The Elephant in eSports

It’s crazy how eSports are expanding almost on a daily basis. A new game makes the scene, a new tournament, a new major organization – it is always growing.
If you don’t follow eSports or maybe just keep up with a single game in eSports then maybe you’ve missed how major sports clubs have entered eSports.

The days where eSports were just a few happy gamers are over. Football clubs like Schalke 04, Sporting FC, Besiktas, Manchester City, Wolfsburg, Santos, West Ham and Valencia all have teams in eSports – and from the next season split in 2017 they will be joined by at least Fenerbache.

We’re talking some huge clubs compared to even the biggest pure eSport organizations. This will do a lot for eSports in many areas. It will firstly bring the worlds of regular sports together with eSports as one. As a product of that synergy I hope that an eSport association will rise from this. Without such a third-party association we’ll just keep feeding the elephants in eSports.

So who are these elephants?
In eSports there are very few big companies who own, rule and profit in its current state. Now I don’t mind they profit as that will ensure the survival of eSports and future development of the games and leagues in question. What I do mind is how they also own and rule the eSport scene – it’s judge, jury and executioner all over again.

Riot, Blizzard and Valve – these are the three biggest companies in eSports by far. combined they own the franchises League of Legends, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, StarCraft, Warcraft, Counter-Strike and Dota among other smaller ones. We’re talking 9 of the top 10 eSport franchises if you look at the current eSport rankings.

They can effectively do what they want as there’s no CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) or any other eSport association to keep track of their actions. A good example is the case of the League of Legends team Renegades where Riot dish out a team ban without disclosing the exact reason why. They don’t need to answer to anyone, and can’t be bothered by appeals, so why bother with reasons?

Video from Renegades team owner ‘Monte Cristo’ about the ban-drama can be found here.

Now Riot only own League of Legends so they can only effect that one game and branch. But imagine what would happen if Blizzard would end up doing something similar as they own half of the top 10 games. They could effectively give an organization, player or team a full ban from all their games without giving any valid reason to any kind of third-party commission or association.

The needed change
With the current interest from major clubs in regular sports all this will change. It’s not longer a question about if – it’s when. Clubs who have been in sports more than 100 years will get this sorted out. They bring a much-needed professional approach to eSports – one that has been fictive so far. We’ve seen many screw ups with contracts, ownership, bans and so on. If eSport want to be considered a true professional sport then these things have to be held to a minimum going forward.

Schalke 04, West Ham and Manchester City are not just football clubs – they’re some of the richest worldwide and they are the key to the future of eSports. They bring professional approach to sports to the table. Let’s hope eSport franchise owners will take it before it’s forced upon them.

In Spain LFP (Liga de Fútbol Profesional) are looking into starting their own eSport division. With Spain being one of the biggest eSport markets in Europe that is a serious move. I can almost with certainty say that there has been meetings with other football associations about this. Germany is a hotspot as that’s where all the current league games in LoL are played during the splits. England with more and more clubs getting involved. So some franchise owners may find themselves under a lot pressure if thy don’t change their ways.

To put it in other words: Adidas might produce footballs – but the don’t control the leagues (Looking at you Riot).


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