Visa issues threaten Russian attendance ahead of European RMRs
A recent tightening of visa processing for Russian citizens means many players are in danger of missing the RMR tournaments.
1WIN, Aurora, K23 and Benched Heroes are all in danger of missing players at the European RMRs, or missing the event altogether, due to stricter guidelines being in place for visa processing for Russian citizens. The information has come to light in reports by Dust2.dk and cybersport.ru, with HLTV reaching out to Benched Heroes.
Issues trace back to an announcement from the European Commission on September 9, where new guidelines were presented for the processing of short-stay visa applications for Russian citizens looking to travel to countries within the European Union.
These new guidelines include allowing consulates, who process visa applications, to "deprioritise non-essential travel", extend the period for deciding on visa applications from 15 to 45 days, and request additional supporting documentation.
Both Dust2.dk and cybersport.ru reported that, as a result of the new guidelines, K23, 1WIN and Aurora had run into problems procuring visas they require to travel to Malta for their squads. Dust2.dk specifically reported that Aurora still need visas for their manager, coach, and one player.
Cybersport.ru reported that 1WIN only have visas in place for Igor "lollipop21k" Solodkov and Egor "flamie" Vasilyev, with Denis "deko" Zhukov commenting in a later report that his chances of obtaining a visa are "50/50".
Benched Heroes are also facing problems, with Owen "smooya" Butterfield tweeting on September 22 to that affect whilst also adding that he is "unsure what the final lineup will be". In a comment to HLTV smooya confirmed that Eugene "Aunkere" Karyat was in danger of missing out, with the young Russian also tweeting about the situation.
According to the ESL rulebook, teams are only able to sub in players that were submitted as part of their roster by the September 8 deadline, suggesting that teams missing more than one player will be forced to withdraw. The rules do state that the submitted coach can act as a substitute, but only where no substitute player is registered.
As for the rules surrounding replacement teams, they state that the next team in line from the final open qualifier will be invited to the RMR as a replacement, meaning Illuminar's 7th place finish in the fourth open qualifier would see them invited as the first port of call. Forward were the team to finish 8th in the last open qualifier, but beyond that the next teams all finished in joint 9-16th place, meaning it is unclear how replacement invites would be handled if more than two teams drop out.
Reseeding will occur if replacement teams are invited, up to one week before the tournament. If teams withdraw less than one week before, the team that replaces them will adopt their seeding.
When approached by Dust2.dk regarding the current situation ESL stated that they were aware of the stricter visa application process, but provided no further comment.
The new visa guidelines also advised "particular scrutiny" be given to Russian applications, and that member states should "refrain from issuing multiple-entry visas with long validity". The final point suggests that these visa issues will likely continue in the near future for Russian teams and players.