Community uproar demands Riot to reverse controversial VCT Americas decision
Riot Games announced that the VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) North American partnership league would not feature a team promoted through their Ascension program for the upcoming season. This decision follows The Guard's failure to finalize the required agreement in due time.
The controversial decision has caused an uproar in the VALORANT community, with several community members requesting Riot Games to overturn their ruling on the matter.
The controversial decision explained
VALORANT Champions Tour (VCT) Ascension, a gateway to the apex of VALORANT esports, recently witnessed The Guard clinching victory.
Owned by Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, The Guard had earlier laid off a majority of its staff in February, leaving behind just enough personnel to oversee its franchises in the Call of Duty League, the Overwatch League, and their VALORANT team.
Despite their triumphant performance, the players reportedly learned about their exclusion via Twitter, without prior communication from Riot or their own organization.
According to Leo Faria, Global Head of VALORANT esports, Riot's stringent standards aim to maintain a high-quality sporting environment. All teams participating in the Challengers were allegedly well-informed of their commitments, with signatures for the Team Participation Agreement secured in escrow before the tournament's commencement.
While Riot initiated the onboarding process for the three victorious teams of the respective international leagues post-Ascension, The Guard failed to release their signature from escrow, despite several reminders over two months.
Faria elaborated on Riot's decision-making process: "We pondered three alternatives: allowing the players to join a new organization, advancing Ascension's runner-up, or not promoting any team."
The crux of the decision was to ensure that the VCT's integrity wasn't compromised, explained Faria. Although Riot is allegedly receptive to the idea of a free-agent team climbing up the ranks, the situation with The Guard differed since they were previously affiliated, according to the Global Esports Lead.
Elevating the runner-up, M80, would contradict Ascension's purpose, which focuses on meritocracy within the game, argued Faria.
Riot acknowledged the disappointment of The Guard's players, who committed to a full season only to be sidelined by circumstances beyond their grasp. Faria emphasized that while such decisions are challenging, they are necessary to protect the game's integrity and to prioritize its long-term vision.
The community in uproar
The decision has stirred a massive response from the esports community, majorly leaning in favour of The Guard players being awarded their rightful slot.
Former strategic coach of Fnatic, Martin "Anderzz" Schelasin voiced concerns about players now being potentially discouraged from affiliating with organizations for future Ascension seasons, given the potential for these organisations to default on their duties and leave the players in the same boat as the Guard players.
"In what universe is that acceptable?", Anderzz tweeted, expressing his concerns with the decision.
Streamer and esports organisation owner Ludwig Ahgren, whose team Moist Esports had also participated in Ascension, urged Riot to reconsider: "Seriously reconsider. Let the players keep the slot and allow someone to buy their contracts+franchise fees or let M80 go as runner-up. Make the last year of my life not a waste."
Michael "neT" Bernet, a VALORANT player for The Guard, expressed his anguish, emphasizing the dedication and passion that players pour into their careers, making a fervent plea to Riot to recognize that for them, it's "more than just a game."
In addition to prominent voices, fans have initiated a petition that has garnered nearly 4,000 signatures, urging Riot Games to permit The Guard players to affiliate with a new organization and still compete in the next VCT Americas season.