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WESA (World E-Sports Association) and its Dispute Settlement Procedure

*Shikhar Bhardwaj & Prateek Sharma



The advent of the 21st century saw the rise of technology in our daily life. Machines, converters, computers etc., which were initially believed to be a product of industrial consumption, soon became part of a common person’s routine. The change was so smooth and sudden that the younger generation of the 21st century finds it challenging to survive without gadgets. This dependency or addiction to the virtual world has developed a whole new industry of E-sports. What astonishing was the journey of Ferdinand Magellan to the journey of video games, starting as a leisure activity, a pass time and according to guardians of young ones a distraction, to a billion-dollar industry offering employment to thousands E-sports industry have travelled a journey which none of the leisure act has ever done. The video games fazed the boundary between competitive sports and leisure sports. Sports like Ludo are always considered a leisure sport that can never turn competitive, and sports like football have always been competitive. So, what was unique in the E-sports that they turn from leisure sports to competitive sports? This is because soon people realised that, unlike most leisure sports which depend on luck and probabilities, video games are a set of uniform algorithms in which one needs skill and talent to succeed.


The largest E-sports Association in the world currently is WESA (World E-Sports Association), an amalgamation of 8 leading E-Sports teams, making them the largest association of E-sports teams. The E-sports industry has three definitive characteristics; first, it is very addictive. Second, a billion-dollar industry that can soon become the biggest sports industry ever and third is a lawless jungle where regulation and laws are merely ethical conducts.[1] The formation of WESA is all about that third characteristics. An attempt to regulate this sports industry like what FIFA is to football, ICC is to cricket WESA is to E-sports. The difference lies to the fact that Football and Cricket are established sports that now know what is legal and illegal in their sports. On the other hand, WESA has to determine boundaries of right and wrong in these haywire circumstances. They are aiming to become the Socrates of this western world. Under such circumstances where the industry is minting heavy money and there is no globally accepted regulatory body, WESA emerges as the first of its kind organisation. Established by ESL in 2016 with other 7 leading sporting teams it is obvious that WESA will govern the largest E-sport league.


This Mammoth of E-sports will not only run the show. Still, it will also lay down the regulations and rules of the show, implying that WESA not only regulates the rights and T&C of the league but, has a separate independent dispute settlement body within its organisational structure. WESA Arbitration Rules are a codified set of sections adopted on August 17, 2016, comprising thirty-seven sections defining the various norms and procedure of the Arbitration process under WESA. Starting with Preamble in section 1 which states, “The Arbitration Court for E-Sports ("ACES") is an ad hoc facility independent from the World E-Sports Association ("WESA") or its members or the WESA teams and its players”. The Preamble makes it clear about the independence of the Arbitration Court. Though the court is formed under rules drafted by WESA, it is an independent judicial body working under the set of rules formulated in this code. The concept of independent judiciary vis-à-vis dodging conflict of interest is very well-drafted in the section. The idea of fair, transparent and non-bias judicious hearing, which is the first touchstone of justice and on test many independent arbitration associations fails in it, and ACES answers the pivotal question at the very beginning was making the optimism about it successful run earthlier.


Further, like the arbitration process in a major arbitration tribunal (three-member tribunal) will comprise three arbitrators, two of them will be nominated by each party. The nominated arbitrators will choose the third arbitrator, which will become the chairman of the tribunal.[2] Like other arbitration bodies, ACES also provides the option for a sole arbitrator, who would agree with both parties.[3] The Arbitration clauses are have been drafted in harmony with those of CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sports) and other commercial arbitral tribunals, making the procedure and setup of WESA a widely accepted one. This also ensures that the WESA arbitral proceedings are intersecting the international set norms of arbitration, which is very pivotal because the image of a lawless world of E-sports leagues can only be broken when international arbitration norms find a place in their functioning.


It is a pertinent question to be asked and answered why an infant regulatory body is so rigid to the dispute redressal method. They have only formulated an arbitration board and has overlooked other dispute redressal method. The answer to this lies in the primary facet of e-sports: its short-lived craze and burden on developers to attain maximum benefits in minimum time. E-sports developers and organisers have no time to toil into tedious litigation or judicial redressal method. In the words of Bryce Blum, co-founder of ESG, a leading E-sports specialised firm:


"An athlete’s career is short (as is the season itself), and a dispute surrounding what team they play for or whether they are a free agent will necessarily impact the ecosystem in a more immediate sense than in many typical judicial disputes” further he says “Sports (and esports) don’t have time for a three-year court case to reach a final resolution." [4]


Comprehending the words of Bryce Blum, arbitration is the kind of dispute redressal which appeals to the organisers as being the most practical and most feasible options for dispute redressal and makes organisation optimistic that this practical aspect of dispute redressal will further help in expansion of WESA. Further, sincere observation will lead us to another legal notion that litigation or judicial redressal necessarily asks for a court of jurisdiction. With global esports teams determining the place of jurisdiction becomes an arduous task. On the other hand, arbitration smoothens this as territorial boundaries do not bind the arbitration redressal, and hearing could be done at any place preferred by the parties. This is explicitly mentioned in section 3 sub-clause 2[5] of WESA Arbitration Rules that parties can choose their preferred place for an Arbitration hearing.


WESA should be credited to make people believe that this sector can be regulated and governed by a written set of rules. This was very important after WESA people image of e-sports will change many youngsters will be able to choose it as a career path with the consent of their parents, which was not the case before WESA. For the promotion of e-sport player as a profession, it was needed that organisers take care of the legal rights of the participants as the first credential of any job profession is to provide security, which WESA now brings.


Lastly, the establishment of WESA is the first step of, to be the historical journey of professional E-sports. This profession does not exist 20 years back to a profession that promises to be the biggest job provider in the coming 20 years. We shall fasten our seat belts to witness such a journey.


*The authors are law scholars from Himachal Pradesh National Law University, Shimla.


(The image used here is for representational purposes only)


References


[1] Colin Campbell. “The who, what and why of the World E-sports Association.” Polygon network, May 13 2016, https://www.polygon.com/2016/5/13/11668182/what-is-wesa.

[2] WESA Arbitration Rules 2016, §6 (1)

[3] WESA Arbitration Rules 2016, §6 (3)

[4] Carpenter Nicole. “E Sports Lawyer Bryce Blum weighs in on WESA Arbitration Court” The Esports Observer, November 4 2016, https://esportsobserver.com/wesa-arbitration-court-blum/

[5] WESA Arbitration Rules 2016, §3 (2)