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ESL bans organisations with ties to Russian government from Pro League

Players from teams affected will still be able to compete "under a neutral name, without representing their country"

Esports company ESL has announced that organisations "with apparent ties to the Russian government" will be banned from the upcoming ESL Pro League.

In the statement shared on its website, ESL said that it includes "individuals or organisations under alleged or confirmed EU sanctions related to the conflict."

It identified two teams to whom it applies at the time of writing, Virtus.pro and Gambit. However, players from these two teams will still be able to compete if they don't represent their country or organisation.

"We recognise that players are not complicit with this situation, and we do not think it is in the spirit of esports to impose sanctions on individual players," ESL said. "The Virtus.pro and Gambit players are therefore welcome to compete under a neutral name, without representing their country, organisation or their teams' sponsors on their clothing or otherwise."

In addition, ESL will be pausing all scheduled competitions in the CIS region, "out of respect for the situation."

Virtus.pro is part of Russian esports company ESForce. Earlier this week, Ukrainian team Navi cut ties with the organisation as ESForce denied "the horror that is now happening" in Ukraine, Eurogamer reported.

Yesterday, Ukraine deputy prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov posted a letter on Twitter addressed "to all game development companies and esports platforms" asking them to take steps to encourage Russian citizens to force an end to the invasion of Ukraine.

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Marie Dealessandri

Deputy Editor

Marie Dealessandri joined GamesIndustry.biz in 2019 to head its Academy section. A journalist since 2012, she started in games in 2016 at B2B magazine MCV. She can be found (rarely) tweeting @mariedeal, usually on a loop about Baldur’s Gate and the Dead Cells soundtrack. GI resident Moomins expert.