The Coronavirus scare has had a dramatic impact on the esports scene early in 2020, unfortunately resulting in numerous events being canceled or delayed.
Due to the concerns about “global health,” the regional government for Katowice, Poland has made the decision to “remove their approval regarding ESL hosting a mass event” at the Spodek Arena. The playoffs for the IEM Katowice tournament are set to take place between Feb 28 - March 1, but will do so without a live crowd.
ESL released the announcement before the final group stage match between mousesports and 100 Thieves took place, and said they “respected the decision” of the Gouverneur of Silesian, and that all tickets would be fully refunded. They clarified that the tournament will still take place and be broadcasted, but without “any additional visitors” on-site.
Due to the dynamic changes in the global health situation, the Gouverneur of Silesian Jarosław Wieczorek issued a decision to remove their approval regarding ESL hosting a mass event in Katowice, Poland. #IEM https://t.co/hak1sn98o7
— Intel®ExtremeMasters (@IEM) February 27, 2020
Several players took to Twitter to express their disappointment that there would be no crowd, which has been a terrific aspect of past Katowice tournaments, including last year’s major. While the players are disappointed, they also understand the reasons why, and respect the decision that’s been made.
Astralis star Nicolai 'dev1ce' Reedtz wrote that teams would, of course, loved to play in a full area, but keeping fans safe and not sick comes first.
I think it’s important to state that safety is first and Poland choosing to shut down the event is first and foremost to keep the attendees (the crowd) from getting sick.
You know that all teams would have loved to play in a full arena ❤️
— Nicolai Reedtz (@dev1ce) February 27, 2020
Team Liquid's star Russel 'Twistzz' VanDulken said that it was "only a matter of time until this virus situation started to impact esports."
It was only a matter of time until this virus situation started to impact esports. Let's see what other things happen in the future. https://t.co/Cpf1Lh6kfh
— Russel VanDulken (@Twistzz) February 27, 2020
Unfortunately, this is far from the first time that the coronavirus outbreak has affected the realm of esports, but it is the first time that it’s negatively impacted a CS:GO event this drastically.
Overwatch League homestands in both China and South Korea were canceled, delaying those matches until an unknown date. LPL, the highest professional League of Legends division in China, had matches delayed as well.
The effects of the outbreak have stretched into areas of the gaming world outside of esports as well. Concerns about the virus have caused the Nintendo Switch port for The Outer Worlds to be delayed, and reports indicate that the next generation of consoles might potentially be postponed as well.
A visibly upset Michal 'mbCARMAC' Blicharz, VP of Pro Gaming at ESL, appeared on stream after the announcement to again deliver the news, and apologize to the fans who can no longer attend.
The matches will continue on, and the broadcast team plans to deliver another excellent experience for viewers, according to caster Jason 'Moses' O'Toole on Twitter.
Don't worry, I have the best broadcast colleagues in the business and we're all going to make sure that you still feel the full force and intensity of #IEM Katowice 💪 @OnFireAnders @MACHINEgg @HenryGcsgo @getfrank @OJBorg @SPUNJ @stunna @Maniac_CSGO @Pimp_CSGO
— Jason O'Toole (@MosesGG) February 27, 2020
Friday's quarterfinals matches will begin on schedule, with Team Liquid facing Na'Vi in the first series at 3pm local time (CEST), 9am EST. After that, Fnatic will face the winner of Thusday's final group stage match between 100 Thieves and mousesports, which is ongoing at the time this article was published.