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Richard "shox" Papillion

Did Vitality break ESIC stream rules at BLAST Premier finals?

Just two months after the Esports Integrity Commission gave top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams a pass for reported widespread stream sniping, a clip from the BLAST Premier Global Finals show that Team Vitality aired the tournament’s live stream within just a few feet of its players during the team’s matchup against Team Liquid on January 21.

A post on CSGO’s subreddit showed a television displaying Vitality’s match against Liquid in a glass room just behind Vitality’s players. In contrast, the only monitor visible from Liquid’s player cameras is a coaching feed for TL head coach Jason “Moses” O’Toole.

Vitality might have broken rules in BLAST's $1M Global Finals

Last December, esports reporter Richard Lewis said on a livestream that the ESIC was pressured by tournament organizers to refrain from penalizing CSGO’s top competitive teams after many of them had been found to be stream sniping over 2020’s online season.

In a bombshell report from Lewis, the reporter said that 10 out of the esport’s top 15 teams would have been banned from competition had the ESIC been allowed to issue sanctions against all of the teams it had evidence against. The ESIC is funded by some of the top esports tournament organizers and betting operators in the world and includes BLAST Entertainment, the organizers of the BLAST Global Finals. The CSGO scene had just gotten over the banning of 37 of its top coaches for cheating during competitions a month earlier. The tournament organizers, who pay a percentage sum of their annual tournament prize pools to the ESIC, would likely have sustained massive financial losses had the Commission penalized all of the implicated teams.

Making Vitality’s clear violation of tournament rules even worse was the timing. The day after the clip was posted, ESIC issued sanctions against more than 30 players for betting-related offences. Its actions against CSGO’s tier-two and tier-three players contrast sharply with the silence around top teams like Vitality.

The ESIC has not made any public statement regarding Vitality’s playing of the BLAST Global Finals live stream within feet of its players, nor has BLAST Entertainment issued any publicly punishment to Vitality.

BLAST Global Finals rulebook missing key stance on tournament streams

Last updated on January 5, 2021, BLAST's own rulebook makes no mention of punishments for having a tournament stream visible to players despite the ESIC’s recommendations. It does, however, state that simply removing a headset is a violation of its rules, making the absence of any mention of December's ESIC statement on stream sniping even more strange.

But the rulebook does point players to the ESIC’s Code of Conduct, specifically Section 13. The document explicitly mentions ghosting as a way teams could gain unfair information.

It’s unlikely that Vitality’s players purposefully cheated in their 2-0 loss against Team Liquid, but BLAST’s inconsistency and the ESIC’s failure to address a clear problem in tournament operations have many fans shaking their heads in frustration.

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