The controversial World Esports Association (WESA) is expanding for the first time since its launch in May 2016, adding two new teams to the group.
Two-time Counter-Strike Major winners SK Gaming, and Renegades, the franchise owned by NBA star Jonas Jerebko, are joining WESA. They are the first teams based outside of Europe to do so.
SK Gaming joins the association at an interesting time, with WESA recently adopting regulations against any person or entity having ownership stakes in multiple teams. SK Gaming and founding WESA member Virtus Pro are both owned by ESForce Holdings, something that will have to be resolved during the 18-month transition period for the regulation to come into effect.
WESA, which claims to have been founded with the principles of “player representation, standardized regulations and revenue sharing for teams,” has been controversial ever since its launch last year. Some see it as a renewed attempt by founders ESL to establish some sort of exclusivity in Counter-Strike—something it has attempted more overtly in the past. Launching with eight members, FaZe Clan withdrew from the organization within a matter of weeks, criticizing the organization for a lack of transparency.
WESA expanding into North America follows a period of silence from the Professional Esports Association (PEA)—a North American equivalent to WESA, which was formed by seven of North America’s biggest teams. PEA had planned to launch a CS:GO league and pull its teams out of the WESA-sanctioned ESL Pro League, but the players of those teams rebelled, forcing PEA to cancel its league plans.
In January, veteran esports reporter Richard Lewis said that PEA was a direct response to failed negotiations between WESA and the North American teams to join under the WESA umbrella. Neither SK Gaming or Renegades were ever part of PEA.
Thus far, WESA’s influence has been relatively benign—at least in public. Though the line between ESL and WESA is blurry, and the ESL Pro League is increasingly being referred to as a WESA league rather than simply having WESA as a sanctioning body. With PEA out of the picture it appears WESA has returned to its goal of becoming a worldwide association, and time will tell how they choose to wield that influence on the industry.