ESL ban Russian teams with ties to Russian state, allow players to compete as neutrals


ESL today joined BLAST Pro Series in announcing their own form of sanctions against Russian teams as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The main rulings are that "organizations with apparent ties to the Russian government" will not be allowed to compete in ESL events, but their players can do so if they chose to under a neutral banner, rather than as part of their organization.



At this point in time, ESL have identified two teams, and Gambit, as having ties to the Russian leadership, which presumably will disqualify them from any ESL event until the aggression against Ukraine has ended. The company has also paused all regional competition in the CIS region out of respect for the situation, and also no doubt due to the challenge of operating an event in such circumstances.


Their decision is slightly more nuanced than the one taken by BLAST to simply ban all Russian-based orgs, and it remains to be seen how much effort and Gambit want to give to their players. Paying for a team to attend an event is expensive, even more so when you cannot display sponsors or even your own team name on stream, so it may be that the players from the two orgs are just on hiatus for the time being.

ESL donations to the UNHCR

ESL have also stated that "together with our partners and employees, we are currently working on actions to support the people suffering from the current tragedy with donations to UNHCR [the United Nations Refugee Agency — Ed.], paid time off for employees to volunteer for humanitarian relief and paid time off for affected colleagues". However, it will be their decision to ban that gets the most attention, especially with ESL’s ownership taken into account.


For those that missed the news, ESL and FACEIT merged at the start of 2022 to be sold to a Saudi investment fund called the Savvy Gaming Group, which is funded by the Saudi government's Public Investment Fund. While this may seem hypocritical, given Saudi’s ongoing human rights issues and aggression toward Yemen, it should still be noted their actions in the Ukraine situation are positive and could provide a blueprint for how to punish allies of Russia without hurting players.

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