BHOP's implosion highlights roster requirement restrictiveness
The leadup to ESL Challenger League Season 42 has been a uniquely tumultuous period for North America's top semi-professional division. Due to teams disbanding, losing their cores, or being unable to sort out their visas in time, a record number of teams have been called up from Relegation to fill spots.
According to tweets by BHOP's players today, this period of tumult is seemingly entering a new stage, as the team will likely lose their ECL spot. While none of the players have directly referenced why, Dust2.us understands that Danny "czxi" Strzelczyk is set to exit the roster in short order which will leave the squad with only two players from last season. As such, unless they can convince Jacob "SPERMY" Younan to return, BHOP will be demoted, likely leaving the players to pursue other opportunities.
Considering BHOP's demotion would likely result in Victorum being called up despite finishing Advanced in 6th place, it has led many to discuss if ECL's requirement to maintain a 3/5 core is helping or harming the beleaguered NA ECL.
The origins of this debate and today's issues was ESL's decision to have ESEA Premier/ESL Challenger League use the ESL rulebook starting with ESEA Premier Season 38. ESL's primary rationale for this change at the time was based around the premise that Premier should align more closely with a professional ruleset due to being the final hurdle before ESL Pro League.
Early in the application of ESL's rulebook to Premier/ECL, it already faced a significant revision as in November 2021, ESL made a change to the rules (Roster Restrictions Rule 22.214.171.124) allowing teams to add two players to the roster any time during the regular season. This change was added as many felt it unduly punished semi-professional teams in ECL that may face unexpected hurdles to maintaining a consistent five-man roster for a whole season. It also indirectly acted to even the playing field for orgless teams who previously couldn't make use of Roster Restrictions Rule 2.2.1 to add a player any time after providing a valid contract to ESL.
Shifting focus to the current issue at hand, this issue can be seen as another clash between ESL's vision for ECL and how players perceive and interact with the league. For ESL, aligning the ECL rulebook with the rest of the ESL Pro Tour is a logical step as there's a belief ECL's function is to prepare teams to compete in the more prestigious circuit events. Additionally, maintaining a 3/5 core for a slot in an event has been an industry standard for many years. Notably, in the pre-RMR days, Valve used a 3/5 core system for teams retaining spots between Majors.
On the other hand, proponents of lowering the requirement to 2/5 players as it was during ESEA MDL and ESEA Premier argue that it unduly punishes orgless teams and part-time teams, which is the majority of the league. It can also be argued that it limits players' upward mobility and agility when looking to improve their rosters and to leave for new opportunities without harming their former teammates.
One of the main players voicing his opinion on the matter is Limitless' IGL Bobby "stamina" Eitrem. In his thread on the issue he described ECL as a "league of dish washers". While it comes as somewhat of a joke, it highlights that in North America, the majority of players in this new post-NA EPL landscape are "part-time pros" who don't have the economic freedom to commit everything to the game. As such, from the perspective of players like stamina, it could be argued that that 3/5 roster requirements does more harm than good as players are bound to their real-life requirements and are also bound to pursue opportunities that give them any chance to become a full-time pro.
Whichever side of the debate one falls on, this season of ECL will be unlike any other in modern times. With a large number of players new to the division, Season 42 will either see new squads shine or drag down the overall competitiveness and prestige of the division. The most important thing is for ESL to be watching, and for them to take the concerns of their NA players onboard and react accordingly.