The Overwatch League has added to its rapidly expanding collection of widely loathed traditional-sports honchos, as Stan and Josh Kroenke, owners of Arsenal, the Los Angeles Rams, a dizzying array of Colorado franchises, and whatever is on Stan’s head have bought a Los Angeles team for a reported $20 million.
The Kroenkes aren’t the first big names in traditional sports to buy into the Overwatch League. In July, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft purchased the Boston Overwatch slot—a nice complement to his casino holdings—while New York Mets COO Jeff Wilpon, of the famously savvy Wilpons, grabbed the New York team.
Cloud9, an L.A.-based organization that already has an Overwatch team, has also purchased the first Europe-based Overwatch League team, which will be sited in London. The Kroenkes’ team, for its part, is the second Los Angeles team. (Noah Whinston, CEO of the Immortals esports franchise, owns the other Los Angeles Overwatch League team.)
Just why bigwigs like Kraft and the Kroenkes are spending so much on Overwatch teams—something like 10 times as much as it would cost to buy into the more-established League of Legends League Championship Series—isn’t quite clear. What is clear is that not everyone is happy about them getting to do so.
In recent months, several prominent esports organizations have let go of their Overwatch teams. Fnatic, a London-based esports organization, released their Overwatch roster last June. Their public statement claimed they were “not closing the door on Overwatch,” and that they planned to “evaluate the game as a competitive title and give ourselves a healthy amount of time to explore our options.”
Today, when Blizzard announced that Cloud9 had bought a London-based Overwatch team, Fnatic chairman Sam Mathews seemed unhappy:
In a follow-up tweet, Mathews, who did not respond to a request for comment before publication, suggested that Blizzard had not expressed interest in Fnatic’s Overwatch team.
Despite this drama, there’s an upside here: If Cloud9 chooses to draft London-based players, there are several former Fnatic pros looking for work, while if the Kroenkes want some names of decent L.A.-based Overwatch players, Cloud9 might be able to hook them up. Additionally, aspiring esports moguls looking to anger fans by moving their teams or poorly managing their budgets like a true traditional-sports power will now have a powerful and experienced role model with vast experience to learn from.