and regulations will further our goal of better professionalizing esports and ensure that all of our organizations are operating on the same level playing field.”

Popular esports host and commentator Paul Chaloner tweeted the objection that many others have voiced:

RFRESH Entertainment does not see a conflict of interest

On the same day that WESA announced its new rules, RFRSH Entertainment put out its own statement referring to the issue.

RFRSH has an ownership stake in three CS:GO teams that would be affected by the ruling: Astralis, Heroic, and Godsent.

RFRSH explained that its business model was based on “establishing, developing and facilitating a number of professional CS:GO teams in selected markets.”

During this support and development phase, RFRSH says that it may, with the agreement of the teams, take part-ownership.

RFRSH points out that under its model, the players have minority ownership stakes that give them a benefit from the “financial success and/or a sale of the team.”

RFRSH sees its period of investment as a three-year program, after which its aim is to exit. Under these circumstances, it argues that this model does not create a conflict of interest that should be a concern to WESA.

“We do not see a conflict in multiple team ownership under this model, as each team is and will be its own entity, however, when the teams and brands are fully established, RFRSH will no (longer) have a controlling share or ownership of the teams, brands or orgs.”

FaZe left WESA concerned about lack of transparency

WESA is an effort by ESL and a number of top esports teams, including:

  • Fnatic
  • Natus Vincere
  • EnVyUs
  • Virtus.Pro
  • G2 Esports
  • FaZe
  • mousesports
  • Ninjas in Pyjamas.

FaZe has since left, explaining that it was concerned at the lack of transparency in how WESA was going to achieve its aims:

“It doesn’t lack big metaphors of what it could be, but it lacks transparency on how to get there and that is the main reason for why we are leaving WESA.”

WESA has a big vision

WESA published its vision statement when it launched:

“WESA’s vision is to create an authentic framework to support and amplify sustainable growth of esports, based on the shared values of fairness, transparency, and integrity and sharing that growth between the players, teams and leagues.”

At the time, Esports Betting Report made the comment that “big boy’s games need big boy’s rules.” The lack of a global governing body was a restricting force in the development of esports.

Nevertheless, global governing bodies are not easy to set up. In replying to the departure of FaZe, ESL commented:

“Creating an association such as WESA from the ground up is an immense undertaking for all involved parties and something that requires enormous commitment of time and effort. While we regret the fact that FaZe has decided to take this step and are disappointed to see them go, we understand and accept their decision to put their current focus elsewhere.”

Implementing the vision is going to be tough. ESL has been criticized for wanting to direct the organization in ways that maximize its commercial benefit.

ESL is sensitive to the criticism. But ESL needs to bring other major industry players on board. Otherwise, it is making the job of establishing WESA harder than it should be.

There is a need for integrity rules even if they are unpopular

The recent controversy over Allen Cook, an analyst with the Ad Finem Dota 2 team, highlights the esports industry’s need for global standards.

Cook placed bets on his own team in the month before it competed in a tournament, and won the bets. An immediate furor broke out when the news became public.

Cook responded saying that “these bets were placed in good faith with no ‘inside information.’”

One commentator, extremely unhappy with the situation, wrote:

“If this is allowed to happen without consequence, you kick the door open for teams and representatives to throw games on purpose in order to make a quick buck off their own “failure.” It’s happened before in every single sport you’ve ever known, which is why there are rules against anyone involved with a team being allowed to place bets.”

Esports operates in a highly charged environment. There is a need for high standards that publicly demonstrate the commitment to integrity.

If esports allows multiple-team ownership, then at some point, it will become an issue. Owners with multiple teams will see them face off in the final of a big money tournament. Whatever the result, suspicion will arise.

The new team ownership rule is painful but necessary

WESA’s new rule may not work for RFRSH, and others whose business model relies on multiple-team ownership. But it is necessary for public confidence in esports and esports betting.

The UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) position paper on esports that came out a few days ago made the regulatory view clear:

“Maintaining public confidence in the integrity of esports as an entertainment and betting event relies upon those seeking to benefit commercially from it, applying the best practice available from other sports.”

And in most professional sports there are restrictions on team ownership.

Richard Lewis, host of Turner Broadcasting’s ELEAGUE, lacks some confidence in WESA’s ability to make a real difference. However, in an interview with Dexerto, expressed his support for the WESA action:

“I’d personally like to commend WESA on taking a stance against multiple team ownership in esports, which I see as one of the biggest threats to competitive integrity in 2017 and possibly beyond.

