Dexerto has obtained a copy of an early draft of the ESL Pro League agreement that was sent to Counter-Strike teams in 2019. The agreement is the one that caused a stir with Valve due to its “exclusivity” clause, prompting a blog post entitled “Keeping It Competitive” where they openly stated their distaste for exclusivity.
“In addition to preventing other operators from competing, exclusivity prevents other events from keeping the CSGO ecosystem functioning if an individual event fails,” the developer said before adding, “At this time we are not interested in providing licenses for events that restrict participating teams from attending other events.”
Since then ESL have been making changes to their ESL Pro League agreement to bring it into line with Valve’s expectations. Notably they are making a clear distinction between the member league, a newly structured version of the ESL Pro League, and the ESL Tour, which is the global circuit featuring ESL, DreamHack and Intel Extreme Masters events. With a meeting due to take place in a matter of days about a new version of the contract, that is currently with potential members, it seems worth looking at the contents of the draft that caused so much consternation within the scene.
Award nominated journalist Jarek “Dekay” Lewis has done the bulk of the reporting in regards to the agreement. Earlier this month he reported that ESL was holding a meeting with potential members of the league in order to convince them to sign up.
The meeting will include discussion about the new version of the contract that includes many notable changes implemented after Valve’s statement about exclusivity. Lewis also reported that while there will be significant changes around exclusivity to ensure that ESL will be issued with a license, many of the terms in the draft included here will remain the same, including the length of the agreement and proposed revenue shares.
Sources familiar with the discussions surrounding this new ESL league, FACEIT’s project “B site,” and The Blast’s Premier circuit have stated that agreements across these leagues pushed for exclusivity in a bid to maximize revenue. However, in light of Valve’s statement these leagues are now instead offering incentives for commitment. The same sources have also intimated that it is likely there will be clashing dates at various points of the season to ensure commitment.
Some notable sections of this draft, all of which may be subject to change:
– The voting panel for league decisions will comprise of 17 members, 16 teams and ESL, with ESL having veto rights on matters “materially impacting finances.”
– A candidate for league commissioner will be scouted by ESL and these members and then voted upon
– ESL have a veto right when it comes to “exclusivity terms,” agreeing participation in other leagues and making changes to the league to ensure co-operation from Valve
– Teams are to share 21.25% of gross revenue and 60% of profits in the first year. The share is selected by a “distribution matrix” so not all teams will receive an equal share.
– Receiving this revenue share is contingent on member teams fielding a roster of three players deemed to be in the top 500 of the ESL world ranking
– Failure to field such a team will see the team lose 50% of its share, to be distributed evenly among other member teams
– ESL will assign invites to circuit events based on tour rankings. Teams are allowed to decline a maximum of three events per sixteen but no more than two in a calendar year.
– Any member team that declines more than this for any reason will forfeit its entire revenue share for the year
– ESL will also operate in the capacity of an agency for the member teams
– Agency revenue, such as sales of collective sponsorships, will see 85% of it shared among member teams with the agency part of the ESL business retaining 15%
The key stumbling block that triggered the Valve statement is still contained in this draft agreement and reads:
“Beginning January 1st 2020 all member teams of the Pro League shall not play in other Counter-Strike leagues, this means non Valve sponsored competitions where the first day of competition (excluding qualifiers) and the grand final day are more than fourteen (14) days apart, besides Pro League.
All member teams of Pro League shall limit their tournament participation days, meaning active competition days of a tournament they participate in regardless of if they play on that day or not, to not more than 60 days per calendar year…
During the League Season (per jointly aligned schedule), teams shall not play in any other tournaments/leagues.”
All sources contacted in regards to the details of this contract have stated that this clause will not be featured in future agreements.
A list of member teams is also included in the draft. It divides teams into two sections, the “suggested” teams, which are ones who are desired to be in the league and likely to join and “application” teams, meaning teams that the inclusion of which will be assessed should they wish to join. The teams are as follows:
FaZe, Na’Vi, fnatic, NiP, Liquid, NRG, Vitality, mousesports, G2, compLexity, MiBR, ENCE, Astralis, Cloud9
Envy, VP, BiG, North, Renegades, Furia
Some of these teams have already been confirmed as participating in the “B-site” project, which raises questions about whether they will feature in the ESL Pro League, have chosen to be exclusive to the “B-site” league project while participating in components of the ESL Tour rather than the newly structured league.
The Counter-Strike Professional Players Association (CSPPA) has also held talks with ESL ahead of this newly announced Pro League structure and seems to have had a positive reaction to the contents of those talks. A statement released by the CSPPA’s CEO Mads Øland said:
“The life of a professional CS:GO player revolves around tournament participation all over the world. This makes the working conditions of players in connection with tournaments a key priority of the CSPPA. In the current tournament landscape, ESL sets the industry standard for such working conditions and with this partnership ESL has committed to maintain and develop such standards in close cooperation with the CSPPA. The agreement solidifies the working partnership between CSPPA, ESL and DreamHack and establishes the best possible basis for us to work together on elevating professional CS:GO to the benefit of all stakeholders involved and for the players to deliver a performance which meets the highest standards demanded by the global CS:GO community and the game and its 20 year legacy."
ESL provided Dexerto with the following statement:
“As an important part of driving the CS:GO ecosystem forward, we have been working with multiple teams to improve and further establish a joint approach to funding the activities in the space. That process started years ago and has been continuing ever since, being adjusted multiple times along the way. In line with the spirit of the Valve blog post, any team playing in our tournaments will remain free to participate in any other tournaments they want. Regarding the ESL Ranking, we have developed it in the past years as a key tool for event invites and seeding and will continue to do so without preventing any team from referring to any other ranking. Overall, ESL Pro Tour events will remain open for everyone to play in regardless of if they want to engage in closer business relationships with us beyond their tournament participation.”
While we acknowledge that this agreement will contain content that is to be changed we felt it was in the community interest and the interests of transparency to publish it in its entirety. We ask that readers be mindful of this fact while discussing its contents.