ESIC Fines Team Vitality Over BLAST Stream Sniping Incident

by in CS:GO | Jan, 25th 2021

Team Vitality’s CSGO team came under fire from the community when it became apparent that the team viewed the live stream during their matches against Team Liquid and Complexity at the BLAST Premier event. 

Many in the community noted that players watched the replay from outside of their practice room, as you can note through a reflection behind the players. ESIC has determined that the players were not actually at fault or trying to cheat. Instead, it seems that this was the error of Vitality staff who wanted to view the event, an error that would cost the organization thousands of dollars. 

You can see what went down by viewing this clip, collected by veteran esports journalist Richard Lewis. Although there was a five-minute delay on the stream, there’s still no excuse for a stream to have been on in the first place or was there?

What Did ESIC Say in Their Statement?

ESIC issued the following statement to fans who were waiting for whatever the punishment would be. Several of them were calling for bans or fines to the players themselves. 

“On Nov. 11, ESIC informed its members that stream sniping, a violation of the ESIC Code, would be treated with zero tolerance and made a widely circulated and publicized statement about the matter. Consequently, the allegations against Vitality were taken seriously and investigated thoroughly by both ESIC and our member, BLAST Premier.

ESIC reviewed the VOD, player cams, and other video evidence from both the Complexity and Team Liquid matches and analyzed in-team comms finding no evidence that the incident gave rise to or presented any effort by the players and coach to gain any advantage or cheat during the matches. Instead, it was concluded that the availability of the stream from the player room was due to the negligent error of unrelated Vitality staff who (without thinking) wimpy wanted to view the match where they were working.

Consequently, ESIC takes the view that it would be unfair to punish the teams and players directly for their employers’ negligence, and instead decided to issue a sanction against Team Vitality directly by way of a fine of $10,000.

ESIC reinforces the zero tolerance of any form of stream sniping and will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute any such breaches of the ESIC code. ESIC reminds all organizations to remain vigilant while matches are being played in home environments to ensure that negligent breaches are stopped.”

ESIC also clarified that this fee is collected from Vitality would go to charity and would not be used to fund further operations at ESIC. “In order to clarify any perceived ambiguity as to the destination of funds obtained through fines, please refer to Article 7.5.6. Code of Conduct:” Any money paid to ESIC pursuant to this clause will be donated to a registered charity at the discretion of the ESIC Executive Board.”

When is Zero-Tolerance Not Zero-Tolerance?

ESIC said that there would be zero tolerance for this kind of behavior from players in the past. However, there are exceptions to this, especially in cases where they find that the players weren’t doing it for an advantage. 

Of course, it’s tough and subjective to the people judging the footage whether or not anyone gained a clear advantage from viewing the streamed footage. Even though there were no comms that indicated the players were communicating about it, video footage did show the team looking over at the stream. For example, each player could have learned things about the enemy’s strategy and just incorporated them into their play. 

In all, ESIC should probably try to stick to their guns a bit more so far as enforcement goes. Otherwise, teams that are a bit more unscrupulous could find these loopholes that teams can exploit. And in the CSGO scene, that’s not exactly far-fetched. This is the same scene with players banned for match-fixing allegations, had coaches banned for abusing an observer bug that they thought was hidden, among many other issues that have undoubtedly not been called into question just yet. Humans will attempt to circumvent rules anytime they think there is an opportunity to do so. Even if the ruling committee has said there’s zero tolerance, they’ve just proven that their armor isn’t exactly foolproof in this regard. 

While this situation may have wrapped up, for now, there’s no telling if it will permanently be that way if other teams decide to be “negligent” as Team Vitality was. 


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