A rift between the players and owners of seven top American Counter-Strike teams looks set to destroy a recently-formed esports league.
The Professional eSports Association (PEA) was founded in September 2016 by Team Solomid, Cloud9, Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming, Immortals, NRG eSports and compLexity Gaming.
The league vowed to share 50 percent of profits with players and owners, among other things, and plans for a 10-week US$1 million prize pool season were quickly laid.
However, late last month, a group led by veteran esports player Scott “SirScoots” Smith accused the PEA of obfuscation, claiming it was attempting to block its players from participating in rival ESL's Pro League.
Smith claimed the PEA was attempting to do so thanks to its rules committee being controlled by PEA commissioner Jason Katz and the teams' owners, with player representatives able to be outvoted on any issue.
However, he also acknowledged that players should have been more careful when signing PEA contracts, which it seems many signed on good faith rather than understanding.
“When the PEA and our owners first spoke more openly about their ability to tell us where we can and can’t play, we asked them what gave them the right," Smith wrote in an open letter to the PEA just before Christmas.
"Their response was very direct: It’s in your contracts. This came as a shock — our owners had always given us the clear impression that we held the final say when it came to where we competed. In a profession where so much of your income depends on your performance and brand exposure, being able to choose where you play is vital.
"We expressed our disagreement to the PEA and our owners, and pointed out that what was now happening contradicted just about everything they had said back in September, but they still stuck to their position. As Jason Katz, who had described himself a few months before as a trustworthy and unbiased party, told one group of players: ‘Things change.’”
The PEA responded on Christmas Eve, admitting that it should have been more transparent with its players.
However, it also stated that it wasn't financially viable for its teams to run the PEA league and also participate in all other leagues "because of issues with over-saturation".
"Though PEA organizations unambiguously have the contractual right to decide where their players compete, the organizations have decided to offer the players the choice to either participate in the PEA league or in the ESL Pro League North American division," wrote Immortals CEO and PEA Player Relations Committee member Noah Whinston.
Then, despite the PEA offering more money to North American players than the ESL, its players unanimously decided to compete in ESL Pro League instead.
This saw PEA commissioner Jason Katz suspend his league's operations.
“The PEA today announced that it will suspend plans to operate a CSGO league,” he told Polygon.
“Operating a third prominent online league featuring many of the same teams turned out not to be a financially-viable business model.”