Frankie Ward became one of the first onscreen talent to speak out about the recent sale of ESL and FACEIT, expressing sadness over the complicated decisions many in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive community must now make.
“Right now all I am is heartbroken,” Ward said in a post to her website. “I’m sad for everyone this impacts, everyone who now needs to make a decision about the future of their careers and what it means for esports.”
The blog post, titled “A difficult decision,” outlined Ward’s reaction to the news, her response to accusations that she was remaining silent on the issue and her thoughts about what was next for her professionally. Some had leveled accusations of hypocrisy at Ward and many of her peers in the CS:GO space because the ESL sale did not initially receive the same level of backlash that the planned, August 2020 deal between BLAST Premier and NEOM, a tech-city in Saudi Arabia, did from many in the community. Ward, and other talent who have worked with both ESL and BLAST, vocally opposed NEOM on moral grounds, which led to the deal’s cancelation.
In her blog post, Ward made it clear that ESL talent were not informed of the deal ahead of the general public. She also explained that, unlike in the case of NEOM, this was an acquisition rather than a partnership. ESL’s parent company, Modern Times Group, were the ones who made the decision to sell off ESL and there is currently nothing the talent can do to reverse it.
To people asking me to speak out – do bare in mind this is a done deal. The PIF now own a majority stake in the ESL/FACEIT merger. It is not reversible like a sponsorship; MTG can't take the sale back.
— Frankie (@FrankieWard) January 24, 2022
While Ward, who is still taking a break from working following the birth of her child, has not yet made a decision about her future with ESL, she did make it clear that she would be involved in the upcoming Intel Extreme Masters Katowice because of a prior commitment with a sponsor. Ward got her start in esports with ESL and has since worked closely on many of their Counter-Strike: Global Offensive events as a host and interviewer, among other roles.
Modern Times Group announced their ESL to Savvy Gaming, a company backed by a Saudi Public Investment Fund, on Monday. Savvy Gaming also acquired FACEIT, with the two companies set to merge and become ESL FACEIT Group. The overall acquisition cost Savvy Gaming $1.5 billion.
With the government of Saudi Arabia now owning a large section of the CS:GO competitive scene, it remains to be scene what changes will be made to the esports ecosystem. Some have voiced concern over the future of the recently announced GGForAll initiative that implemented a new women’s circuit, though ESL representatives have stated it will continue as planned.