Tommy “TJHaly” Haly tuned in to Tuesday’s airing of the eSports Report—Major League Gaming’s regular news show—“hella excited” for the big announcement he’d heard was coming. Excited, that is, until he learned the big news was the sale of his own team’s coveted spot in MLG’s Call of Duty League to European side TCM Gaming—essentially putting him out of a job.
Thanks for the heads up @AwareGaming
— Tommy (@TJHaLy32) March 10, 2015
The MLG Call of Duty League is the game’s only regularly running professional competition. With matches scheduled throughout the week culminating in a $75,000 final tournament, it’s Call of Duty’s biggest competition, save the Call of Duty Championship—and there are only 12 spots in the league.
Aware Gaming qualified for the season 2 league largely thanks to the contributions of Haly and fellow young gun Cuyler “Huke” Garland, who joined the team midway through season 1 and helped move it from 11th in the standings to a fifth-place finish in the playoffs, securing a position in season 2.
For players like Haly and Garland, who are too young to compete at the Call of Duty Championship despite their skill, the League is really the only show in town. And with TCM bringing in its full roster of European players to fill the starting positions, the former Aware players won’t be playing anytime soon. Garland and Haly have already left the roster and joined eLevate and FaZe Red as substitute players.
— ShAnE (@Orbit_ShAnE) March 10, 2015
Their former teammates, Lamar “Accuracy” Abedi and Nick “Happy” Suda, are still on the now-TCM roster, allowing the European side to meet MLG’s requirement that teams roster at least two players from the previous season.
That’s exciting news for fans of Call of Duty and especially European Call of Duty, who will finally get to see one of their best teams compete in the world’s most competitive league. But for the players of Aware, who fought tooth and nail to earn that league spot, it’s a betrayal.
Aware released a statement explaining the sale, noting that the Call of Duty scene was not “financially viable” for the team.
“Most people have no clue just how much many of us spend out of our own pockets to support our teams,” the Aware owner said, “and it often results in players who force their way out, don’t put forth a proper effort in doing the things needed to properly grow our business, and many who are just flat-out unappreciative of what we do as owners for our teams. So it was my intention at that time to find a new home for our team that would be able to better support the team moving forward.”
Of course, TCM is not that new home. The European side will import the entire roster of Europe’s No. 2 team, following in the footsteps of Callum “Swanny” Swan, who competed for OpTic Nation in season 1 this year as one of the the first European to immigrate for the Call of Duty league.
Aware knew the TCM sale would leave its players out in the cold, calling it “disheartening” but that “when it comes down to the bottom line, it is a decision that had to be made.”
Aware Gaming surprised its players with the announcement even though others within the community knew for days, leaving it scrambling to find a squad to compete as the season started Tuesday night. Haly played for eLevate, while Garland filled in as a substitute for FaZe Red, a spot he also held for part of last season.
The sale brings up questions that continue to hound the Call of Duty community: both players and teams continue to wield largely unchecked power over each other, leading to situations where one party often gets screwed by the other.
Last year MLG implemented new rules to handle these situations and provide protection for both players and teams, but as this instance shows, it’s not doing enough.
Part of the issue is the lack of proper contracts in Call of Duty. Most players aren’t signed to their teams. The ones that are mostly signed documents hardly worth the paper on which they were printed. With little save MLG governing the relationship between teams and players, we’re bound to get into instances where one party gets the short end of the stick.
The Aware players fought to earn a spot in the league that’s clearly worth a substantial sum, considering an organization like TCM paid for it (the rumored total of $3,000 is low compared to past sales within the league; $3,000 per player is more in the ballpark). But the players won’t see any of that cash. Granted, Aware likely shelled out the expenses required to send its team to the MLG season 1 playoffs, where it qualified, but should that be the end of its obligation to players?
That’s a question that players and teams need to answer soon as Call of Duty esports continue to grow.
Photo via MLGCOD/YouTube