Russian esports org forZe are facing backlash for signing former Hard Legion coach Aleksandr ‘zoneR’ Bogatiryev, who was banned by ESL for abusing a coaching bug that was found to compromise competitive CS:GO matches.
After the initial wave of backlash, forZe clarified that zoneR was brought on for a “testing coach period” to the ‘forZe School,’ a project that teaches and develops emerging CSGO talent. They do not recognize the forZe School as an academy team and said its not affiliated with the main roster.
“Zoner has made a big shameful mistake but we’ve decided to give him a second chance as he’s still a well-experienced coach,” forZe wrote in a statement. His work with the school will be conducted under supervision with the team’s management.
Despite org CEO Sergey ‘MegioN’ Ignatko’s optimism for the signing, debacles within the CSGO competitive landscape in the last year created a perfect storm for doubt on the deal.
Sergey "MegioN" Ignatko, CEO forZe eSports: "First of all, ZoneR is known for bringing his team to the Major, so his coaching experience and understanding of the game will help to educate new guys who are “on fire” with CS: GO.
— forZe eSports (@forzegg) October 24, 2020
“Not the smartest brand development choice, forZe have a lot of lovable characters and their storyline is exciting,” esports host and commentator Alex ‘MACHINE’ Richardson said. “Would be a shame to see an ill-thought out decision damage their reputation or fan base.”
Moreover, people are concerned that the org would position young, impressionable players to work with a person who was found cheating.
“This has to be a joke, right?” FaZe Clan coach Janko ‘YNk’ Paunovic said. “The most blatant cheater in coaching is supposed to set an example for young players? My mind is blown, absolutely disgraceful from forZe.”
On September 1, Hard Legion announced they were parting ways with zoneR, who went by the in-game name ‘MechanoGun’ at the time, following ESL’s decision to ban him as well as two other coaches after an investigation found them guilty of using a coach’s spectating bug.
It was initially decided that zoneR would be banned for 24 months from playing or coaching in ESL or DreamHack events. ESL later upgraded his ban to 36 months after the Esports Integrity Commission (ESIC) concluded their investigation of the bug’s abuse.
Of the 37 CSGO coaches found cheating, zoneR’s three-year ban was the longest penalty issued by far. He was found of using the bug in 16 cases, and had “Tier 1 Aggravated” sanctions levied against him.
This comes at a sensitive time for the CSGO community, who have been anxiously awaiting any further reaction from Valve on the coaching scandal. Some are worried the publisher might create bigger consequences or tweak team structures to prevent it from happening again in the future.
“If Valve removes coaching it’ll be because of some BULL**** like this,” CSGO commentator and BOXR CEO, Mohan ‘launders’ Govindasamy, said.
A similar concern sprouted when CSGO teams whose coaches were implicated in ESIC’s findings were simply demoted from the position to an analyst role; thereby using a loophole to keep working with the team.
ForZe will monitor their partnership with zoneR for the time being, but said they could part ways with him after the testing phase for his position has concluded.