We’ve seen time and time again entities try and control esports by simply buying up multiple desirable properties and owning multiple teams is as clear a conflict of interest as you’re going to get. It raises too many questions about crucial issues such as player transfers, fiscal propriety and, of course, the results themselves.”

The UKGC also included in its report the regret that there was no governing body for esports.

All stakeholders in this industry seem to agree that a governing body and standard integrity rules are necessary. The problems arise when the governing body attempts to govern.

The Professional Esports Association Creates A Cooperative Business Model For Esports Competition

Joss Wood September 12, 2016

The announcement of another organization to manage esports competition is nothing new, but the Professional Esports Association (PEA) offers a different model for managing the business of esports.

The PEA Commissioner, Jason Katz explains:

“The PEA represents something new in eSports – an association of top teams running their own league and sharing the profits and the decision-making with the players. This has been the architecture of traditional major sports leagues for many decades, but it is a new evolution for eSports. This will allow us to finally build a stable, healthy, long-term environment for the players, the community, the media and the sponsors.”

  • The PEA press release can be found here.

Seven top US teams are founding members

The North American esports teams that have managed to agree on the structure of the PEA to become its founding members are:

  • Team SoloMid (TSM)
  • Cloud9
  • Team Liquid
  • Counter Logic Gaming
  • Immortals
  • NRG Esports
  • CompLexity Gaming

They will take part in a 10-week league playing CS:GO matches twice a week. The first season will guarantee a minimum of $500,000 in prize money, with $1 million guaranteed for season two.

League profits shared with teams and players

Part of the motivation for founding the PEA is to create a more equitable share of the financial rewards created by esports competition.

Andy Dinh, CEO of TSM stated:

“It’s time for leagues to share the rewards and strategic decisions with the players, and the best way for team organizations to do that is for us to do it ourselves. The PEA is a vehicle for us to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the players, doing what we all love.”

The PEA will distribute profits 50/50 to players and owners and “each caster will receive a share equal to a player.” Players will also receive other financial benefits including retirement and investment planning and health insurance.

Competition formats, playing rules and prize distribution structures will be decided by a Rules Committee which will include player representatives, and there will be a Grievance Committee also involving players, that will decide on any complaints.

“This marks the end of the ‘Wild West’ days of eSports,” said Jack Etienne, Cloud9 CEO. “The community and players want stability and dependability. Leagues come and go, teams join them and depart, but with the PEA, the teams are making a long-term commitment to be here, playing for the fans, for the indefinite future.”

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The WESA has similar aims

In May this year, the World Esports Association (WESA) was founded under the aegis of ESL.

The WESA’s mission makes it clear that it too wants to share the benefits with teams and players:

“WESA’s mission is to become the global benchmark for industry-wide standards through that framework, involved parties and activities of the Association. Starting with the ESL Pro League for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, WESA will be the first organization in the history of esports that will bring those affected by its decision most, to the decision making table.

Transparency towards Teams and Players, as well as a continuous support to them are at the heart of the Association.”

At this point in the development of the esports industry, it is natural to see attempts to develop formal structures within which esports competitions take place.

Allied businesses such as esports betting operators need such formal structures, which can ensure game integrity and fairness in order for their own businesses to grow.

Mainstream broadcasters need to know which leagues and which games are going to attract the biggest audiences—there can’t be the equivalent of an esports Super Bowl without such organization.

However, like the internet boom of the 1990s, there will be many market entrants and only a few will succeed.

WESA and the PEA both present some attractive features, but both lack the direct involvement of the major games producers such as Riot Games and Blizzard Activision.

Critical differences between esports and traditional sports

Most observers drawing a distinction between esports and traditional sports focus on the difference between sitting at a computer and getting out on a sports field, but the more important differentiator is that there is no intellectual copyright on traditional sports whereas there is for esports.

There is no game developer behind tennis who can control the rules of the game and who must be paid—at least in some form—by a league organization that wants to organize sporting competitions.

League of Legends competitions could be killed instantly if Riot Games changed the terms and conditions of its software licenses. The game developers are in a position of absolute power over the development of public competitions that depend on their products.

Developer involvement critical to any formal governing organization

Splitting financial benefits 50/50 between teams and players sounds great in theory, but there isn’t any percentage in there for the game developers.

As the “wild west” environment changes, and some leagues emerge as the main competitions for esports professionals, game developers will begin to look for their share of the financial action.

It seems inevitable that the ultimate winner in the apparently free market competition for organizing esports must have the support of the major games developers. If the PEA aims to expand its model to the wider esports industry, it should look to bring in the game developers at an early stage.

