November 22 Update
Euan ‘Sterling’ Moore of Avant Gaming has made a statement on behalf of the player group, stating that the players were reportedly left out of all discussions, and that Avant management failed to communicate correctly on behalf of the player group on multiple occasions.
You can read his full statement here.
Avant released a new statement in response to Moore, with CEO Wesley Collier taking full responsibility on behalf of management for the missteps in dealing with the situation.
You can read that statement here.
The ANZ Counter-Strike community has been embroiled in controversy this past week as players lashed out at Avant Gaming over scheduling issues with the ESL Pro League and eXTREMESLAND 2019 Asia Finals.
Tensions over a scheduling issue in CS:GO broke open publicly on November 1, after an unrelated tweet from caster Mitch “Conky” Concanen sparked an outcry from teams who were expected to participate in the eXTREMESLAND Asia Finals in Shanghai.
Grayhound player Ollie “DickStacy” Tierney tweeted “can’t wait to see you in Shanghai brah, ah wait Avant decided they’ll go behind Aus teams backs and f*** the dates with no reason,” kick-starting a chain of threads from members of the Chiefs and the community.
Snowball Esports has obtained emails detailing the discussions between the aforementioned teams and ESL, and spoke to sources involved in the situation, who have requested to remain anonymous.
According to the emails, all ESL Pro League teams were notified of their schedules from ESL on October 3, but due to alleged confusion this wasn’t made clear to teams until October 13.
Stage one games were set to start on October 8, with Grayhound, Avant Gaming, Order, and the Chiefs Esports Club all set to join the event in the second stage on November 16. The tournament’s major prize was a place in Odense at the ESL Pro League finals, which is set to begin on December 3.
At the same time, all four rosters qualified for the closed qualifiers for the upcoming eXTREMESLAND Asia Finals, where the top two teams would progress to China. Grayhound and Order were successful, and punched their tickets to the Shanghai event, which is expected to run from November 14 to 17, at the same time as the ESL Pro League’s second stage.
ESL revealed in the email chain that they had notified Zowie on their planned dates for the Odense Pro League finals as early as June, but confirmed dates weren’t officially locked until October 3. Zowie allegedly ignored that information, and proceeded with their own event on November 14-17.
The date-clash leaves a scheduling problem for Grayhound and Order, both of whom are eager to qualify for the Pro League finals, and compete at the international event in Shanghai during the same time period. The events boast a combined $165,000 AUD prize pool.
Order moved to rectify the problem, leading the charge with the four major Oceanic teams.
Led by Naithan “Inveigh” Briffa, Order reportedly approached Grayhound’s William “mistergrayhound” Gray, the Chiefs operation manager Mike Stewart, and Avant’s Marco “Shotzz” Mantarro to organise potential solutions to the impending clash.
These attempted mediations began by contacting ESL on October 17, and expressing their concerns to APJ League Operations Manager Nick “Turtl” Eastick.
There were a number of solutions suggested by the Oceanic cohort, including pre-recording matches for broadcasting at a later date, Zowie flying all four teams to the Pro League matches in Shanghai ahead of the eXTREMESLAND fixtures, and reorganising dates completely.
With both tournaments fast approaching on the horizon, and still no solutions in sight, Briffa wrote to ESL, calling the lack of flexibility a “very disappointing result.”
Order’s GM of Operations claimed that “given the online nature of EPL Stage 2, and the ability to replicate broadcast times and hours to fulfil commercial and partner obligations, the stance of being unable to change the dates seems to be rather an unwillingness to change dates.”
According to the emails acquired by Snowball Esports, ESL APJ project manager Kamine Naidoo joined discussions on October 23.
Naidoo stated that the Oceanic cohort’s requests had not fallen on deaf ears, and revealed that ESL had been “looking into options” over the previous days. Despite Naidoo’s claims that the ball was rolling behind the scenes, no rescheduling had been confirmed.
For the four teams, who were now less than two weeks out from the conflicting events, the window was closing. The group wrote back to ESL again with a selection of dates between November 5 and 11, suggesting Order and Grayhound could play in that six-day period.
At the same time, Grayhound and Order reached out to the Counter-Strike Professional Players’ Association (CSPPA) in a joint request, flagging the ongoing scheduling dispute with the union. Grayhound are members of the CSPPA, along with multiple players from Order.
According to sources, the CSPPA responded to the requests and is aware of the situation, but has yet to take action.
ESL were then expected to make a decision on the clashes on October 28, but as the date came and went, the Oceanic cohort had received no new information.
One day later, on October 29, Avant Gaming made their first major move in the negotiations, contacting ESL and the other three teams and revealing they intended to pull out of discussions. Mantarro added that “[Avant] would prefer if the dates didn’t change.”
