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DeKay Scope: ESL Shows Us What Truly Matters to Them in Handling of Pro League Fiasco

Gamescom 2019 Press Day
ESL's handling of its Pro League has caused questions among the CS:GO community | Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

As a journalist reporting about ESL Pro League’s changes and the upcoming B Site league, it is my job to remain neutral in what I present to the public when dealing with sourced information. The top priority is presenting information in a fair and balanced manner, which in turn allows the community to form their own opinions and conclusions. Now that the major news has settled a bit, it’s my turn to chime in:

The reason so many in the CS:GO community are upset is clear and valid from almost every angle. ESL, in downsizing from 48 to 24 teams without as much as a notice to the uninvited orgs, kept 24 teams in the dark for far too long and left them just about no other option but to play ESEA Mountain Dew League moving forward if they want any chance to re-join the league. ESL’s Ulrich Schulze acknowledged Monday that mistake and issued a public apology, but that doesn’t make it better, nor does it excuse how things were handled behind the scenes afterward.

Thanks to Astralis Group CEO Nikolaj Nyholm, who has intimated Astralis will continue to play in ESL Pro League despite not having made a decision prior to last week’s summit, we know ESL made significant changes within the last week in an attempt to sign teams to EPL. Although that is understandable from a business perspective, it is disrespectful to not do something similar for those who were kicked out of the league on short notice.

If ESL actually cared about those teams, they would have done whatever necessary to make up for their mistake. Instead, according to those I’ve spoken with, they simply apologized to the teams and said they’ll be given more information on how to re-qualify for Pro League in the future. If nothing else, they could have at least increased the MDL and/or Global Challenge prize pool beyond what they already planned on doing.

Why did this format change have to happen immediately? A change this drastic should not be made without a definite window communicated clearly to affected teams. Since the point I began reporting on the ESL Pro League agreement and B Site, it is clear almost everything to follow was rushed. It isn’t the fault of the teams and organizations that another tournament organizer surfaced in an attempt to make Counter-Strike more financially viable. ESL Pro League changes should have been made at least one season in advance, so that all parties involved knew the stakes of competition.

Even after ESL admitted fault, they haven’t really changed their approach other than to further cater to the top teams that will likely be in EPL. Considering the teams cut from EPL had only three days to prepare for the start of MDL, they should have been first priority. Instead, they received a lame apology and were told “we’ll get back to you.”

It's not too late to spice up MDL and clarify exactly what the teams participating are playing for, but nothing I have seen or heard until now has led me to believe that will happen in a timely manner. At this rate, teams will play for weeks without knowing the ways in which they might be able to qualify for EPL. The way this was handled makes me worry about the intentions of the company, especially when you consider that teams will sign with them and likely be bound to the league for at least four more years.