The choice of Jason Katz as the first Commissioner will help; he used to be in charge of strategic initiatives at Riot Games.

ESL Majority Stakeholder MTG Reports “High Sales Growth” For Esports Businesses

Joss Wood July 21, 2016

The Modern Times Group (MTG) has released its financial results for Q2 of 2016. It has now been a year since MTG bought 74 percent of Turtle Entertainment, the holding company for ESL.

Since the purchase of a majority stake in ESL, MTG has bought 100 percent of Dreamhack, acquired leading U.K. esports agency Kuoda, and launched a 24/7 esports TV channel.

MTG describes itself as “an international entertainment group. Our operations span six continents and include TV channels and online platforms, content production and distribution businesses, radio stations, multi-channel networks (MCN) and eSports.”

Esports is in investment mode

For the first six months of 2016, the MTGx business division, which operates the esports vertical, reported a negative operating income of SEK98 million ($11.4 million).

The figure for the whole of 2015 was SEK111 million ($12.9 million), suggesting that MTG is content to take the loss as it builds its market position. The loss in Q1 of 2016 was SEK50 million, and SEK48 million for Q2.

The investment is reported to be achieving “high sales growth” across all of the MTGx businesses. Sales for the full year in 2015 were SEK451 million ($52.4 million) compared to SEK360 million in Q2 of 2016.

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Key developments

MTG lists several specific achievements for the MTGx businesses:

MTG reported that ESL received 108 million online views in Q2, aided by the ESL One events in Frankfurt and Manila. The recent ESL One Cologne event fell in Q3, so did not contribute to the total.

MTG selling some traditional TV broadcasting to focus on digital entertainment

MTG President and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann explained that MTG’s strategy was shifting from traditional broadcasting to focus on a broader concept of digital entertainment. To this end MTG is exiting several businesses:

“We completed the sale of our shareholding in CTC Media in Q2 and have now withdrawn entirely from traditional broadcasting in the CIS region. As part of our ongoing portfolio optimisation, we have also signed an agreement to sell our free-TV and production businesses in Ghana and Tanzania, subject to local regulatory approvals.”

Lindemann added:

“We are now not only the leading digital entertainment player in most of our markets, but also a global leader in key digital categories such as esports and MCNs.”

Establishing Esports Oversight: The Groups, Issues, And Potential Challenges

July 12, 2016

As the competitive video gaming industry grows in size and popularity, so too are the number of organizations aimed at promoting integrity, player development, regulatory oversight, and fraud prevention in esports.

At least five bodies have recently launched. Some of them have the backing of tournament organizers, while others have the backing of national governments. Several have expressed the intent to operate globally in scale.

The self-stated goals of these groups range from addressing match-fixing, to developing a player’s bill of rights, to promulgating gameplay rules with the hopes that teams and leagues opt in to them.

What oversight groups exist thus far?

Some of the recently formed esports oversight groups include:

Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC)

Launched earlier this month, this anti-fraud group has the support of companies like Intel, organizers like Esports League (ESL) and DreamHack, and esports book Unikrn. It will aim to identify and address match-fixing, in-game cheating and doping. Its chairman is yet unnamed, but its integrity commissioner is Sporting Integrity Matters director Ian Smith. 

A press release directing users to its website said that in response to a threat assessment survey it carried out in 2015 it’s developed a “Programme for acceptance and implementation,” for tournament organizers, game publishers and bookmakers.

World eSports Association (WeSA)

This player-representation effort launched in May with the support of eight of most well-known esports organizations in the world, but only one league (ESL). WeSA says its player council will, “represent, strengthen and advocate on behalf of pro gamers on a number of important topics, such as league policies, rulesets, player transfers and more.” The group will also attempt to appoint players to an executive board, and develop an arbitration court.

WeSA almost immediately became the subject of scrutiny when one of the founding organizations, FaZe Clan, left the group less than two weeks after it launched, citing concerns over what it called a lack of transparency, a lack of other American organizations in the group, and a lack of receiving a $150,000 fee it says it was owed. 

World eSports Council (WeSC)

WeSC launched in late 2015 with aspirations of organizing the investment of more than $1 billion into the infrastructure of eSports, including teams, players, venues and events. Its website says its goal is to form an overarching global governing body, and that its goal is to bring “stability to the eSports industry through organization and regulation.”

