ESIC unleashes results of 7,500 strong survey on esports integrity, ESL santions altered accordingly

The Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) has today released the responses on its survey focused on the appropriate sanctions for those caught cheating in esports. 

The survey saw 7,500 responses from those in the esports community at large. Quite notably, ESL, which is a member of ESIC, has changed its sanctions accordingly. ESL will also be lifting the indefinite ban on ex-IBUYPOWER players, and tournament rules for all events will differ from August 1st. You can read the full details of ESL’s statement on the matter here.  

Ulrich Schulze, Senior Vice President Product at ESL noted: “We believe that integrity and fair play are of the utmost importance in esports, and our updated catalogue of sanctions reflects that commitment.

”All of these adjustments do not apply to bans and punishments issued by Valve directly though, which will still be in place for all Valve sponsored tournaments run by ESL, such as Majors.”

Ian Smith, ESIC Commissioner

ESIC Integrity Commissioner Ian Smith commented: “Esports is primarily about the community around each game – the players, fans and teams that participate and watch – and it was entirely appropriate for us to consult those communities about how its cheats and frauds should be punished.

“Following the conclusion of the survey, I am very thankful to the community for their enthusiastic participation; particularly the CS:GO community, who responded in their thousands.”

Back in April 2017, ESIC published a paper on cheating in esports (which you can read here) but the underlying point that the paper made that the esports industry needs ‘a consistent, fair and proportionate approach to how it deals with cheating, both to win and to lose (match-fixing)’.

The views of the community is naturally a significant part of determining what is proportionate within esports. That said, it’s not the only thing that matters and as such ESIC also took into account the practices of other traditional sports integrity efforts and prosecutions and the consequences of match-fixing on those sports affected by it historically.

ESIC has stated that one intention is to allow the academic study of the detailed results of the survey and it welcomes approaches ‘from reputable institutions for access to the full results’. 

It is clear from the hundreds of “FreeIBP” “FreeSWAG” and FreeBRAX” comments that a very significant number feel that the lifetime bans handed out in the IBP and other historic match-fixing cases were too harsh and, while a significant number of comments support lifetime bans for such activity overall, many more are critical of the publisher’s decision in these cases.

As such there is some concern from ESIC that the community does not regard match-fixing as serious an offence as cheating to win. ESIC takes the stance that match-fixing is equally as serious as cheating to win and is, consequently, committed to engaging with the community to try and persuade them that their current perception needs to be reconsidered.

A statement from ESIC on the matter read: “We will do our best to inform the community about the very real and serious threat to esports posed by betting fraud and match manipulation. It is ESIC’s position that match-fixing offences should attract at least the same level of punishment as cheating offences based on the experiences of traditional sports.”

On the matter of IBUYPOWER (IBP), ESIC recommended that the banned players are unbanned and allowed to re-enter professional CS:GO from August 1st. ESL has confirmed that it concurs with this and the bans will be lifted. 

ESIC argued that “whilst the players are clearly culpable and should have known better, the rules surrounding this sort of activity were not clear at the time, no education had been provided to the players and the procedures used to sanction them were not transparent and did not comply with principles of natural justice”.

The ESIC Anti-Corruption Code sets out clear rules about betting and corruption in esports and the ESIC Disciplinary Procedure sets out a fair and independent procedure for dealing with alleged offences that complies with principles of natural justice and allows a full and fair opportunity for accused participants to defend themselves and appeal against decisions they disagree with. ESIC, therefore, recommends that esports organisations adopt the ESIC Anti-Corruption Code and make use of our independent procedure. This will address the community’s obvious concerns about clarity of rules and the way in which decisions on these issues have historically been taken.

The ESIC Disciplinary Panel is independent and not under the control or instruction of the Integrity Commissioner or any other ESIC employee or member and is, thus, able to reach their own decisions on sanctions based on the Code and the evidence before them.

However, in the interests of fairness and consistency and based on the community’s strong feelings as revealed by the survey, ESIC recommends the following sanctions for future cases (first offence):

Cheating: Disqualification from the tournament, results voided, forfeiture of prize money, ban between 2 year and lifetime depending on age and level of player and nature/size of tournament and how the player cheated (this offence includes “smurfing” where both parties involved are liable to sanctions). Cheating at a competition played above an amateur level (i.e. where significant prize pool is involved or qualification for a professional event is at stake) should normally result in a 5 year ban, but, in aggravating circumstances, can result in a lifetime ban.

Match-Fixing/betting fraud: Results voided, 5 year ban unless significant mitigating factors in line with the ESIC Anti-Corruption Code or, in the presence of aggravating circumstances, a longer ban, forfeiture of prize money and monetary fine (if discovered before the end of a tournament, disqualification).
Doping: Results voided, ban of between 1 and 2 years, forfeiture of prize money (if discovered before the end of a tournament, disqualification).

Competition manipulation and bribery: Results voided, ban of between 1 and 2 years, forfeiture of prize money and monetary fine (if discovered before the end of a tournament, disqualification).
For second and subsequent offences, participants should expect far harsher sanctions and, in the cases of (a) and (b) above, in all likelihood, a lifetime ban from esports.

Integrity Commissioner, Ian Smith, commented further, “This is, of course, a great deal more that could be said about these survey results, but finding out what the community thinks has been a fascinating and revealing exercise and I respect their opinions. They are, after all, the lifeblood of esports and we must pay heed to their views. Having said that and having lived through the match-fixing scandals that affected traditional sports, I am troubled by what the survey reveals about the community’s understanding of and attitude towards match-fixing. The relationship between esports and gambling is new and still forming; but it is growing very rapidly and, when fans no longer believe what they’re watching is real, they will turn to other forms of entertainment. Match-fixing can have that effect – it can kill a sport and the community needs to understand that and realise that match-fixing is far more of a threat to their passion in the long term than cheating to win.

Esports Insider says: A comprehensive set of rules from ESIC and iBP are free. At least for ESL events. I wonder if there’ll be some sort of reaction from Valve — otherwise surely the iBP players are only going to play themselves as they won’t be able to enter Valve events anyway? Interesting results from the survey, too.