Astralis have said they could withdraw from BLAST CSGO events over the tournament organizer’s ties with Saudi Arabian project NEOM, as fierce opposition to these types of deals grows.
CEO of the Danish esport org Anders Hørsholt told Politiken.dk that the deal is “unacceptable” and condemned the partnership with Saudi Arabi, noting that “esports is and must be for everyone.” There has been a major wave of backlash toward esports entities tying themselves with the $500 billion project.
“We always want to solve this kind of problem directly with our partners and give them a fair chance to solve this in the right way,” Hørsholt said in a translated statement. “At the same time, however, we have made it clear that we can in no way stand up in a context where our brand, players or partners are connected with companies of this type, and we naturally expect Blast to find a solution.”
Since BLAST announced the deal, everyone from on-air talent to big names in the scene decried the move. Multiple teams participating in BLAST events have reportedly banded together to push the parent company to cancel its deal with NEOM, per HLTV.
At least as far as Astralis goes, the Danish group said that their company nor players could align with partners that are tied to entities such as the ones backing the NEOM city.
On a practical level, if BLAST goes through with its partnership, Hørsholt’s statement would mean that Astralis could be missing from future events. That would be a massive blow to BLAST, seeing as those events have long been associated with Astralis and the team has been a major draw for audiences.
Both organizations used to be a part of the same company under RFRSH Entertainment, though Astralis parted ways from them in 2019.
This comes on the heels of other esports companies announcing deals with NEOM that have been met with similar public dissent. Fans as well as industry figures contested the deals, primarily citing Saudi Arabia’s stance and actions against the LGBT community.
Riot Games recently overturned its deal with NEOM earlier in the month – although sources indicated that while the deal was nullified, there hasn’t been much change within the company despite Riot saying they were “committed to reexamining our internal structures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Astralis will wait to see if BLAST comes up with a resolution to this predicament involving NEOM, but lack of action could result in at least one team skipping their events.