As eSports grows as a competitive phenomenon, it naturally grows as an industry – a business platform upon which organisations will look to make money. As detached as many of the players wish to be with the business side of their chosen careers as eSports athletes, sometimes it’s unavoidable that a less than favourable business situations will cross their paths anyway – as both of the Luminosity Gaming and SK Gaming lineups have discovered – caught in the crossfire of business.
Shy of reaching their first anniversary, officials at ELeague have ruled that both SK Gaming and Luminosity Gaming are disqualified from the competition, due to the messy contractual situation that took place just a few weeks prior.
Cleverly, Min-Sik Ko, the commissioner of ELeague, made the ruling just prior to one of the greatest best-of-1 matches that Counter-strike has ever witnessed between Fnatic and G2. Likely the timing of this information release was intentional, as ELeague would have hoped this unpopular ruling would fly under the radar as fans of CS:GO watched to see which of the two top-5 teams was going to be eliminated from the Cologne Major.
Luminosity & SK Gaming are no longer eligible to compete in our first season due to roster changes that do not comply with @EL rules
— Min-Sik Ko (@minsikko) July 6, 2016
There are two points of interest in this case. Firstly, that Ko himself had tweeted out on May 30th that neither of these teams would likely experience disqualification as the contractual issues loomed overhead. Now he seems to have completely abandoned that stance and ruled contrary to those words of sentiment. Secondly, the rules that ELeague are citing to warrant this disqualification are extremely hard to find, and from what the community that has a hold of them are saying, they seem to be very vague as well.
Only time will tell whether or not this move will be reversed when ELeague realises the monster it has awoken inside the Counter-Strike community. Of course, the real tragedy here is that neither of these teams will be showcased in ELeague’s playoffs because of business issues that they surely had very little to nothing to do with. The former SK roster are particularly down on their luck – now seeking an organisation to call their home after the former team signed the best roster in the world in Luminosity Gaming to replace them. Currently playing under the temporary tag Team-X, the remaining squad evidently lose out more than any other party involved as they are caught up in a business crossfire that the players evidently had no active role in.
Soon after the ELeague announcement, information surfaced claiming that several North American organisations had collaboratively signed a petition of sorts, giving Ko their backing in his decision to remove SK and ex-SK from the competition. Speculation as to the motives behind these organisations signing such a petition varies wildly in levels of legitimacy – ranks on the conspiracy chart scale all the way from ‘credible’ up to ‘proof that the moon landing was fake’. It remains a blurry area.
What we can be sure of is that this may be the day marked in the history books where the ideas of a player’s union become a reality. Many of the North American players on the teams that signed the petition have already made it clear via social media that they wouldn’t have signed this petition if they knew about it. Not only has a void between ELeague as tournament organisers and competing players been realised, but additionally an evident disconnect between players and their representative organisations across the continent.
Just to state we never signed or saw contract with ELeague. Organisations did. Wanna punish someone!? Punish them. Not players.
— Gabriel FalleN T. (@FalleNCS) 6 July 2016
Was a player’s union inevitable? Possibly, yet what the audience of eSports at large don’t seem to consider is that of eSports in relation to its established physical sports brethren.
Many if not all professional sports at the highest level have dealt with this during their histories as the sport’s professional scenes and cultures developed. Counter-Strike, and other eSports in tow, shouldn’t be considered differently. eSports as a whole lacks the infrastructure that many other sports around the world take for granted.
Whilst the drama surrounding ELeague has been overwhelmingly negative for the scene, the entire situation could potentially prove to be the catalyst for eSports making the next step towards the types of institutions, safeguards, and infrastructure that it will need on its journey.