Earlier this year, a new esports league, The Professional eSports Association (PEA), burst onto the scene. It was unique in that it was owned by bigtime esports teams, rather than a third party. Immediately there were worries of impropriety. Now, in the wake of a recent controversy, the PEA has suspended its Counter-Strike league.
It began in December, with reports emerging that the PEA might outlaw member teams from competing in the ESL, which is easily the biggest third-party Counter-Strike league. In response, member teams Cloud9, Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming, Immortals and Team Liquid published an open letter penned by Scott "SirScoots" Smith, the teams' elected representative.
"We realise that we might be at the point where eSports as an industry is now just too big for trust alone to reasonably protect everyone's interests," Smith concluded after claiming the PEA controlling board's vote structure was rigged against players and in favour of team owners, and players weren't actually able to choose which leagues they played in. "Either way, you can't have trust without honesty, and you can't have honesty without transparency."
The PEA responded with a letter of their own shortly after. "We sympathize with the players' sentiments around not feeling more included in the decision-making process," wrote PEA representative Noah Whinston. "We acknowledge that we could and should have done better. That's why, in good faith, we're going to give this decision to them."
Yesterday, the players announced that they chose the ESL rather than a league operated by their own team owners. It's pretty nuts! They, uh, probably have some stuff to work through. For now, though, the PEA has decided to suspend its Counter-Strike league.
"Though the agreements which the players negotiated and signed with the organisations give the organisations the right to decide where players compete (as with all team sports contracts), the PEA organisations decided to do the PEA CS:GO league only if a majority of the players said they wanted to play in PEA rather than EPL," the PEA said in a statement to Yahoo Esports.
They also noted that, with ESL in the picture, there ain't room enough in this town for the both of them (and also Valve). "It has become clear to the PEA organisations that there isn't sufficient financial support in the ecosystem, either from broadcast/streaming partners, sponsors or others, to profitably operate a third prominent online league, due to the oversaturation of the marketplace and the recent upward spiral in operating costs," said the statement.
That said, the PEA could still create leagues in other esports, though they have yet to mention anything specific.
As for CSGO pro players, they still have a lot to learn about signing on the dotted line before fully understanding what's in their contracts. Smith acknowledged as much in his letter about choosing the ESL over the PEA.
"I can imagine some of you are saying, 'Scott, the players are professionals. They're getting paid a lot of money, and they should know better than to sign documents without understanding what they're really signing,'" Smith wrote. "What I would say to that is: Actually, I agree with you. The players were naive to sign these contracts based on good faith, non-binding promises from their teams."
What's key, though, is that, in this case, players worked together to manoeuvre themselves back into a place where they could decide their own fates. "Right now, we should be focusing on how players, teams, and leagues can work together more closely at the negotiating table, and not on blurring the line between team owner and league operator," wrote Smith. "In order for all of that to happen, though, the players must first come together on their own. Hopefully, their decision here is a big step in that direction."