Esports industry continues to exile Russia amid Ukraine invasion
Major players in esports are continuing to reassess their relationships with Russian entities in the industry on the sixth day of the war in Ukraine.
The overview: Much like many major sporting entities, companies in esports are reacting to the invasion.
- Esports companies began by changing their profile pictures to include Ukraine's flag colours, many have tweeted words of support for the nation, and a number of them have shared resources to donate towards Ukrainian causes.
- Before today's developments in the shadow of the ongoing invasion, an example of an esports entity cutting ties with Russia is WePlay. The Kyiv-based tournament organizer recently made it clear that it would no longer work with any Russian or Belarusian companies.
BLAST's ruling: Danish tournament organizer BLAST has ruled against Russian organizations.
- "No Russian-based team will be invited to play in our events for the foreseeable future," BLAST affirmed on March 1.
- The organizer confirmed to Dexerto that Natus Vincere, one of the circuit's partnered teams, would still be eligible to compete in its events. The two major Russian organizations in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are Gambit and Virtus.pro, who rank second and fourth on HLTV respectively at the time of publication.
- Ukrainian organization Natus Vincere's roster has three Russian players in its CS:GO, whereas Russian organization Virtus.pro has only one player from the country on its roster. Interestingly, the former is eligible to compete in BLAST events but the latter isn't.
- Gambit is owned by Russian mobile network and telecommunications giant MTS. Russian oligarch Vladimir Yevtushenkov is the majority owner of Sistema, which has a 50.3% stake in MTS.
- Virtus.pro is owned by ESforce, a holding company which, in turn, is owned by Russian internet company VK (formerly known as Mail.ru Group). 57.3% of VK's shares were sold to insurance company Sogaz in December 2021, which was sanctioned by the European Union on February 28 due to the Ukrainian invasion.
Natus Vincere's ruling: Speaking of ESforce, it's just been denounced by another major esports entity.
- The aforementioned Ukranian organization Natus Vincere, which has already spoken out against the invasion, announced on March 1 that it would no longer work with ESforce in any capacity.
- While the statement makes it clear that the org is grateful for ESforce employees who expressed their disapproval towards the situation, it stated that this decision was necessary as the holding company is "publicly [denying] the horror that is now happening."
- Properties owned by ESforce include broadcasting and community platform RuHub, tournament organizer Epic Esports Events, media company Cybersport.ru, and team brand Virtus.pro. NAVI will no longer work with these companies, though it didn't state how long this decision would stand for.