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

Posted By Joss Wood on May 17, 2016 - Last Updated on January 22, 2018
[toc]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.

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Joss Wood

Joss Wood holds an English degree from the University of Birmingham and also earned a master’s degree in organizational development from the University of Manchester. Joss has a special focus on the international online gambling market, though he also writes extensively on US regulated markets, sports betting, and esports betting.

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