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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sanction for Cheating in Esports

The Esports Integrity Coalition (ESIC) has today closed its survey canvassing community opinion on the appropriate sanctions for those caught cheating in esports. The headline results are set out as an appendix to this statement below.

“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,” commented Ian Smith, Integrity Commissioner for the Esports Integrity Coalition. “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.”

ESIC published a position paper on cheating in April 2017 and the principle thrust of that paper was 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). Taking the community’s views is a significant part of determining what is proportionate within esports. It is not, however, the only view that matters and ESIC also takes 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. In particular, we have witnessed sports and leagues lose credibility because of widespread fixing and, consequently, take a harder line on what is appropriate as a punishment for match manipulation than the esports community currently appears to do. Also, we must take into account the legal environment in which we operate and, in particular, how sporting sanctions have historically been dealt with by the civil courts around the world.”

To view ESIC’s positioning paper on cheating, please follow this link:

It is ESIC’s intention to allow academic study of the detailed results of the survey and welcomes approaches from reputable institutions for access to the full results. In the meantime, however, ESIC would make the following observations based on its preliminary review of the results:

1) We are particularly grateful to the CS:GO community for engaging so enthusiastically and in great numbers in the survey.
2) 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.
3) ESIC is concerned that the community does not regard match-fixing as serious an offence as cheating to win. ESIC believes that match-fixing is as serious as cheating to win and is, consequently, committed to engaging with the community to try and persuade them that their current perception ought, perhaps, to change. 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.
4) Having reviewed the publicly available facts surrounding the IBP and other bans, ESIC recommends that the banned players are unbanned and allowed to continue their competitive CS:GO careers from 1st August 2017. Our reasoning here is 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.
5) 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.
6) 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):

a.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.

b.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).

c.Doping: Results voided, ban of between 1 and 2 years, forfeiture of prize money (if discovered before the end of a tournament, disqualification).

d.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).

7) 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, “There 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. ESIC will redouble its education efforts over the coming months to ensure we engage effectively with the community on this vital issue. At a personal level, I am not comfortable with lifetime bans for first offences. Taking the wider view, they are very hard to justify and my hope is that, in esports, they are very sparingly used. Of course, the best way to avoid a ban is not to cheat in the first place. I hope participants realise that their chances of being caught and punished have increased dramatically since the founding of ESIC.”

ESIC’s aim is to be the recognised guardian of the sporting integrity of esports and to take responsibility for disruption, prevention, investigation and prosecution of all forms of cheating, including, but not limited to, match manipulation and doping.

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