In the wake of ESL’s purchase by a Saudi-controlled gaming company, several well-known Counter-Strike: Global Offensive casters and talent are speaking out. And some claim to now be done with ESL entirely.
Two established names in CSGO production have decided to speak out on future events being hosted by the Electronic Sports League. Frankie Ward and Vince Hill have both announced the potential of no longer working with ESL and its associated events. These announcements come after news that Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Gaming Group has purchased ownership of both ESL and FACEIT. More personalities could come out against the merger in the near future.
The SGG-prompted merger between ESL and FACEIT raises several ethical concerns for those in the CSGO esports space. Savvy Gaming group is owned and operated by the Saudi Arabian government. The state stands accused of severe human rights abuses, including slavery, and violence taken against outspoken journalists, and mistreatment of women. Now ESL and FACEIT are directly connected to the Saudi government, and some casters are taking the move very seriously.
Vince and Frankie speak out over ESL Saudi buyout
On January 24, Vince Hill posted a video to his YouTube channel detailing his stance on the situation. He did not cite his specific concerns, but it is most likely related to Saudi Arabia’s alleged use of slave labor and violence against journalists. Vince also noted that DreamHack, as a subsidiary of ESL, is also owned by the Saudi Arabian group. He ended by encouraging CSGO fans to not attack other personalities and casters who continue to work for a Saudi-owned ESL, even as he himself stepped away.
“I do not want to accept any money from these companies because I don’t feel like it’s right. That’s my decision… I was offered to cast next month at (ESL Challenger #48) Anaheim… but I still need to speak for what I believe in,” Hill said.
Prominent CSGO host Frankie Ward has also written on her new ethical problems with ESL and DreamHack. She posted her thoughts in a blog post titled “A difficult decision.” Frankie compared the situation to her protests towards BLAST’s controversial NEOM sponsorship in 2021. While she did not declare her intent to fully separate from ESL, she emphasized her plan to grow her content creation platforms instead of focusing on hosting future CSGO events. Frankie also referred to other new challenges involved with becoming a mother as being part of her decision. Since ESL and DreamHack are two of her biggest clients, this could result in her entirely separating from CSGO esports.
“All I can do is choose whether to walk away from my biggest client, and pretty much Counter-Strike, given that most of the work I do (including non-CSGO events) is produced by ESL or FACEIT,” Ward said.