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The market for gaming tournaments and eSports has become a mass phenomenon and is set to challenge conventional types of sport in terms of viewer ratings and marketing revenue.

In 2015, the global eSports market generated USD 325m and had an audience of 225 million people. It is projected to generate USD 1bn by 2019, according to market researcher Newzoo. Top eSports include League of
Legends, Street Fighter, Overwatch, Hearthstone and StarCraft.

To enable all marketing activities such as sponsoring and TV rights to be conducted globally from a central location, a new governing body – the World eSports Association (WESA) – has been established.

A multi-office team led by CMS Cologne partner Pietro Graf Fringuelli advised Electronic Sports League (ESL), the world’s largest eSports company, on the establishment of WESA. The new governing body was developed with the backing of eight leading eSports teams and ESL.

Pietro Graf Fringuelli was also appointed as interim chairman of the WESA executive board and league commissioner.

The eSports industry is growing at an explosive pace and we created new legal structures and commercial rights bidding processes from scratch as part of the establishment of WESA.
Pietro Graf Fringuelli, Partner, CMS Cologne

“In addition to structuring the governing body and commercial rights platform, we had to create an arbitration court, a code of conduct, rules covering player transfers and countless other legal regulations. It is truly pioneering work in the eSports field.”

ESL is part of the Modern Times Group and Turtle Entertainment, the world’s biggest computer games event organisers, marketed principally through the Twitch online streaming platform which was bought from Amazon in 2014 for almost EUR 1bn. WESA became operational in early 2017 and is the exclusive platform for international tournaments among the world’s best eSports teams, similar to soccer’s FIFA.

CMS lawyers in Brussels, Germany and Switzerland worked together to advise on the establishment of WESA.

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