BLAST Pro Series took the bold step today of being the first major Counter-Strike tournament organizer to ban Russian teams from their events, as well as announcing their CIS qualifier would be canceled, in response to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. In a statement given to Luis Mira, Dexerto’s Head of Esports, the company did confirm that Natus Vincere would not be banned, as the organization is based in Ukraine.
The company said that no Russian-based team would be invited to play in their events for "the foreseeable future", which will effectively mean that Virtus.pro, Gambit, and Team Spirit, as well as any other Russian-based org, are unable to take part in any BLAST event. There is no ban on teams with Russian players at this point in time, and none planned according to Blast.
The reaction from the community was mixed, with some asking BLAST why they had acted over this conflict, but not others. There is also some irony with BLAST being the first TO to take such measures, given the company came under significant criticism for staging their 2019 global finals in Riffa, Bahrain, a nation that is described as having a "dismal" human rights record by Human Rights Watch.
First to act
As mentioned, Blast have moved first of all major tournament organizers to ban Russian sides, although the move is slightly more complex than similar decisions taken in traditional sport, where UEFA and FIFA have banned all Russian teams from international and continental competition until further notice. With esports teams not having local stadia or geographical homes in the same way sports teams do, the move generally needs to be based on the geographical location of the company headquarters.
The news is unfortunate for many of the members of teams like Gambit and Virtus.pro, who have not individually expressed any support for the war — and some of whom are not even Russian — although at this stage they are presumably free to play in other tournaments. Gambit and Virtus.pro are both due to play in ESL competition next week, so any decision by that group will need to be taken swiftly if they want to follow in Blast’s footsteps.