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Saudi Arabian Prince congratulates Putin. What does this mean for ESL?

The ESL acquisition by the Savvy Gaming Group is already causing issues in the esports scene. The company, which purchased both ESL and FACEIT back in January, is fully backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, the PIF (Public Investment Fund). 

As journalists like Thorin and Richardlewis have frequently pointed out, that means ESL and FACEIT are essentially owned by the Saudi Arabian government, which is in turn ruled by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Complaints were immediately raised by many when the acquisition took place. Saudi Arabia has been known to have very negative views towards the LGBTQ+ community and women, which clashes directly with the beliefs of an industry which claims to be so concerned with those causes. 

There haven’t been tournaments held in Saudi Arabia yet, so no specific issues have surfaced there, but something else has recently popped up. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, a matter which has concerned the entire world, inside and outside of esports, has been mostly described as an act of cruel war by the part of Putin. Most esports organizations have shown their support of Ukraine through various means, with ESL and Blast making alterations to their tournaments and prohibiting Russian organizations with ties to oligarchs from participating in their tournaments. 

ESL released a statement which starts with the following sentence: 

“We are all shocked and saddened by the Russian invasion into Ukraine and hope for a swift and peaceful resolution.”

Here is where the problem lies: their de facto owner, Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, congratulated Putin on what the Russian leader describes as “The victory day”. 

So, ESL’s only owner has just publicly announced his support of Putin’s actions, while the company itself shows an entirely opposite point of view through their actions and statements. No comments have been issued by ESL and the reaction from the esports community has been almost zero, except from Thorin and RLewis, as usual. 

This is news being released during the first Major of the year, one of the most important periods of the year for the game. How worse will this get with time? We’ll see. 

Images via EG.