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Louvre Agreement – The strangest power play in CS:GO esports

Last week the ESL and their partner teams decided to extend Louvre Agreement by three years until 2025. This “agreement” is ESL’s way of creating a permanent residency within the ESL Pro League. Signatories share financial commitments in return for sharing governance and financials for the events played each season. Last year, the Louvre Agreement has been signed by three more teams; FURIA, BIG and Heroic.

There are some key points to look at when looking at the whole deal. First up, the limit to teams being added in the future. Second, the arbritrary power of ESL to single out who they want competing in their events. And third, the danger of creating franchised elitism in the scene.

© ESL

Does the Louvre Agreement create CSGO elitism?

Right off the bat this quote screams elitism:

“We said we’re expecting numbers to be $3 million or more […] That seemed to be the magic number that scared people off” – Alexander Inglot, EPL Commissioner.

One of the magical aspects of Counter Strike has always been that anyone can compete with the best teams in the world. With this agreement in place, it puts a barrier to entry on certain elements of the scene. A barrier that is not based on skill, but rather investment. With the scene going the way it is, especially in North America, there is no longer a guarantee that skilled teams and players are going to receive the massive financial backing they have in the past. This means young talent could be stifled in the competitive scene.

“Sometimes an organization brings this intangible worth so much more than money, whereas another one doesn’t bring that, so money becomes more important.”

Here is where things get tricky. The implication here is that they can deny anyone they want on the basis of money, but in reality they can let in whomever they want for whatever reason they deem. That is what makes the Louvre Agreement potentially dangerous. They can keep out whoever they want if they don’t want to play ball with ESL. This means if there have been disagreements in the past with owners who now have a chance to make some money in the scene, ESL can keep them out. They will essentially control who can make money within the scene if they so choose. It is hard to justify any one company having that sort of power over the scene.

Does this have potential to ruin the scene?

Just the aforementioned 3 million dollar buy-in, could have massive implications on the long-term health of the scene. With less and less money coming into the scene, there is no guarantee that new and upcoming teams will be able to bankroll their way into this league.

Not only does it potentially stifle growth, there is potential for this to create a monopoly on the scene. If all of the best teams in the world are a part of the same group, that group all but guarantees they receive the viewership and the sponsors. Down the road, the Louvre Agreement teams could decide they will not participate in tournaments outside of ESL run events. This, in turn, would ruin other tournament organizers, giving ESL free reign. This would create a monopoly and potential stagnation for the scene, sealing its fate.

What Other Teams could join and when is it enough?

We are now at 15 teams signed to this agreement: Astralis, BIG, Complexity, Evil Geniuses, ENCE, FaZe Clan, Fnatic, Furia, G2 Esports, Mousesports, Natus Vincere, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team Liquid, Team Vitality and Heroic. Based on ESL Pro League’s current system we are one spot short of creating a pretty limited and exclusionary system. Teams like Gambit, Complexity, Virtus.Pro will have to play a perpetual qualification system to enter the league while other S-tier teams have a guaranteed entry.

We’ve already talked about player burnout in esports, and how it negatively impacts organizations and players. Having an exclusionary group that is arbitrarily decided is doing nobody any favors. Either of three teams up there and plenty more are good additions if ESL wants to continue signing the best in the world. The upcoming EPL seasons should continue to be fun for the audience with these new additions, but at what cost?

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