The professional eSports association (PEA) are allegedly forcing professional CS:GO players out of the ESL Pro League (EPL), according to an open letter by the players. In the attendant Reddit thread, one player claims unionisation is “in the works.”
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The PEA was founded in September this year as an “association of top teams running their own league and sharing the profits and the decision-making with the players,” said Jason Katz, PEA commissioner, at the time. “This has been the architecture of traditional major sports leagues for many decades, but it is a new evolution for eSports. This will allow us to finally build a stable, healthy, long-term environment for the players, the community, the media and the sponsors.”
The project had the support of Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Immortals, Team Liquid, Team SoloMid, NRG eSports and compLexity Gaming, seven of the biggest eSports teams in the world, along with their players. Players from five of these seven teams (not including NRG or compLexity) have signed this open letter, which suggests that the reality has fallen very short of this worthy goal.
The pros allege that the PEA was organised so it would be possible to out-vote player representatives when making decisions, and when they heard rumours that the PEA and EPL had had no discussions to ensure they wouldn’t conflict with one another, and that they might consequently have to withdraw from the next EPL season, they contacted eSports advocate Scott ‘SirScoots’ Smith to voice their concerns.
The PEA reacted by trying to convince the players to withdraw from the EPL, and when that didn’t work, bluntly told them that they could be contractually forced to do so. “This came as a shock,” say the players. “Our owners had always given us the clear impression that we held the final say when it came to where we competed. In a profession where so much of your income depends on your performance and brand exposure, being able to choose where you play is vital.”
The players pointed out that the PEA’s new position contradicted everything that had been promised when the organisation was founded, to which Katz apparently replied: “Things change.”
So if the letter is accurate, the PEA is trying to strongarm its players into competing in its league exclusively. This would be a direct contradiction of the following tweet by Andy ‘Reginald’ Dinh, co-founder and CEO of Team SoloMid:
Just to be clear. We have no intention to be exclusive and are working with ECS on a multi-year agreement.
— Andy Dinh (@TSMReginald) 8 September 2016
The players thought the PEA would work to ensure its schedule would cause no conflicts with other leagues, and even that participation in it would be voluntary. It seems none of this, nor player involvement in decisions, has happened.
You can read the letter in full here. Naturally it has been posted to Reddit, where the biggest news from the attendant thread comes from CounterLogic player James ‘hazed’ Cobb. Asked if the players are going to unionise “after a situation like this”, hazed replies: “In the works.” He declined to answer whether this would be across games or just in CS:GO.
There’s no response from the PEA yet, but here’s their launch announcement, so you can see what they promised. Player representation in decision-making is mentioned, as is profit-sharing.