CLG has been at the center of controversy after their decision to speak toÂ William “scarra” Li from Dignitas in early September, while scarra was still on contract – illegal by LCS rules, a violation for which TSM’s SÃ¸ren “Bjergsen” BjergÂ was fined earlier this year. Riot has handed out their biggest fine ever, $10 000 USD, with multiple reasons for that below.
Organization:Â Counter Logic Gaming
Region:Â North America
Date of Ruling:Â December 10, 2014
Subject:Â Penalty; Violation of LCS Ruleset
We were recently notified of allegations that Counter Logic Gamingâ€™s (CLG) management violated the LCS anti-tampering/poaching provision by soliciting William â€œScarraâ€ Li, who was at the time still under contract as a substitute player for Dignitas, to not re-sign with Dignitas in the offseason and instead sign with CLG. Attempting to recruit LCS Team Members still under contract with other LCS organizations is a serious offense, and we began a thorough investigation to determine if the accusations had merit.
As a result of our investigation weâ€™ve discovered the following:
Shortly following the conclusion of the LCS 2014 NA Regionals in early September, Counter Logic Gamingâ€™s owner, George â€œHotshotGGâ€ Georgallidis, reached out to Li directly to express a desire to work with him. Li was still under contract with Dignitas at this time.
Several weeks later, at least one Counter Logic Gaming team member was informed by team management that Scarra seemed interested in the organization and was their top choice to be coach. A team member then informed CLG management he was going to reach out to Li to discuss the possibility of Li coaching for CLG next season. This team member went on to have a conversation with Li regarding the possibility of him not re-signing with Dignitas during the offseason and instead becoming coach for CLG, a clear violation of the LCS anti-tampering/poaching rule.
In mid-October, LCS officials were made aware of allegations that CLG had attempted to poach Li, and promptly reached out to CLG management to get their side of the story. Georgallidis repeatedly made false statements to LCS officials during the investigation, denying knowledge of any conversations between himself and Li or CLG team members while Li was under contract regarding Li becoming a coach for CLG.
Multiple sources have since provided evidence confirming that Georgallidis personally approached Scarra and had knowledge of at least one other CLG team member having a conversation with Li about the possibility of him joining CLG before Liâ€™s contract with Dignitas was up.
10.2.12 No Poaching or Tampering.
â€œNo Team Member or Affiliate of a team may solicit, lure, or make an offer of employment to any Team Member who is signed to any LCS team, nor encourage any such Team Member to breach or otherwise terminate a contract with said LCS team. Violations of this rule shall be subject to penalties, at the discretion of LCS officials.â€
CLG has violated rule 10.2.12 of the LCS ruleset and will be subject to penalties.
Counter-Logic Gaming is:
- Fined $10,000
- Restricted from fielding William â€œScarraâ€ Li as an official LCS Team Member for the first 3 weeks of the 2015 LCS Spring Split
- CLG will still be required to field a Head Coach for the first 3 weeks of the 2015 LCS Spring Split
This is the most severe penalty we have ever levied on an LCS team. Hereâ€™s more context on our reasoning and how we reached this decision:
- We consider poaching to be a serious violation which challenges the competitive integrity of the league – as such, the penalties we consider are severe. LCS teams are expected to respect not only the contracts that theyâ€™ve signed with their own players, but those that other organizations have signed with theirs. Tampering with players on opposing teams can incentivize extremely toxic dynamics (e.g. players deliberately playing poorly to â€œforceâ€ their organization to release them) and is an unacceptable form of gamesmanship. It also puts honest teams which comply with anti-tampering/poaching rules at a disadvantage in acquiring players.
- There are a number of factors that we consider whenever weâ€™re assessing a penalty for any violation of LCS rules. Intent and honesty on the part of a rule-breaking individual or group are important – likewise, if the offender or offenders are dishonest, we consider that when weighing our decision. We also look at whoâ€™s under investigation – for example, our judgment may be more severe for the ownership of an LCS organization whose understanding of the ruleset and potential consequences may be more sophisticated than that of an individual player.
- In this case, the fact that CLG ownership made false statements to LCS officials and directly attempted to poach a player under contract to a rival LCS organization has been considered an aggravating factor in assessing the penalty.
- In this case, where it wasnâ€™t one player but the ownership of an entire LCS organization that engaged in poaching, a fine alone is not a sufficient penalty. We want our penalties to help avoid similar situations in the future, and a fine alone will not effectively deter determined organizations from attempting to poach players.
- Limiting the value of CLGâ€™s ill-gotten acquisition by restricting its ability to field Li as an LCS Team Member for the first three weeks of the LCS is a more effective penalty than simply ramping the fine amount up further.
- Under LCS rules, a team may negotiate with a player under contract with another team if they obtain permission from that playerâ€™s organization. In this case, if CLG had requested and received permission from Dignitas to speak with Li prior to their talks, there would have been no issue. Teams may also simply wait until a playerâ€™s contract is up (in this case, Liâ€™s contract was up in late October) to recruit a player. CLG chose to do neither, which has led to this investigation and outcome.
Our decision in this investigation relied heavily on evidence and firsthand testimony provided to us by sources who requested anonymity because of their close relationship with the parties at the center of this investigation. While we generally strive for transparency in our competitive rulings, we also highly value protecting sources who come forward to offer evidence to LCS officials despite the risk of potential backlash if their identity is made public.
We understand that this explanation is not as satisfying as full public disclosure of all of the evidence which led to our ruling, but doing so would pose an unacceptable risk to the anonymity of the sources who came forward to speak with us.
This ruling reflects our desire to send a clear signal that poaching is unacceptable in the LCS, as is deliberately making false statements to LCS officials.