Esports in New Zealand has been rocked by a year-long ban on two players.
Esports fans in New Zealand have been left stunned as players accused of match manipulation in a recent Rocket League game have been banned from competing for a year.
In a ruling on Wednesday from tournament organiser Let’s Play Live, Aiden ‘delusioN’ Hendry and Finlay ‘Frenzyy’ Rockach from Team Esper were banned after they were adjudged to have thrown a game in their match against rivals Team Fury in the Let’s Play Live Rocket League Oceanic Championship.
They will also forfeit prize winnings from the match, and will be unable to compete in the wider Rocket League Championship Season 9, which boasts a $670,000 prize pool.
A third player from Team Esper, Steve ‘SSteve’ Berrospi, has been cleared of any wrongdoing from the match, with the investigation and community agreeing he was not involved in the throw.
It’s a huge scandal for the fledgling sports code that only recently was recognised as a Kiwi sport, thus allowing the TAB to take bets on matches.
The final match in the best-of-five series saw Team Esper make a number of intentionally poor plays, resulting in a late-game reverse sweep by their opponents.
Following the match, Let’s Play Live and Rocket League developers Psyonix immediately launched an investigation into potential foul play, which spanned a number of chat logs and in-game footage from during the match.
The three-day investigation resulted in a finding that Hendry and Rockach “deliberately compromised competitive integrity in order to lose Game 5 of their team’s series against Team Fury, something Let’s Play Live and Psyonix said in a joint statement wouldn’t be tolerated in their league.
“This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and will not be taken lightly.”
One of the players, Hendry, criticised the ban in a tweet. “Very unprofessional of Psyonix to be influenced by the Ssteve’s outburst and the media and not give me and Frenzyy a fair trial. Disappointed about the immaturity of all the pros and fans who have attacked us without knowing our side. Absolutely crushed. Cya in 2021 rats”
Professional caster Matt ‘Smite’ Ross, who happened to be casting the series, said he was shocked by what was unfolding in front of him.
“I found it hard to believe they were throwing. It’s unthinkable, to be honest you don’t expect it to happen in a professional match, and definitely not with paid players.
He said he tried to keep the series on track, but found it difficult as the game progressed.
“At that point there’s no denying it, they were blatantly throwing it and wanted everyone to know.
There’s no defending it at all at that point.”
Ross said the ban would have devastating consequences on the careers for those involved.
“It is going to leave a huge mark on them. RLO [Rocket League Oceania] has banned them from all their events as well. Once the year is up these guys are going to be so far behind.
“They’re going to have to rely on their solo abilities to practise, and hope they’ll get picked up by a team in a year’s time, but who’s going to pick these players up?”
A one-year ban may not seem like much, but for a professional esports player a year can signal the end of their career, especially with the weight of a competitive ban hanging over their head.
The ban is sure to act as a warning to esports players considering foul play or match manipulation, an issue New Zealand’s budding esports industry has largely avoided until now.
For a fledgling industry like esports, the news of an official ban will come as a devastating blow, and the NZ Esports Federation said they hoped this sent a clear message that corruption in esports would be taken seriously.
The scandal follows last year’s investigation by the Australian Organised Crime Intelligence Unit into match fixing in popular esport Counter Strike, which resulted in the arrest of six men in a crackdown on organised sports corruption.