It plans to both organize its own esports tournament and develop sets of regulations to govern other tournaments via its own sanctioning committee. Its founder is Robert Kuntz, the CEO of venture capital outfit Sprocket Cafe, who says WeSC found itself in a “unique and strategic position to becoming (sic) the professional esports association for the fastest growing spectator sport in the world.” An outline of the council’s various aims can be found here.

British eSports Association (BEA)

This non-profit agency is chaired by gaming industry veteran Andy Payne. It says it will work to represent player interests at all levels of esports, develop a grassroots competitive video gaming scene in the United Kingdom, and support British professional players.

The association has the backing of a government entity and will report to the UK government’s Department of Culture, Media & Sport. The formation of this group follows that of the erstwhile United Kingdom Esports Association, which launched in 2008 as the “official regulatory body” for British esports, only to file for bankruptcy one year later amid a prize-payout scandal.

France eSports (FES)

This federation launched in April and will advise the French government on how to best regulate esports. An announcement from the French secretary of state said the group would partner with the French National Olympic and Sports Committee for all matters relating to the recognition of electronic sports.

One of the group’s first courses of action was to advocate for the removal of esports from the remit of the national gambling regulator. The group’s president, Matthieu Dallon, the CEO of technology company OXENT, said “I believe the essential point is to get eSports out of gambling regulations, and end up with easy to follow regulations.”

What challenges could these groups face?

Independent coalitions could end up facing different challenges than their government-backed counterparts, who will at least theoretically help influence and implement national esports standards.

While independent groups will likely attempt to do the same, they could be forced to overcome adversity in the form of:

A crowded, contentious space

As Esports Observer notes, professional esports exists across a fragmented climate, with different teams in different sports from different countries each facing different needs. Unlike the four major American sports leagues, where one organization (Boston Basketball Partners, LLC) owns just one team (Boston Celtics) that plays in just one league (NBA) in just one sport (basketball), there is considerable overlap in esports between teams and leagues and games.

All 16 organizations who fielded teams in this past week’s ESL One Cologne tournament, for example, also fielded those same teams in the ELEAGUE, which still has three weeks remaining in its first season. It’s proven difficult for coalitions thus far to get all major organizations across one title to even agree to agree on broad policies and procedures, let alone decide what those policies and procedures are.

Not enough stakeholders involved

According to officials affiliated with various groups who spoke to ESBR on condition of anonymity, non-governmental coalitions could find themselves boxed out of esports governance before they even start governing by virtue of launching before they’ve involved a critical mass of stakeholders.

WeSA, for example, has seven organization members: Fnatic, Natus Vincere, Virtus.Pro, mouzsports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, EnVyUs and G2 Esports. But each of those organizations’ teams compete regularly against other teams who aren’t a part of WeSA, including American organizations Liquid, Cloud9 and FaZe Clan, Nordic organization Astralis, British organization Dignitas, and the group with arguably the world’s best CS:GO team, SK Gaming.

If the association wants to promulgate player-protection standards that it says tournament organizers must adopt, it remains to be seen whether those will apply to all players and teams, or just to the teams who are members of WeSA.

Similarly, it’s unclear if tournament organizers who aren’t affiliated with WeSA (all except ESL) will refuse to recognize WeSA’s policies, rulesets and its arbitration court.

Questionable regulatory authority

The two prior concerns could inhibit the amount of legitimate authority non-governmental groups have to regulate standards and practices in esports.

For example, it’s unclear even if ESL (which backs both ESIC and WeSA) will automatically force players and teams competing in its tournaments to abide by whatever regulations ESIC and WeSA develop.

Even if it does, none of the groups appear to be recognized by any non-member leagues, organizations, players, or teams. It would therefore appear that coalitions lack the power to compel those bodies to act a certain way. Each group launched with the self-stated goals of being the globally recognized authority in their respective missions.

Despite getting to this space before other similar efforts, and despite branding themselves as authorities, that does not mean all stakeholders recognize groups as authorities. Yet.

Educating lawmakers and regulators

As government-affiliated and non-government-affiliated groups work to promote best practices across esports, both could be faced at some point with the task of working with government regulators.

As a recent U.S. Congressional hearing on daily fantasy sports illustrated, stakeholders are often required to significantly educate lawmakers and regulators before successfully engaging with them. BeSA and FES, who are positioned closest to state agencies that could implement integrity procedures, could be forced to distill the needs of a complex industry down to a set of specific policies, as FES has already done with gambling. ESIC and WeSA could be integral in educating policy makers on the broader societal aspects of esports betting.

