The Electronic Sports League (ESL), one of the biggest organizational powers in esports, has taken a firm new stance on cheating.
ESL, who recently announced a $250,000 tournament for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive to be held in August in Cologne, decided that players banned through Valve’s online video game marketplace and community, Steam, would be barred from competing at the event or any of its qualifiers.
The announcement marks the first time that a major organization such as ESL has decided to ban players from attending live events based on their online transgressions. Many fans and players alike have called for such action to be taken in the past, though the timing of ESL’s decision was strange. The organization announced the decision nearly two weeks after a fresh wave of bans from Valve’s Anti-Cheating System (VAC) had been meted out and after qualifiers for the event had already begun.
That timing had allowed one notable player who suffered a VAC ban to successfully compete with his team in a qualifier. German player Anil “cLy” Gülec, a longtime Counter-Strike competitor, was among those given bans by Valve’s anti-cheating service. Gülec had in the past represented such notable esports organizations as Mousesports and Mortal Teamwork, and currently plays with German side Planetkey Dynamics.
Gülec vociferously defended himself in the wake of the ban, insisting that he was ignorant to what might have caused the ban. His team was quick to follow in his defense.
Planetkey Dynamics released a statement following the ban saying that, “As an organization we will continue to follow this matter closely and we want to emphasize that Gülec has our confidence and that of the team, and that we hope this is just a mistake.”
The decision by ESL has put Planetkey Dynamics in a tight spot. While the team has voiced their support for Gülec, ESL has also made it clear that any team carrying a player who has received a VAC ban will be barred from tournament play. Planetkey Dynamics was among four teams to qualify from their region from a final European continental qualifier, but their further participation is now very much in doubt.
While most fans have lauded the move as a positive development, it does raise some questions related to the timing of the decision and the bans that are being counted against players.
Braxton “Swag” Pierce, widely considered to be one of the best players in professional Counter-Strike today, is among those who had previously received bans from Valve. But Pierce will still be attending ESL One Cologne with his iBUYPOWER teammates, as his ban does not fall within the guidelines set forth by ESL.
The move also comes in concert with ESL’s partnership with Valve. The famed developer has a firm zero-tolerance policy for violators, and that viewpoint likely played a role in ESL deciding to follow Valve’s lead in banning from play those players who were caught.
Screengrab via YouTube/cLy