The ESL Pro League team announced on March 11 that they will be moving their Counter-Strike league matches from an arena in Denver, Colorado to a closed studio in Europe, citing concerns over COVID-19.
Prior to ESL’s announcement, the Counter-Strike tournament and league organizers were dealt a massive blow in the midst of their IEM Katowice event, when the local government pulled their clearance to host a massive public gathering.
The playoffs of that event continued without the usual rabid CS:GO crowd, and now they will officially do the same thing for their upcoming ESL Pro League season, as well as change venues.
In order to ensure the safety of players, fans and our crew in the current global dynamics, Season 11 of #ESLProLeague will be played entirely online and the finals will be moved from Denver to a studio location.
Full details: https://t.co/qBdmv0QjSj pic.twitter.com/rhT6awYDEQ
— ESL Counter-Strike (@ESLCS) March 11, 2020
In their announcement, ESL said that Season 11 will be played entirely online, after initially announcing this upcoming season as being entirely offline.
In addition, the finals that were scheduled to take place in 1STBANK Center in Denver will now take place “a studio location without a live audience in Europe.”
Specifically, they cited recent travel restrictions that the country Malta had put in place, which effectively banned incoming travel from different locations, even if a traveler was just connecting from one of those places. OG's manager Vladyslava Zakhliebina pointed out the likelihood of this outcome for ESL just a couple hours before the official announcement.
Malta has banned the travels from France, Germany, Switzerland and Spain as well as Italy 👀
ESL Pro League is starting on 16th of March...
— Vladyslava 💃🏻🌻 #DreamOG (@Vladyslava_Z) March 11, 2020
Malta was slated to be the studio location for the offline regular-season games, but ESL said they “fully support all measures aimed at containing the COVID-19 dynamics as much as possible.” However, it did make travel for many teams and staff members “impossible,” so the league will revert to an online format for the regular season.
ESL’s CS:GO league counterparts in FLASHPOINT have also had to make adjustments due to concerns over Coronavirus, resulting in them scrapping any plans to host regular-season matches or playoff matches in an arena for the time being.
Many players and teams are of course disappointed, but unfortunate circumstances can sometimes bring out the best in people. One of ESL’s new faces in GODSENT is even offering to host teams displaced by the changes.
To all teams that are affected by the recent ESL events: we have the ability to host two teams at our HQ in Malmö, Sweden, (flights to Copenhagen), with excellent comps, internet and an all-inclusive experience. @ChaosEC and @furiagg can vouch for our service 👌 DM
— GODSENT (@GODSENTgg) March 11, 2020
While losing a crowd is another disappointment for ESL, the matches will still be played as they host their first season with permanently partnered teams.