ESL has decided to bar teams with “apparent ties” to the Russian government from competing in the upcoming ESL Pro League Season 15, according to a statement released by the tournament organizer on Wednesday. Specifically, Virtus.pro and Gambit Esports will not be allowed to play at the event.
ESL allowed the Russian players the option to participate in the event without the backing of their organizations or sponsors, under a new name, however.
“The Virtus.pro and Gambit players are therefore welcome to compete under a neutral name, without representing their country, organization or their teams’ sponsors on their clothing or otherwise,” the statement reads.
No words has been given yet on how ESL Pro League Season 15 will be adjusted to accommodate for the loss of the two teams, should the players opt out of participating without their org’s backing. It is also unclear whether the players’ contracts would even allow them to pursue that option.
Our statement on Ukraine.
— ESL (@ESL) March 2, 2022
By taking this action, ESL follow BLAST, which already uninvited Russia-based teams from their upcoming events for the foreseeable future.
According to the statement, ESL specifically targeted teams whose parent organization has “apparent ties to the Russian government, including individuals or organizations under alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict.”
These include Virtus.pro, whose parent company is ESforce Holding, and Gambit Esports, who are owned by MTS Russia. As a major telecom company, MTS is one of many Russian companies that is actively sanctioned in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
ESL also announced they would postpone all scheduled competitions in the Commonwealth of Independent States region.
“We will monitor and evaluate future competitions and make further decisions as the situation evolves,” the statement said.
ESL’s statement said the Cologne-based organizers were “shocked and saddened” by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and that they “hope for a swift and peaceful resolution.” They plan on donating to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and will give paid time off for affected employees and those volunteering for humanitarian relief.