German esports league ESL has announced that organizations with "apparent ties to the Russian government" will not be allowed to be represented at its competitions, although they will be able to compete under a "neutral name."
ESL has been around in one form or another for well over 20 years, organizing game competitions for a variety of titles including Apex Legends, Rocket League, and FIFA 22 (among others). The organization -- not to be confused with the US-based credit union that helped out the Museum of Play -- was recently merged with FACEIT after a purchase by the Saudi-backed Savvy Gaming Group.
As a global esports league, ESL has competitions all around the world (and naturally, teams from all around the world). Now, it has announced a set of actions it is taking in response to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
ESL Bans Some Russian Representation, Pauses CIS Region Matches
The first major move by ESL is a ban on organizations with connections to the Russian government or any "alleged or confirmed" EU sanctions stemming from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, although the esports organization has made options available for players who still wish to complete.
"On the upcoming ESL Pro League, we made the decision that organizations with apparent ties to the Russian government, including individuals or organizations under alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict, will not be allowed to be represented (currently we identified two teams - Virtus.pro and Gambit)," read the statement from ESL (via Reddit).
"We recognize that players are not complicit with this situation, and we do not think it is in the spirit of esports to impose sanctions on individual players," the statement continued. "The Virtus.pro and Gambit players are therefore welcome to compete under a neutral name, without representing their country, organization or their teams’ sponsors on their clothing or otherwise."
Additionally, the sports organization is putting a pause on all scheduled competitions that are taking place in the CIS region which includes Ukraine and neighboring countries.
Aside from the ban on Russian representation and the pause on CIS competitions, ESL is also making tangible efforts to help out Ukraine -- it is currently working with its partners to facilitate donations to the UN Refugee Agency. Additionally, employees of the esports organization will be given paid time off if they are affected by the conflict or if they would like to volunteer for humanitarian relief.
These moves by ESL are comprehensive, but they may only be the first step -- it notes that it will make "further decisions as the situation evolves." A date has not been given for the lift of the Russian representation ban or the resumption of CIS region competitions.