Player poaching in esports is a rampant issue that all are tired of. Not only League but CS:GO and Dota also suffer from the same. Even after stricter governance by the respective authorities, teams are vulnerable to scandals. Going into the issue, there are misconceptions and misinterpretations about ‘poaching’ and its rules.
What is poaching? – as per LCS norms.
Poaching happens when a player who is listed in the Global Contract Database is approached by another team member/owner/management. The contracts listed in the Global Contract Database are of League approved newly signed players. When players accept offers out of existing contracts, that will be termed as poaching.
In other cases, when a team receives a player’s documentations which are yet to be listed under Global Database and he accepts another offer. Teams tend to claim poaching protection in such cases, which are invalid as the League has not listed the player yet.
Teams more likely push for poaching protection just to retain the best players, making a complete mess of the rule definition.
League of Legends
The League industry has seen the most of such cases.
Let’s take the case of the biggest team fine levied by Riot. On Dec 10, 2014, Riot ruled allegations on Counter Logic Gaming for poaching “Scarra” of Dignitas who was already under contract. Riot slapped a hefty $10,000 fine on George “HotshotGG” Georgallidis, owner of CLG. False allegations by George that only a casual chat occurred was disproved instantly, causing a harsher penalty.
Not even a month after CLG issue, the European giant Fnatic were caught approaching players from H2K namely, top-laner Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu and Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss. Fnatic was in a hassle to assemble a team before the split starts. Even though no strict actions were taken as it was attempted poaching.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive
Shortly prior to MLG Columbus Major, Luminosity’s players were signed by SK Gaming while still under contract. Luminosity CEO accused SK of bribing and manipulating the players. SK had reportedly claimed of legal protection against Luminosity if charges are made. The then WESA board member Ralf Reichert removed himself from the case, claimed ignorance and his lack of power. It was found that the WESA member was a direct partner of SK. No legal actions were taken against them, but this case looms over CS:GO community as a black mark.
Difficulties in tackling poaching
Providing a valid claim is one of the major reasons faced by the authorities. Unless the complainant files a factually correct charge, it’s very hard to assume the things that might have happened. Making assumptions may prove fatal for the opposition, so it’s important to provide related facts and proof.
The cause of action is another point of view where the complainant should be completely aware of the intentions by which the other team approached its players.
Finally, obtaining online communication proofs. Online logs like a skype chat and other mediums can be high bars of proof as an evidentiary standpoint which are difficult to retrieve.
Measures to tackle poaching
1.Union dedicated to resolving to poach: Creation of a union exclusively for monitoring and regulating poaching cases, while the members having no connection with any team or player whatsoever.
2.Stricter fines: Fining of the accused should be large enough to intimidate other players of the repercussions.
3.Player ban: Banning the players/management/owner for the current and next season.
4.Deny drafting: To not allow the teams pick new members, and shall be confined to pick from their inactive roster(substitutes).
5.Contract ban: The contract with League can be called off following multiple cases with the same team.
The same goes for the teams throwing false allegations to retain players.
Poaching issues are not unique to esports. Surprisingly, governing bodies like WESA and PEA have done very little to eradicate this problem. Either they encourage the teams to accept the situation or make them avail a lawsuit which is too much a cost to handle. The legal fees are not what a not-so-rich team can afford.
Few measures like setting strict rules and penalties for all tampering offenses, including steep fines, the suspension of the offending person, forfeiture of draft picks, and the prohibition of signing the player being tampered with, can curb the problem to some extent. Without stronger League governance and intervention regarding poaching, teams are left to scratch the difficult road of pursuing legal action.