But developing relationships with lawmakers and effecting actual legislative change takes time. With multiple esports betting scandals already occurring, the time to act to promote transparency could be sooner than later.

How is esports betting connected to preventing fraud?

Much of the fraud in the esports space—including cheating and match-fixingappears to be driven by unregulated and growing esports gambling markets. Thus, integrity and anti-fraud efforts are likely to address the growing esports gambling space, whose handle Narus Advisors and Eilers & Krejcik Gaming estimates will reach $8 billion in 2016. More than $7.4 billion of that esports betting handle will come from skin betting.

“Esports appears to be facing an alphabet soup problem on the integrity and governance front,” said Ryan Rodenberg, an associate professor of sports law analytics at Florida State University.

“With several acronym-friendly entities now emerging, it is reminiscent of tennis about 10 years ago when the ITF, ATP, and WTA all kept to themselves, before finally putting their differences aside to create a quasi-independent integrity unit after a major gambling scandal.”

Whether or not a set of independent esports coalitions eventually join forces, the groups’ formation is occurring at a time when multiple esports betting websites have admittedly perpetuated varying degrees of misrepresentation and dishonesty.

Last month, betting site CSGODiamonds admitted to giving a sponsored player the outcomes of certain dice rolls in advance, effectively ensuring that player would win skins. That player streamed extensive sessions of his own apparently successful gambling on the site to his followers, making it appear relatively easy to win. Diamonds is a website that allows users to bet skins on the outcome of variable-odds dice rolling.

Earlier this month, a YouTube account brought to light the fact that popular fellow YouTuber Tmartin did not disclose that he owned betting site CSGOLotto while he promoted it and filmed videos of himself winning on it.

It is possible that Tmartin, who also reportedly owns a small stake in WeSA-member EnVyUs, had access to the outcomes of slot-style rolls, or “hashes,” in advance of his betting as a result of owning the site. If that were the case, he would have a significant advantage over other players on the site at winning skins that he could then converted to cash.

Meanwhile, betting site CSGOWild, a coin-flip and roulette style skin betting site, abruptly left the U.S. market in late June, citing the regulatory climate around esports wagering.

How do large prize pools affect match-fixing?

Other recent betting scandals in South Korea and America have implicated players involved in match-fixing. Companies like Genius Sports help detect betting patterns that might constitute suspicious activity surrounding a match, and work with sports leagues to monitor potential match-fixing based off of this data.

“The prize pool of many competitions is dwarfed by the average wagers on any event of the tournament,” Genius Sports’ Head of Esports Moritz Maurer told Narus Advisors earlier this year.

“We see this as very problematic for competitions that have a very small or even no monetary prize pool and the participating teams are often newly formed rosters. The betting volume in comparison with the incentive to win the entire tournament is at a concerning ratio,” Maurer said. 

Meanwhile, two lawsuits seeking class-action status have been filed against Valve Corporation, the maker of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, alleging that the company fosters an illegal gambling market that targets underage gamblers. While these lawsuits likely face significant hurdles, a recent panel of legal experts suggested that these would certainly not be the final lawsuits against esports companies.

Valve has not responded to the allegations against it, but it has taken action against match-fixing in the past. In 2015 it banned seven players from Valve-sponsored events for their role in a match-fixing scandal.

At the time it wrote that, “Professional players, their managers, and teams’ organization staff, should under no circumstances gamble on CS:GO matches, associate with high volume CS:GO gamblers, or deliver information to others that might influence their CS:GO bets.”

Big Boys’ Games Need Big Boys’ Rules – Esports Gets A Global Governing Body

Joss Wood May 17, 2016

ESL and a group of leading esports teams have founded the World Esports Association (WESA). WESA aims to act as a global governing body for esports, much like FIFA in football or the ITF in tennis.

The stellar growth in every aspect of esports, whether in revenues, viewers, players or volume of betting signifies that esports is coming of age.

Regulators, investors, betting operators and broadcasters are now paying serious attention to the industry and the absence of a governing body is a serious weakness from their point of view.

The lack of standardization, codes of practice, and disciplinary procedures worries the politicians, investors and gaming companies.

An organisation such as WESA is critical if the industry is to continue to expand at its current rate. The huge sums of money now involved mean that esports has become a big boys’ game – it now needs big boys’ rules.

WESA mission and vision

WESA expresses the point thoroughly in its vision and mission statements.

Vision

“WESA’s vision is to create an authentic framework to support and amplify sustainable growth of esports, based on the shared values of fairness, transparency, and integrity and sharing that growth between the players, teams and leagues.”

