Due to the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 coronavirus around the world, the Pro League Season 11 Finals in São Paulo and the Asia-Pacific (APAC) Finals in Sydney have been cancelled. The move comes in an attempt to protect players, staff, and attendees from contracting the disease as it continues to spread unchecked.
The online Pro League, on the other hand, is still set to continue as scheduled. However, there is uncertainty regarding the casts for each unified global region and APAC subregion, save for Southeast Asia. All are done from a studio and involve travel for production staff and casters, possibly affecting them as well. It is possible that they continue unperturbed, but alternatives could involve following Southeast Asia (SEA) in conducting the broadcasts from the casters' homes in lieu of a studio.
This comes in addition to the knowledge that Year 4 Caster of the Year Michael "KiXSTAr" Stockley has moved to and is currently in the United States. With the English broadcasts for North America (NA), Latin America (LATAM), and Europe (EU) usually run from the ESL Poland studio, signs are pointing towards a home broadcast setup for the other regions outside of SEA.
With the spread of the virus, it is unlikely that there will any form of Finals that involve travel at all. As such, with ping making it so that a fully online set of Finals cannot be played and national lockdowns making travel near-impossible (even for a closed-door event), this means that the Pro League will draw its curtains for good without any offline events to send it off.
For the São Paulo Finals, Ubisoft has stated that the US$290,000 prize pool will be split equally between the four regions. US$72,500 will be apportioned to NA, LATAM, and EU, while APAC will see that US$72,500 split into further quarters for each subregion.
In NA, LATAM, and EU, the first and second-seeded teams will secure US$50,000 and US$25,000, respectively. On the other hand, each APAC subregion's US$18,125 will have US$12,500 given to the first seed and US$5,625 given to the second seed.
In addition, the APAC Finals prize pool will see its US$50,000 allocated evenly between the four subregions, with the top seed from each getting US$7,500 and the second seed getting US$5,000.
The spread of COVID-19 to Brazil was first revealed on February 26th when a 61-year-old Brazilian man tested positive for the virus after having spent the 9th to 21st of February in Italy, a country with 24,747 confirmed cases and 1,809 deaths at the time of writing. Brazil, for its part, only has had 234 confirmed cases for now. Most of the cases have been concentrated in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but the country reported its first death today in São Paulo itself in a likely sign of further deterioration.
Over in Australia, the first reported case of COVID-19 was in Melbourne on the 25th of January when a Chinese man flew to the city from Guangzhou. As the day progressed, three more cases were confirmed in the state of New South Wales (NSW), of which Sydney is the capital, and a further six were held under observation after returning from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus. Countrywide, Australia has had 452 confirmed cases (of which 210 are in NSW) and five deaths at the time of publication.
Since then, authorities have been aiming to slow down and stop the spread of the disease, but the recent declaration of the outbreak as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) signifies that it cannot be controlled. As such, with safety at the forefront, Ubisoft has opted to cancel the upcoming Pro League Finals to avoid spreading the virus further and putting fans, players, and staff at risk.
This comes after the IEM Katowice Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) playoffs in Poland were relegated to a closed-door affair over COVID-19 fears. This was despite prior assurances being made that the event would go on as planned and with no confirmed coronavirus cases in the country at the time.
Since then, many other events have also announced cancellations and suspensions in order to lessen the spread of the disease. Leagues such as the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) and the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) have tried to mitigate the hit and have transitioned from offline to online.
For the Latin American region, these Finals were the last planned inter-regional event, with the next one not coming until at least May 2022, making this a major blow. However, with over 180,000 cases and 7,000 deaths of the disease recorded across more than 140 countries, this is likely the best alternative for everyone involved.
The second half of the Pro League will kick off on the 18th of March over in APAC, with a game between the Pittsburgh Knights and Team SiNister in the Australia-New Zealand subregion. North America, Europe, and Latin America will restart play the next week, starting with the European game between Team Empire and Natus Vincere on the 23rd of March.
- North America - Team SoloMid and DarkZero Esports
- Europe - Rogue and Team Empire
- Latin America - Ninjas in Pyjamas and Team Liquid
- APAC - Fnatic and Elevate (ANZ) ; Giants Gaming and Qconfirm (SEA) ; SCARZ and Cloud9 (Korea) ; Cyclops Athlete Gaming and GUTS Gaming (Japan)
Keep an eye out for all announcements and changes concerning the Season 11 Finals and upcoming post-Season 11 esports changes.