In the past week or so, Riot Games was forced to issue three separate competitive rulings against VCT teams due to their coaches cheating by communicating with their teams at unauthorized times during the VCT qualifiers. The baffling trend has many asking the question... Why?
The trend is alarming for Riot and the VCT, given the impact that CS:GO's coaching scandal had on that esport over the past couple of years, wherein CS:GO coaches were exposed for using a bug to gain unfair intelligence on other teams. The malfeasance revealed in the CS:GO coaching scandal also likely explains why Riot is being so strict about enforcing their coaching communication policy, even punishing coaches for minor infractions.
All three incidents of cheating this past week were related to unauthorized communication between a coach and their team. It started with T1's coach breaking the rules, which seemed like an isolated instance. But then on Thursday, it was revealed that G2 Esports coach also engaged in unauthorized communication, as did Movistar Riders.
So what are the rules around communication with coaches, and how are coaches breaking them?
VALORANT reckons with coach communication issues
According to the VCT official rules, coaches are not allowed to communicate with their players during matches except in specific circumstances. Under rule 7.2.11 of the VALORANT Global Competition Policy, "during the match, communication by a player shall be limited to other players on the team."
The only exception to this rule is during tactical pauses, and in some cases technical pause periods if the TO has specifically authorized teams to communicate with their coaches. These rules exist to ensure fair competition. The VCT also recently banned coaches from watching the official broadcast of the game, since that could give them unfair insight into what the other team is doing. That decision was made after Soniq's Esports coach Reid Johnson called out the unfairness of that practice.
Despite clear rules against communicating with a team during the match, T1's coach David Denis engaged in an egregious violation of these rules last week when he gave tactical instructions to his team during a round. The communication logs also revealed that he communicated between rounds or with players who were already eliminated, primarily with general reminders and supportive statements.
As a result of his illegal communications, T1 was forced to forfeit the match they won against TSM, and Denis was suspended for the upcoming qualifier this weekend by his team.
On Thursday, G2 received their own warning after their coach PipsoN broke the communication rules. According to that competitive ruling: "G2 Esports has received an official warning due to violating rules regarding unauthorized communication" after he spoke with his team for "celebratory purposes, not resulting in a competitive advantage" during an unauthorized technical pause.
Also on Thursday, yet another team — EMEA's Movistar Riders — also found themselves in hot water after their coach provided written tactical instructions during their match against RIX.GG. As a result of that ruling, Movistar Riders has been deducted three points, which is equal to a match loss.
It is clear that some VALORANT coaches are having trouble following the rules, despite the rules being very clearly stated in the competition policy. While some might argue the rules are too stringent, banning even celebratory messages, that doesn't matter given that the VCT has been very clear about when coaches are allowed to communicate with their teams. Hopefully, these are just growing pains for the VCT coaches out there, and we will see fewer competitive rulings calling out them out moving forward.
At some point, these coaches have to realize, they are just costing their teams wins and points due to their overly lax readings of the rules. Of course, coaches want to support their team and help them, but these coaches are doing the exact opposite.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.