A Rainbow Six Siege event hosted by ESL is at the center of a serious controversy.
According to a report by theScore Esports, the Polish arm of the company asked teams set to compete at the Rainbow Six Pro League Season 10 Finals to lie to border guards in order to attend. The tournament was held in Tokoname, Japan.
The issues center around teams not being issued business visas that would have allowed them to enter the country in order to compete at the event. At least one team reached out to ESL with concerns over this via email and were directed to lie to border agents regarding their visit. The ESL representative even gave tips on how to seem more convincing during the lie.
TheScore published a conversation between a team manager and a rep for ESL.
“Don’t mention participating in the event. It’s ok to say you are going there to watch it,” a rep for ESL said to the team. “If you want to say that you are there for business meetings, please bear in mind that we can’t provide you with any invitations. If you want to say you are going there for tourism, it’s a good idea to research some touristy places and remember them when customs officers ask you what you are doing in Japan.”
In a separate case, a caster reached out to ESL Poland with similar concerns and was given the same answer. Shortly before the event, Ninjas in Pyjamas manager Andre Cardoso stated on Twitter that ESL had misled them regarding how to handle the visa application process, requesting their documentation but then stating that acquiring a visa was the organization’s responsibility.
Rainbow Six Pro League Season 10 Finals were no small esports event. The tournament boasted a $628,000 prize. A number of top esports organizations took part in the competition, with Natus Vincere winning the event.
A number of competitors missed the event due to visa issues. It is unclear how many players, if any, lied to cross the border.
TheScore Esports’ Rob Flynn stressed that this incident was specifically related to ESL Poland. ESL has a number of branches around the world that handle different operations in different titles and regions, and it was ESL’s Polish arm that was involved here.
For any tournament organizer, especially one as prominent as ESL, having visa issues for a huge event like this is a bad look. Encouraging participants to lie to border agents, which can carry serious legal consequences, is another matter entirely.
ESL isn’t necessarily alone in mishandling visa status for its talent. At Dota 2’s The International 2017, Henrik “AdmiralBulldog” Ahnberg was turned away at the border to the United States due to not having a proper visa and Valve offering him no support as he sought to cross the border. He was ultimately sent back home to Sweden and missed the event entirely.
ESL responded to theScore when asked for comment, stating that they are “currently investigating” the matter and are working to try and prevent this in the future.