PGL bans Gambit and Virtus.pro organizations from Antwerp Major
Less than two weeks away from the European RMRs, tournament organizer PGL has banned Russian organizations with ties to the government from participating in the Major, including the RMR qualifying events. This decision follows in the footsteps of fellow international tournament organizers BLAST and ESL as a direct response to the Russian invasion of the nation of Ukraine. Although the organizations and their likeness are prohibited from being in the Major, the players will still be allowed to participate under neutral names and jerseys.
With the Major cycle already underway, the two teams directly affected by this rule change are Gambit and Virtus.pro. The two squads are not strangers to this predicament, as Gambit entered EPL Season 16 under the name “Players” with Virtus.pro opting for the name “Outsiders” in the same event. With those two squads already establishing secondary names, it is assumed, but not confirmed, that they will use the same names in the Major.
EPL was met with mixed results for both these teams, and they failed to make it inside of the top eight. With the RMR just around the corner, these squads will have to patch the holes in the game as well as ignore the out-of-server distractions, a tall task. The European RMR A, in which Gambit’s lineup are participants, kicks off on April 17th. RMR B, hosting Virtus.pro’s lineup, will commence on April 21st, a day after the end of RMR A.
Although Gambit and Virtus.pro are not the only Russian-based organizations in the events, they are the only two directly affected by this decision. This comes as a byproduct of the two organizations' identified connections to the Russian government. Virtus.pro's major ownership is Sogaz, a Russian insurance company being sanctioned by the European Union. As for Gambit, they were linked to the Russian government by ESL, which fueled their decision last month.
A critical issue not elaborated on by PGL in this announcement is the issue of stickers and the money associated with them. Stickers provide a considerable amount of money from sales, to the point where player contracts usually make some note of how the sticker money is distributed amongst the team. With the stance taken in this announcement, it seems highly likely that PGL and Valve would not be interested in letting either organization receive sticker money, should they be eligible for stickers. This could have lasting consequences for these teams, due to the significance of sticker money revenue.