Esports World Cup adds 30 teams to financial support program

The Esports World Cup Foundation has selected 30 global organizations to join its debut EWCF Club Support Program. Through this initiative, qualifying esports teams can receive six-figures of financial support annually to diversify their operations and create more opportunities for professional players.

The full lineup of Clubs includes 100 Thieves, Blacklist International, Cloud9, FaZe Clan, Fnatic, Furia Esports, G2 Esports, Gaimin Gladiators, Gen.G Esports, Guild Esports, Karmine Corp, KOI, LGD Gaming, LOUD, OG, Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, NRG Esports, Spacestation Gaming, T1, Talon Esports, Team Falcons, Team Liquid, Team Secret, Team Vitality, TSM, Tundra Esports, Twisted Minds, and Weibo Gaming. 

Esports World Cup Foundation unveils 30 esports teams accepted into Club Support Program
The thirty teams accepted into the EWCF Club Support Program

Of the 30 teams in the EWCF Club Support Program, eight joined through an open application process earlier this year. The Esports World Cup Foundation judged over 150 applicants based on the three criteria: “organization’s past competitive success, its strategy and goals for the future, and its approach to fan engagement and content.”

“The Club Support Program is critical to the EWC Foundation’s vision of building a stronger esports ecosystem and elevating esports as global sports,” said Ralf Reichert, CEO, Esports World Cup Foundation. “Because we received so many high quality applications, we expanded our original allocation of 28 Club Support Program slots to 30, a testament to the strength of our program as it supports some of the world’s best esports Clubs. I’m excited to cheer on these Clubs as they work to qualify for the Esports World Cup and its life-changing prize pool of more than $60 million.”

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Esports World Cup ties

The Esports World Cup Foundation’s eponymous event will take place in Qiddiya, Saudi Arabia’s planned entertainment city, this summer. The eight week-long global competition will feature tournaments in 20 different titles with a record breaking $60 million prize pool on the line. About half — $33 million — is earmarked for individual tournaments. A further $20 million will go to the top 16 Clubs based on their cross-game performance. Finally, one competitor in each game will receive a $50,000 MVP Award.

Esports World Cup Schedule 2024

Of course, the Esports World Cup Federation is managing both the event and its Club Support Program. Despite these financial ties, EWC Foundation intends to treat member clubs like any other competitor — with one cavet. Like any other team, EWCF Club Support Program members must qualify for each game’s event. Similarly, they can take home prize pools for individual games or the cross-game EWC Club Championship.

However, member clubs are eligible for annual financial rewards regardless of whether or not they qualify. These rewards are based on each member’s ability to drive viewership and fan engagement to the EWC.

The Esports World Cup Foundation’s Club Support Program comes at a difficult time for the esports industry. In the midst of an industry-wide funding cold-snap, the esports winter has forced teams and publishers to streamline operations.

This reliable funding from the Club Support Program effectively subsidizes team operations. Instead of making cuts, teams can expand their operations and take risks that would not be possible otherwise. Ideally, teams are using this funding to compete in new games, scaling up their content to build fandom and expand into new markets globally. However, it’s unclear how much oversight the EWCF has over how teams use these funds.

Directly supporting these top teams also furthers the immediate (and long-term) goals of the Esports World Cup Federation. In the short term, the program enables top teams to expand into the titles featured at the event. These top teams come with established fan bases to boost viewership and add credibility to the event itself.

Additionally, the Club Support Program helps the Saudi Arabia-backed event manage potential controversy. Establishing financial ties to Western teams incentivizes them to bridge the cultural values divide.

Shifting the center gravity

The EWCF’s Club Support Program members highlight the foundation’s global long-term ambitions. The 30 teams represent five major competitive regions — Europe, North America, Asia, South America and the Middle East.

However, the vast majority of accepted teams are primarily based in Europe or North America. If T1 and Gen.G Esports’ North American ownership groups are factored in, 22 of the 30 accepted teams have ties to these regions.

Europe North America Asia South America Middle East
Fnatic 100 Thieves Blacklist International Furia Esports Team Falcons
G2 Esports Cloud9 LGD Gaming LOUD Twisted Minds
Guild Esports FaZe Clan Gen.G Esports*
Karmine Corp Gaimin Gladiators T1*
KOI NRG Esports Talon Esports
OG Spacestation Gaming Weibo Gaming
Natus Vincere TSM
Ninjas in Pyjamas*
Team Liquid*
Team Secret
Team Vitality
Tundra Esports
*Teams with significant operations in two or more regions

Additionally, both teams representing the Middle East are based in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given that The Esports World Cup Foundation is a non-profit spun off from ESL Faceit Group. In turn, Savvy Games Group, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, acquired and merged the global esports conglomerate’s constituent companies for $1.5 billion in 2022.

HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud (middle), Chairman of Saudi Esports Federation alongside Toshimoto Mitomo (right), Executive Deputy President and CSO, Sony Group, and Ralf Reichert, CEO of Esports World Cup Foundation.
HRH Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud (middle), Chairman of Saudi Esports Federation alongside Toshimoto Mitomo (right), Executive Deputy President and CSO, Sony Group, and Ralf Reichert, CEO of Esports World Cup Foundation.

This global mix of teams highlights the organization’s long-term goal of making Saudi Arabia a global hub for gaming. Similar to the PIF’s investments in Golf, Tennis and Formula 1 Racing, the sovereign wealth fund is investing in gaming and esports as a part of its Vision 2030 fund.

However, esports does not have an established global governing body unlike the PIF’s other sports investments. This has allowed the PIF to build its own from the ground up. Between owning the world’s largest esports tournament operator, the Esports World Cup serving as the de facto global premier event and building financial ties with top teams through the EWCF’s Club Support Program, the esports industry’s center of gravity has shifted to Saudi Arabia.

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