- The war in Ukraine impacts even esports events
- The ESL bans Russian-based teams with ties to the Russian government
- Russian players will still be able to compete if they do not represent their country or organizations
With war raging on in Eastern Europe, many organizations continue to ban Russian teams, especially those with “apparent ties” to the Russian government.
ESL Bans Russian Organizations from Participating
As the war in Ukraine intensifies, many sports and esports organizations are banning Russian athletes from attending various events. For example, CS:GO is extremely popular in Russia, and with many pro players from the country BLAST Premier has banned many Russian teams from competing in its tournaments.
Such restrictions continue to proliferate within organizers, with ESL becoming yet another entity that bars teams with “apparent ties” to the Russian government from competing in the upcoming ESL Pro League Season 15. Esports organizations affected include Gambit Esports, as well as Vitrus.pro, whose team was also banned from the Gamers Galaxy.
However, the ESL did leave a loophole in its statement that allows Russian players the option to compete in the event without representing their country or sponsors. We recognize that players are not complicit with this situation, and we do not think it is in the spirit of esports to impose sanctions on individual players,” reads ESL’s statement. “The Virtus.pro and Gambit players are therefore welcome to compete under a neutral name,” ESL’s statement reads, “without representing their country, organization or their teams’ sponsors on their clothing or otherwise.”
The ban poses a challenge to the ESL, as it now has to figure out a way to accommodate for the loss of the two teams. It is also unclear whether the players’ contracts would even allow them to play without their organization’s backing.
The War and Its Effects on Esports
With seemingly half the world condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine, many non-government organizations have been banning Russian entities from participating in various events. This includes Russia’s exclusion from FIFA and UEFA international football events. Esports events followed suit.
And with the whole gaming world unanimously condemning the war in Ukraine, esports organizers will continue to restrict Russian players’ access to the events. The ESL’s actions try to target individuals with “apparent ties to the Russian government, including individuals or organizations under alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict.”
This means that Virtus.pro, whose parent company is ESforce Holding, and Gambit Esports, which are owned by MTS Russia are directly targeted by the ESL’s decision. MTS is one of many Russian companies that is actively sanctioned in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The ESL has also decided to pause all scheduled competitions in the CIS region, for the time being, mirroring what Valve did by indefinitely postponing the Eastern Europe Dota Pro Circuit.