Mission

“WESA’s mission is to become the global benchmark for industry-wide standards through that framework, involved parties and activities of the Association. Starting with the ESL Pro League for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, WESA will be the first organization in the history of esports that will bring those affected by its decision most, to the decision making table. Transparency towards Teams and Players, as well as a continuous support to them are at the heart of the Association.

Developing and implementing elements of regulation, player representation and fairness in sharing in the success of its undertakings, the World Esports Association will enable esports Teams and Players to operate under a transparent umbrella that provides its holders with stability, legal advice and protection from economic uncertainties.

WESA will aim to incorporate more Teams and leagues, and will always work very closely with game publishers to include more games in the future.”

Founding teams

The founder members of WESA include ESL and a number of top esports teams.

  • Fnatic
  • Natus Vincere
  • EnVyUs
  • Virtus.Pro
  • G2 Esports
  • Faze
  • mousesports
  • Ninjas in Pyjamas

Player council

In line with the concept of a partnership between players and leagues, the WESA will have a player council with representatives elected by the players themselves.

“For the first time in the history of esports, players will come together to organize themselves, and that will enable all of us to get a real say in decisions that directly influence us,” said Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas, a player for Team Virtus.Pro.

“With a Player Council sitting at the table with the rest of the decision makers, we’re going to continue improve the tournament and league organization.”

Teams will share in the profits

Built into the structure of the WESA is the sharing of benefits between members. For example, if a WESA event is televised, teams will share in the proceeds.

“The partnership, if I can call it that, goes one step further as well: Natus Vincere, along with all WESA teams, share in the profits when it comes to the WESA and their sanctioned events,” explained Alexander Kokhanovskyy, owner of Natus Vincere. “That’s a huge step for the industry.”

Pietro Fringuelli is the first league commissioner

The WESA has a five person executive board made up of representatives from ESL, teams and a commissioner.

The first board members are:

  • Ralf Reichert, CEO of ESL
  • Sebastian Weishaar, senior vice president at ESL
  • Hicham Chahine, CEO of NiP
  • Tüylü Cengiz, CEO of mouseports
  • Dr. Pietro Graf Fringuelli, an attorney who has worked with the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)

Fringuelli is described as the interim commissioner, so at some point he will either be confirmed in the role, or a permanent appointment will be made.

“There’s a complex licensing process where teams have to apply to become a member of this organization like in soccer,” Fringuelli says. “Teams have to prove things like they can pay player salaries, and every player has to have written agreements. It’s a bit easier than the FIFA process, but we are very much connected to the regulations they have.”

On the larger picture, Fringuelli summarised the WESA’s importance to the industry:

“The formation of WESA, and the growth of the Association in the coming years, will be the critical performance indicators for the entire esports industry – and a real game changer for its every stakeholder.”

Inclusivity could be a problem

WESA will stand or fall based on its ability to attract leagues other than ESL to its fold.

In a Reddit AMA organized by WESA, the executive board was asked several powerful questions about “inclusivity.”

  • What steps is WESA taking to be inclusive of other leagues such as MLG, Faceit, Starladder etc?
  • What steps is WESA taking to be inclusive of other games, beyond CS:GO (if any)?
  • What involvement does WESA have from Valve at this stage?
  • What steps is WESA currently taking to be inclusive of other regions such as Asia, Oceania, China, South America, Africa etc?

The closest the executive board came to answering in detail was to say:

“We think the right solution is to have ESL work with other organizers via WESA to balance schedules, but the fundamental structure of WESA doesn’t allow for more organizers to be members.

It does allow for WESA to negotiate and we think that will allow for a better relationship because you have players and teams counterbalancing the ESL side and they are typically in favor of participation in other events and leagues.”

Ralf Reichert tried to defuse the debate by making it clear that WESA itself is not a league, and that it has to start from a relatively small base in order to grow.

“It is not an exclusive league, the NHL example is there because they started small and then became bigger. WESA is more comparable to an association like UEFA in that sense.”

ESL will take a realistic line

Organizing the esports industry to accept one global governing body is going to be a challenge. Herding cats would be much easier than getting full support from the various participants in an industry which remains as fragmented as esports.

At some point ESL may have to reduce its level of control of WESA if it is to get other industry heavyweights such as Valve to come onboard.

While it may not be a perfect situation, the influence ESL wields was essential to get WESA off the ground. Reading between the lines, ESL appears to be fully aware that it is in its own corporate interest to make WESA a success, and if that means cooperating with competitors, then no doubt that’s what ESL will do.