Update: According to an ELeague spokesperson, "The decision to replace Luminosity and SK Gaming was solely based on the violation of league rules and the agreements in place with all competing teams that were established prior to our first season."
Original story continues below.
Turner Sports and WME|IMG's ELeague announced Wednesday both SK Gaming and Luminosity were removed from Season One due to making "roster changes that do not comply" with ELeague rules. However, according to sources close to both teams and the league, ELeague was originally only going to sanction Luminosity, and award its playoff spot to its players, who now compete under the SK Gaming banner.
This was prevented by a petition with signatures from the owners of seven participating organizations: Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Echo Fox, NRG Esports, OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid, and Team SoloMid. The petition, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, says that each team "in good conscience, may not be able to compete" if ELeague were to kick out Luminosity, yet leave the spot to the players, as it violates ELeague tournament entry agreement signed by each team participating in the league and the ELeague rules. Those agreements state that the spots in ELeague are owned and operated by the teams, not the players on the team.
The petition was addressed to Turner Sports president Lenny Daniels, WME|IMG SVP and associate general counsel John Cooper, and ELeague commissioner Min-Sik Ko.
The petition also outlines four different incidents, including the transfer of players from the Luminosity Gaming organization to SK Gaming, a tweet by Ko from May 30, and an allegation that ELeague was going to sanction only the Luminosity organization originally. Later in the petition, it alleges "an inherent conflict of interest" within the ELeague leadership, citing Ko as a former employee of SK Gaming and what the petition calls a "well-known SK loyalist."
Giving Luminosity's spot to SK Gaming would have given SK a second chance in ELeague, as its original Danish team was eliminated in week three nearly a month ago. Since the Brazilian players who formerly competed under the Luminosity brand were still competing, SK would have simply taken over from that point.
The petition goes on to suggest that ELeague can disqualify both parties and teams from the league for breaking the agreed-upon rules -- an action that was taken earlier Wednesday -- but that giving the spot to SK would "greatly prejudice the interest" of the teams on the petition.
The original dispute between SK Gaming and Luminosity began in March after the Brazilian players, coach, and manager under the Luminosity banner at that time -- the likes of Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo, Fernando "fer" Alvarenga, Marcelo "coldzera" David, Lincoln "fnx" Lau, Epitacio "TACO" Pessoa, Wilton "zews" Prado, and Ricardo "dead" Sinigaglia -- signed forward contracts with SK Gaming to begin on July 1. In December 2015, however, the same parties signed a letter of intent with Luminosity to compete under its banner for an additional two years, meaning it would play under Luminosity until June 2018.
In May, ESPN reported on the situation, with Luminosity Gaming owner Steve Maida accusing SK Gaming owner Alex Müller of poaching and tortious interference, as well as the players involved telling ESPN that they wanted to remain with the Luminosity organization. Via veteran Counter-Strike analyst Duncan "Thorin" Shields, SK Gaming said that it found the letters of intent to be invalid after consulting with legal counsel.
On June 24, Luminosity and SK Gaming settled their differences and came to an agreement for the players to move to the SK Gaming banner. Their first competition under the SK banner is currently taking place at ESL One Cologne 2016 at Laxness Arena in Cologne, Germany.
Although the dispute has been settled, the Brazilian players involved expressed outrage on Twitter, with TACO alleging that his team was not notified of the ruling before it was publicly announced. Other parts of the Counter-Strike community, including other players, well-known analysts, and journalists, have also been outspoken against the ruling.
- Epitacio (@LG_TACO) July 6, 2016
Cloud9, Echo Fox, Luminosity Gaming, NRG Esports, Team Liquid, and Team SoloMid declined to comment on this report. Min-Sik Ko, ELeague, and SK Gaming did not respond to a request for comment. OpTic Gaming and Counter Logic Gaming were unable to be reached for comment.