ESL has imposed sanctions on Russian-based teams Gambit and Virtus Pro ahead of the upcoming season of the ESL Pro League due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These organizations have “apparent ties” to the Russian government and therefore are no longer allowed to be represented in the tournament.
Neither of these organizations are partnered with ESL nor qualified for the $823,000 competition via ESL’s world rankings. The decision to block the brands of Gambit and VP may not affect the CS:GO players in the end, though.
“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,” ESL’s statement reads. “The Virtus Pro and Gambit players are therefore welcome to compete under a neutral name, without representing their country, organization or their teams’ sponsors on their clothing or otherwise.”
At time of writing, neither Gambit nor VP has commented on ESL’s sanctions. It’s unknown if these organizations will allow their players to compete in the event under a different name. Those teams made it into the playoffs of IEM Katowice this past weekend and are two serious contenders for the title of ESL Pro League season 15.
Other tournament organizers in CS:GO have taken steps to exclude Russian-backed entities. BLAST, one of ESL’s main competitors, has banned organizations from Russia from attending events for the foreseeable future yesterday, and Elisa Esports, a minor tournament organizer, did the same today.
To support the people of Ukraine, ESL has also implemented paid time off for affected employees, paid time off for employees who wish to volunteer for humanitarian relief, and is donating money to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Additionally, ESL has paused all the scheduled competitions in the CIS region and they’ll be played at a later time.
ESL Pro League season 15 will run from March 9 to April 10 in Germany. This edition has 24 teams split into four groups of six. The three best teams from each group will advance to the playoffs.