Overwatch pros consider strike over OWL 2020 travel obligations

By Olivia Richman


Jan 20, 2020

Reading time: 3 min

Some Overwatch League players may be going on strike in the near future. 

As the 2020 season draws near, some OWL pros are becoming wary of the intense traveling requirements of the new global schedule. While teams will start off playing opponents from their own division, they will soon need to fly around the world. Concerns over these travel obligations were raised shortly after the initial announcement, but with February 8 now less than a month away, players are wanting to ensure that their voices are heard. 

Esports insider Yiska recently confirmed that three teams have already decided to fly economy next season. This is allegedly in spite of some players adding clauses to their contracts requiring their team to put them in business class. Other players have no stipulations regarding travel arrangements in their contracts, which could be due to their multi-year deals starting in previous seasons that didn’t require as much travel. 

A source close to the situation told WIN.gg that some current pro players have begun discussions of a potential strike if their teams won’t pay for business class seats. 

Players have brutal schedules for 2020 OWL season

Teams are required to land in their host city no later than Thursday. A long flight will break up their scrimming schedule and changing time zones will make it hard for some players to avoid jet lag from trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic travel. Some feel the least organizations can do is give players a more comfortable flight that makes it easier to relax and sleep. 

To get an idea of what OWL players have in store, the first four months of the New York Excelsior’s schedule stands as follows:

  • Week 1: Compete in base of New York City
  • Week 3: Fly to Washington, D.C. 
  • Week 4: Fly to Houston
  • Week 5: Fly back to Washington, D.C. 
  • Week 6: Fly to Florida
  • Week 8: Fly to London
  • Week 9: Fly back to Washington, D.C. 
  • Week 10: Fly to Paris
  • Week 12: Fly to Boston
  • Week 14: Fly back to Paris
  • Week 15: Fly to Dallas

Also on the docket is a trip to China to play against the Guangzhou Charge in week 23. That trek requires 16 hours in the air, not counting layovers. Then in Week 27 they leave China and head to Toronto, which entails another 14 hours of flying. 

OWL teams worried about travel expenses in 2020

While these hectic travel schedules are a very real concern for players, coaches, and fans, the teams are also struggling to deal with some potential problems the travel could entail. 

A one-way economy flight from New York to Guangzhou on July 11 is currently $666. Business-class tickets on the same day start at $2,337 for a one-way ticket.

Given the fact that each Overwatch League team has up to ten players alongside coaches and other staff members, the price tag for each trip quickly approaches $30,000 for a road trip to China.

It’s not hard to see why many teams have already decided that business class just isn’t an option. 

Some fans have brought up that many teams will have contracts with airlines thanks to the amount of players and flights they’re taking. This could possibly cut travel costs in half, meaning it could be closer to $10,000 or $15,000 for the 10-man roster to fly to China. 

At the time of publication, it’s not been made public which players are demanding business class in their contracts, which are stuck in economy, and how serious they really are about taking action over these concerns.