ESL targets August LAN return in Cologne
ESL is seriously exploring the possibility of making ESL One Cologne its first LAN tournament since the outbreak of the coronavirus, HLTV.org has confirmed.
ESL is currently considering two options: splitting the tournament into regional online divisions if conditions for a LAN event aren't suitable — as it did for ESL Pro League Season 11 —, or hosting the entire competition, including the Play-In stage, at a studio in Cologne from August 21-30.
"If it’s possible to run a LAN event, it will be a LAN event," an ESL source told HLTV.org. The company is evaluating all the variables that need to be considered before making a final decision on how this year's tournament will be held as some countries around the world continue to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions but others are still grappling with the virus.
The 2020 edition of ESL One Cologne was designed to be a global event with 24 teams in attendance and a $1 million prize pool as part of the ESL Pro Tour, with most of the competing sides determined by the circuit's own ranking. This presents a number of challenges for ESL, which wants to make sure that teams will not be forced to skip the tournament — be it because of travel restrictions or visa issues — before committing to hosting a LAN event. Earlier this week, the German company announced that Season 12 of ESL Pro League, which is scheduled to start on September 2, will be held on LAN in case players are able to "travel safely without larger restrictions".
Originally scheduled for July 6-12 with playoffs at the Lanxess-Arena, ESL One Cologne was officially postponed on May 5, weeks after the German authorities had suspended all large events at least until the end of August. ESL announced that the competition would be held as a "broadcasted tournament without a live audience" — a vague concept that raised fears that the showpiece event would add to the list of esports tournaments that were moved to an online format.
ESL is one of the esports tournament organisers that have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. In February, it had to host the IEM Katowice playoffs without an on-site audience at Spodek following a last-minute decision from the governor of Silesia to revoke the competition’s mass event license because of health concerns despite the fact that Poland had yet to report a single case of the virus.
Early in March, it was forced to move Pro League Season 11 to an online setting with three regional divisions, scrapping plans to host the entirety of the tournament on LAN, with regular season matches played out of a studio location in Malta and the finals in Denver. Later that month, the company announced that the ESL One Rio Major had been postponed to November, taking the slot in the calendar that was supposed to be occupied by the second Counter-Strike Major of the year, with an increased $2 million prize pool.