Mantarro clarified in a later email that Avant would be happy to move the dates to after November 16, but according to ESL this change—and the added delay that it would bring to the event—would not have been acceptable due to the Odense event running on December 3.
Eastick stepped in shortly after Avant’s emails, suggesting the organization’s changed stance on discussions “does now throw a spanner in the works.” He also added that “it becomes quite difficult to make these changes now if no longer all four teams are in support of them.”
Briffa replied late on October 29 after speaking to Avant’s chief executive Wesley “Wes” Collier, who alleged that Avant’s management reverted their stance “on advice from their player group.”
“While they do believe and have advised their player group that this is the wrong way to go about obtaining an upper hand in either competition given the various circumstances and stakeholders at play, they are standing by their players request to not change the dates,” he stated.
It is alleged that Avant’s players made the decision to gain an inherent competitive advantage, due to the fact that if Order and Grayhound travelled to eXTREMESLAND during their ESL Pro League fixture dates, they would be disqualified.
This would mean Avant’s roster would only need to defeat the Chiefs to qualify to the Odense event, and if Order and Grayhound both knocked back eXTREMESLAND, Avant would automatically acquire one of their spots after finishing fourth in the qualifier.
According to Snowball’s sources, however, if Order and Grayhound had declined their places at eXTREMESLAND, Avant would not have been offered a spot in Shanghai, with the slots likely filled by local Chinese teams instead. This decision was allegedly made after Zowie was clued in to the falling out between Avant, the other three Oceanic teams, and ESL.
On October 31, ESL made their final decision.
The organizers confirmed they would keep the dates the same for ESL Pro League stage two, and affirmed their stance on teams being disqualified if they attended eXTREMESLAND.
“If you choose to not play EPL stage two, or agree to play EPL stage two and then come match days are not available, or you forfeit games due to the conflict, you will be removed from the season, forfeit your slot, and all prize money,” ESL stated.
Asian teams Alpha Red and Tyloo, who also qualified for both eXTREMESLAND and ESL Pro League stage two, will reportedly not be under the same threat.
“After talking with eXTREMESLAND representatives, we have worked out for your eXTREMESLAND group games to be played early enough in the day that you will be able to play your EPL games from your practice rooms,” stated ESL.
As of the release of this report, Grayhound and Order have yet to publicly confirm their intentions regarding participation and attendance in the eXTREMESLAND and ESL Pro League events coming up this weekend.
It is understood, however, that both teams will choose to attend the ESL Pro League’s second stage, leaving Zowie to fill two vacant slots for their Shanghai event.
Snowball Esports reached out to the Chiefs, Avant, Order, and Grayhound for comment. The Chiefs and Grayhound did not respond before publishing.
Order’s Naithan Briffa did reply, stating that the knock-on effects of such a decision from Avant could have major consequences when teams try to reorganise conflicts with ESL and other tournament organisers in the future.
“I think that the end result of what we tried to do to resolve this clash is that we look foolish,” he said. “We were meant to be unified, and we weren’t when it mattered. I don’t imagine this bodes well for any future discussions we might want to have as a collective.”
He also criticized Avant for pulling out of negotiations, saying that they “did the wrong thing,” although he says that not all the blame should be shifted onto the organization.
“It’s easy to blame Avant because they changed their mind, but it was the collective of owners who had to provide suggestions on how to fix it, it was the collective of owners who had to contact TO’s and request travel dates be moved, and it was the collective of owners who created a spot in the schedule that allowed EPL Stage 2 to be replicated,” he said.
As for Order, it’s months of hard work down the drain after having to rebuild their roster after Joshua “INS” Potter’s departure to Grayhound.
“I’m upset,” he said. “We worked hard to qualify for an international event, but it didn’t feel like anyone wanted to help us out, despite eXTREMESLAND causing the date clash, and ESL being able to fix it.
“It certainly doesn’t feel like anyone was looking to help us at any point, and now it’s my players, and the players from Grayhound, that will suffer the ultimate price.”
Avant also replied to our requests for comment with the following statement:
Avant Gaming stands with our peers when it comes to date management between tournament organisers which can prevent important tournaments from clash dates. In a recent series of conversations, a series of missteps were made by our organisation that have negatively affected the relationships between players and teams, and for this we apologise. We take full responsibility for what has happened as it does not represent our values as an organisation.
In a series of email exchanges between parties, an email sent by us did not fully clarify our player group position on an attempt to move the dates for an upcoming event. Our player group wished dates to be moved backwards and not forwards as player preparation can be impacted by hastening events. We want to give our players the best time frame to prepare and by moving the dates forward, we felt this would not have a positive impact on our players.
We take full responsibility for the miscommunication to our peers and to our own player group and completely understand where our peers stand in regard to the situation. We apologise for the effect this has had on our relationship between the various parties. We hope to be able to work together with our peers in the future to rectify our mistakes and work to grow esports in Australia.