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Archive • Mar 15, 2017

Richard Lewis on WESA Announcement, "Gives Organizations Time to Hide"

richard lewis on wesa Prominent esports personality Richard Lewis, Host of Turner Broadcasting's ELEAGUE, has  some questions about the recent announcement from World Esports Association--lots of them. WESA was founded in May of 2016 in an attempt to, "...further professionalize esports by introducing elements of player representation, standardized regulations, and revenue sharing for teams." Originally consisting of eight teams including Fnatic, EnVyUs, Ninjas in Pyjamas, G2 Esports, Virtus.pro, Natus Vincere, mousesports, and Faze Clan, it was FaZe Clan that dropped out after citing a lack of transparency. On their official web site, WESA made an announcement on Tuesday under the banner of "Comprehensive Regulations" stating they would be instituting player conduct rules along with another mandate that requires that 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." The caveat here is that the organizations have 18 months to comply. Enter Richard Lewis. With the recent announcement by WESA stating they do not want people to have interests in more than one organization... do you see this as something that can actually be done?

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.

Can WESA actually do anything about it? Well, that’s a very different question. As things stand there can never truly be a governing body for esports unless everyone agrees or it is ordained by some higher authority. As such, if WESA do take a stand against this, all that will likely happen is that these teams, who very much want to benefit from these conflicts of interest, will simply avoid WESA sanctioned tournaments. You can see from the 18 month period they’ve implemented that this is fairly toothless – it should have been instantaneous in my opinion – and all it really achieves is gives the offending organisations time to hide behind shell companies and fake employees on paper.

Do you find it hypocritical that WESA is the governing body, the tournament providers, and has reach into just about everything with these teams? Of course it’s hilarious to see WESA, itself a conglomerate of conflicts of interest, suddenly care about such issues. They even have teams with financial ties to each other under their umbrella and said nothing when this was revealed. To try and be the tournament organizer, the governing body and have financial ties to all the teams in WESA, in one form or another, seems an absolute house of cards. I know enough about the people involved to have little confidence in its execution. Regarding this statement: "Board may grant the team up to 18 months to come to compliance. During this time period, the teams will be run independently." It says teams get 18 months to detangle themselves from multiple owners or people with interest and then says teams will be run independently. Is this a contradiction in your eyes and can WESA really do what they say they are doing? It’s a concession. I’ll never criticise WESA for this rule but the reality is these teams aren’t going to do anything except find loopholes and ways around it. It’ll be things like “we don’t own the team, we only own the marketing rights” and even though there’s a handful of people making the decisions for multiple teams, this is how it’ll get framed and WESA will be powerless. There’s also the reality it’s in their interests to have these teams competing in their league… They will probably find themselves facilitating teams getting the illusion of independence because unless other leagues follow suit on this rule – and I sincerely hope they do – you’re just giving leverage to your competitors. I like to propose solutions and in my opinion we need something like ESIC (The Esports Integrity Commissioner) to preside over these things and be an independent enforcer of these rules. Sadly, while I will still support and champion ESIC, we know the money that funds them comes from the parent company of ESL, WESA and DreamHack. We need a genuine means to fund something independent otherwise entities outside of that core group will be, quite rightly, suspicious that their interests will not be represented with the same vigour or that their situation will be treated as “competitor intelligence.” It appears that WESA has instituted a personal conduct rule. How will this rule affect players, org, teams, and their social media accounts. Will we lose some of the personality that fans of esports love? I’d need to see the full list of rules and regulations to make a determination as to how reasonable they are but, again, it comes down to enforcement. If players aren’t happy with the rules, they speak to their managers/owners. They in turn then say they don’t want to compete in WESA and then another league or tournament organiser looks to benefit. Do WESA maintain their stance and lose money or do they bend. I honestly think it’ll be the latter. For the most part I think things like this are for show. No-one wants the bad publicity from actually enforcing rules because other parties, such as players, could leverage social media and make it seem unfair and at that point you either engage and make it a “he said, she said” situation, or you stay silent and look like the negative party. Mostly these things exist because you have to have them to look professional but internally no-one is interested in pushing them on people… Take the drugs tests. That’s about fixing an imaginary problem. I don’t believe they are genuinely interested in catching anybody. So if ESL has a CSGO major and a person or company has stake in two or more teams, WESA thinks they can stop them from playing? Can you give your thoughts on this? This just shows how convoluted esports politics is. A major is very much a partnership between Valve and another company, with Valve having the casting vote in matters for obvious reasons. If you want to enforce this rule and Valve don’t (and there’s nothing to suggest Valve wouldn’t support this rule by the way) then, for the major, the rule wouldn’t stand. I will say that the Valve I know do care about competitive integrity. I’ve talked about it with them many times. It’s why they have shown a firm hand when it comes to match fixing. There’s a chance that they would recognize the danger this poses and stand with WESA in this example. It’s up to them though. The majors are Valve’s brainchild and they rightly control how they are handled.

Read More: The 11th Major in Counter-Strike History Has Been Announced

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