CS2: Valve Bans Closed Leagues

After talks have been held in June, Valve bans closed leagues from 2025 onwards, attempting to create a "level playing field". This will affect current tournament organizers such as Blast and ESL, both of whom have already responded to Valve's changes.

Valve bans closed leagues for CS2 beginning in 2025 | © Valve, Blast, ESL

In recent years, Counter Strike: Global Offensive has been growing massively. Not only in player numbers, but also financially. Since CS:GO's release in October 2012, tournaments have become more frequent and bigger and filled with a mouthwatering amount of cash in the prize pools.

Multiple tournament organizers fought for the biggest teams to play in their events, even going as far as to found their own closed leagues, for which organizations could buy slots to participate against the best teams in the world.

In 2019, Valve addressed the matter of exclusive deals in a blog post, stating:

Recently there have been steps toward a broad form of exclusivity where teams who compete in a particular event are restricted from attending another operator’s events. This form of team exclusivity is an experiment that could cause long-term damage. In addition to preventing other operators from competing, exclusivity prevents other events from keeping the CSGO ecosystem functioning if an individual event fails.

Valve wants their first-person shooter to stay on a competitive and level playing field, so that the esports scene can grow. But where this much money is, exclusive business deals aren't far away. With ESL and Blast founding their own Leagues (Pro League and Premier respectively) in the last couple of years, the big teams with plenty of cash bought themselves into these leagues to compete against the best and for an even bigger amount of money.

This comes at the cost of smaller and less wealthy teams who aren't able to afford their own spot in these top-tier leagues

Valve Bans Closed Circuit Leagues for Counter Strike 2

After talks between Valve, ESL and Blast at the last CS:GO Major Tournament in June, as reported by Richard Lewis, Valve issued a statement yesterday titled A level playing field in which Counter Strike's publisher reveals its plans for maintaining the integrity of the game and allowing the competitive scene to grow and improve as a whole. Valve are adding the following requirements for tournament organizers to obey to:

Tournament organizers will no longer have unique business relationships or other conflicts of interest with teams that participate in their events.
Invitations to all tournaments will use our ranking system (detailed here), or otherwise be determined by open qualifiers.
Any compensation for participating teams—prize pool or otherwise—will be made public and will be driven by objective criteria that can be inspected by the community.

This means that Valve is banning franchise-leagues and leagues with invitations that don't align with the team's recent performances. Valve will use its regional standings list to determine whether an invitation is based on performances or not. Furthermore, the earnings from teams participating in events will be made public. This will also include sticker sales, a requirement the community loves to see.

Changes will arrive in 2025

But until we get the new rule set, we have to wait a few more years. ESL's Pro League deal, the Louvre Agreement, was extended to 2025 in January last year. Valve acknowledged these long-term commitments by pushing the rules back until 2025 and not introducing them with Counter Strike 2 as planned.

The tournament organizers have already responded to Valve's policy change for Counter Strike 2. Ulrich Schulze, SVP Game Ecosystems for the ESL Faceit Group tweeted:

The Blast Premier Twitter account posted the following statement:

From the statements, it can be read that Blast and ESL will continue to host tournaments in Counter Strike and follow Valve's new rules. From then on, tournaments will either be filled with teams from the top of Valve's ranking list, or we can enjoy some do-or-die games in the qualifiers before the main event even starts. Sounds amazing if you ask me.

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