Over the last couple of days, the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competitive scene has been experiencing turmoil due to the Professional eSports Association’s plans to exclude its teams from ESL Pro League, one of the most prestigious CS:GO Leagues in the world. In an open letter on the matter, 25 players from PEA teams have expressed their dissatisfaction with the situation. Naturally, the community went for their pitchforks and started rumbling in discontent. The whole visibility issue, presented by PEA’s behavior aside, should teams be able to tell players which events they can and not play in? ABSOLUTELY. Let’s discuss.
First of all, let’s make one thing clear. Players are not saints, representing teams and training for hours upon hours out of the goodness of their hearts. They do it to get paid. Who pays them? Teams. Teams, especially owners, are the ones who take on the responsibility for the success of their organization. Players only have to train and try to get as good as they possibly can be when the time to play in a tournament comes around. Compared to the stress of balancing and paying several rosters over (often) several games, while also employing support staff, looking for sponsors, taking care of PR, figuring out logistics of where the team is to live before and during a tournament and many other things is the responsibility that weighs down on the owner’s shoulders.
What is the responsibility of the player? To train as hard as they can and play well in the tournaments they qualify for. They are employees, paid a wage by the owner. He who pays lays down the rules. He who pays tells you which tournaments to play in. If you are not satisfied with that, leave the team and make your own organization, make the rules there. Having the freedom to do what you want with no risk that comes with it is what players expect. That is not how business works.
Let’s look at traditional sports for some examples of how all of this usually works. PEA seems to be trying to establish an NBA-like league. If, for example, there’s the Olympics or World Basketball Championship going on and a, for example, French player, who’s had several injuries over his career wants to play for his National Team in the tournament, his NBA club can forbid him for participating. Nobody bats an eye, everyone takes for granted that the team tells the players where they can and cannot play. Why should it be different in eSports? It shouldn’t.
That is not meant to say that players should just roll over and do as told. If an org is being truly unfair, they should have some way to fight for their rights. For that, a Players’ Association is needed. In it, there should be no owners, no organizers. Only players and their ideas, with some lawyers too, maybe.
Another thing to consider — if PEA teams are refusing to participate in ESL Pro League in order to push out the organizer out of NA and control the region, which certainly seems to be the case, what would their sponsors say? In essence, the North American organizations are simply refusing to play in a high visibility event, where they sponsors could gain a lot of exposure. If that happens, they might actually start losing them, which would hit the teams’ finances hard. After all, eSports organizations are hugely dependent on sponsorship money for survival.
While the PEA teams do and should have the right to tell their players which events they should play in, the Professional eSports Association is overplaying its hand by taking an antagonistic stance against one of the most well-known, if disliked, event organizers in the world, and one of the most high-profile CS:GO leagues as well without having an alternative in terms of visibility and exposure to show for it so far. It would be different if the PEA League was just as or even more popular than ESL Pro League. Then, the Association might even have the community on their side. Now, however, they have just massively overplayed their hand, turning the community against themselves.