WESA announces esports’ first arbitration court

The WESA (World Esports Association) announced the installation of the WESA Arbitration Court yesterday. 

Ken Hershman, WESA
Ken Hershman, WESA

In a press release on its site it stated that the Arbitration Court, although provided by WESA, “will operate completely independent of the organisation and is open to everyone involved in esports, from players, teams, organizers and publishers”.

The WESA has come under fire in the past for claiming a to be an independent body and moving to regulate esports as a whole, but choosing to include the ESL heavily on its executive board without other big tournament organisers such as Major League Gaming, CEVO, PGL, and Gfinity seemingly involved in any form. As such any attempt to remain unbiased towards the ESL it was fairly speculated would not be feasible. Moreover with this in mind the claims of being a ‘world’ organisation look shoddy.

In addition, many voiced concern that the direct involvement of eight pro teams could lead to issues in terms of decisions made to favour them. 

Gamespot held a good interview with Pietro Fringuelli, the interim WESA Commissioner, and ESL Chief Executive Ralf Reichert shortly after its announcement. 

These issues aside, this Arbitration Court appears to intend to offer a legal framework that can be used to resolve a range of issues, including contract disputes, prize money pay out and distribution, financial misconduct and player representation. It’s much needed but how the WESA plans to go about this and how it is placed to do so is unclear at this time. The releases states that “the issues will be decided by an impartial panel of three Arbitrators, although the parties can also agree to utilise a single arbitrator (sole Arbitrator) for certain disputes. The decisions at the end of the confidential proceedings are final and there are no appeals”.

It states there will be an impartial panel but many have taken to Twitter and social media to debate how truly independent WESA could remain if there were disputes with the ESL for example. We’re yet to be informed of the plans for the arbitrators, who and how they’ll be selected, so we’ll hold off on comment for now.

Bryce Blum, of Unikrn and the founder of IME Law, took to Reddit to air his thoughts. He said: “Some form of alternative dispute resolution is definitely needed in esports. I’m glad WESA is creating the first such body, and hope others will follow suit. That being said, parties to a conflict must voluntarily opt into this form of dispute resolution, so I’m not sure WESA’s Arbitration Court will ultimately see much use.” You can read the post in full here

Ken Hershman, Executive Chairman and Commissioner of WESA said: “The creation of an independent arbitration process is an important step to achieve one of WESA’s goals to professionalize esports. The impartial nature of the arbitration process ensures a variety of issues – from contract disputes to prize money distribution and many others – can be handled expeditiously in a fair, equitable and cost effective manner.”

Viktor Jendeby, Players Council Chairman added: “Having a framework, processes and a legal body to turn to when needed is an important next step in ensuring that professional gamers and their careers are guarded. With the Arbitration Court in place, I am confident that Players and Teams they play for will receive necessary help and support when needed, and that their interests will be protected.”

Teams and/or players interested in accessing the Arbitration Court to settle disputes can send an email to [email protected] The normal arbitration process will start with written submissions that are submitted directly to the Court, stating the positions of the parties and then if necessary an oral hearing for the arbitrator and the parties.  

Esports Insider says: The WESA is one of a number of organsations that have popped up to seek to professionalise and regulate esports as a whole. To do so though it surely needs to be independent and not have financial links with any stakeholders such as one particular organiser or a small number of teams. This arbitration court however sounds intriguing and is required… we’ve reached out to WESA for further comment.