The CS GO esports scene is massive and spread all around the world. With Europe as the focal point of Counter-Strike esports, the game has spread to other parts of the world. When Cloud9 won the Eleague Boston Major this year, it was a huge checkpoint in CS GO history. It was the first time that a North American team won the Major.
However, throughout Counter-Strike esports we have seen a few organizations have ownership across teams and organizations. MTG which owns Dreamhack and ESL comes to mind as one of the biggest investors in CS GO tournament organizers. However, there are also several organizations which own multiple teams either with the same name or via financial interests.
The FaceIT London Major rule
Richard Lewis posted a video highlighting the new rule addition to Valve events. The new rules cater particularly to the financial holdings and conflicts of interest in team ownership. There are a few well-known teams sharing financial ownership. We detail two of the biggest companies holding ownerships and stakes in multiple teams below.
Conflicts of interest are a reality in Counter-Strike Global Offensive. Valve has generally turned a blind eye to the matter in the past, allowing several teams to be owned by a single entity. However, with the recent laws against gambling, betting and the negative outlook on esports in general, Valve has decided to remedy things on their end.
6.7 – Entry Restrictions
Teams and players should not have any financial interest in the success of any team that they are competing against. To participate in the 2018 Fall Major, players and teams are required to affirm that they have no business entanglement (including, but not limited to, shared management, shared ownership of entities, licensing, and loans) with any other participating team or its players. If teams or players have an agreement or business arrangement that may be of concern, then please reach out to the tournament officials for further discussion.
You can find the entire ruleset on the FaceIT London Web page.
ESforce is one of the biggest names in esports. It was linked with the sale of several prominent websites in the past. CSGOLounge and it’s Dota 2 counterpart, Dota2lounge.com were bought by ESForce. They also own huge stakes in Virtus Pro as well as SK Gaming. Their current relation with Na’Vi and their ownership structure remains unclear.
With the new Valve rules, ESForce cannot field all their teams to the Major or it’s qualifiers. While Virtus Pro might not be as successful as SK Gaming, it is still a fan-favorite team and a big part of the ESForce Holdings.
RFRSH entertainment is one of the biggest owners of esports teams in the European region. The organization owns stakes in Astralis as well as Heroic.RFRSH entertainment brought out stakes in Astralis and later in Heroic in an attempt to secure a dominance in the Danish market.
However, it is interesting to note that the organization has given away stakes to players as well. So when an ex-player still owns stakes in the team, it is definitely going to create conflicts of interest. Valve’s FaceIT London Major rule specifically mentions players owning financial interests in other teams as being ineligible to play in the Major.
So when we look back at it, we might see players selling their stakes or drop out of their current team / Major. It is definitely going to be a difficult decision for many of the affected players. Giving up your stake in a financially successful team might not always be the best financial decision. However, if they refuse to do so, it puts their position as a player in peril. No team would want to field a player who is not allowed to play against a specific team due to conflict of interest.
What is the conflict of Interest?
The organizations started buying stakes in multiple teams a few years ago. At the time, it was a lucrative opportunity in order to create their very own league with the owned teams. However, with obvious discomfort amongst the community and the lack of movement in acquiring new teams, they obviously had to take a step back. The new look organizations have since changed their goalposts and do not harbor the same intentions.
However, it is still a very grey area. The majority of the money in Counter-Strike either comes from winning tournaments or from the Major Sticker Money. A team which is facing an elimination in the qualifiers could theoretically end up playing against one of their ‘sister teams’. In this case, we are calling the teams sharing ownership as sister teams. Obviously, the parent holding will want both their investments to be successful. They do have the possibility to dictate the outcome of a particular match to suit their needs.
Now, this might not ever be the case and it is in no ways an accusation against ESforce & RFRSH. However, the existence of the possibility is what makes the entire situation extremely vulnerable. With the development of a huge betting industry on the back of esports, such conflicts of interest can be harmful to the integrity of the title.
Valve follows WESA in the team ownership rules.
Surprisingly Valve has been very slow in their implementation of the rule. The Game Developer has usually taken a backseat in terms of their interference in the game. However, we have seen multiple examples in the past when they have been able to put their foot down and hand out indefinite bans to players who compromise the integrity of the game. The IBuypower Ban still sees a firm stance on the part of the game developer.
However, WESA already announced their rules regarding multiple team ownership last year. Organisations such as RFRSH have already announced their decision to comply with these rules. It has been exactly a year since then and two majors have gone through. Valve’s timing for the new rule indicated they are in talks with the teams, WESA as well as experts in the scene. It is a very good first step towards ensuring a clean and competitive esports environment for Counter-Strike. This is also the perfect opportunity for any team not involved in Counter-Strike to pick up a strong roster and establish their brand. The FaceIT London Major will be held at SSE Arena in London in September 2018.