OWL teams forced to make player decisions amidst league uncertainty

OWL teams forced to make player decisions amidst league uncertainty
Image via Toronto Defiant

Written by 

Sascha Heinisch

Published 

9th Oct 2023 20:00

A majority of Overwatch League players are expected to have their contracts expire by next week, leaving them teamless amidst an uncertain future for Overwatch esports, sources have shared with GGRecon.

As of Sunday, October 8, the Overwatch League options window has closed and with that, franchises within the system had to make a decision on which, if any, of their players with contract extension options they wanted to exercise for a theoretical future season.

According to multiple sources, these choices had to be made without a substantial update on a new operating agreement the League is supposed to present to the franchises.

With October 15 set as the end-of-season date, a majority of OWL player contracts are expected to expire, while the franchise-owning entities await updates on the future of Overwatch esports.

Extension options and tough choices

While notable exceptions exist, player contracts are usually signed with a unilateral extension option clause for the team, allowing franchises to extend the duration of the player contract for another season after the initial signing year.

Over the seasons, guidelines evolved to be more team-favoured, allowing organisations to terminate player contracts at any point by paying a negotiable termination fee of at least 30 days of pay.

The Overwatch League and its franchises are awaiting a vote deciding on the fate of the future of the franchise system, with a super majority needed to continue OWL under an updated operating agreement.

Therefore a team that decides to extend the option, may find themselves on the hook for the payment of the player until the fateful vote as well as the aforementioned termination fee. Moreover, the optioned contract would likely only be applicable in the case the Overwatch League was set to continue under the current franchise system and would have to be renegotiated if Overwatch esports was to transition into another competitive format.

It is important to note that many players were already on their option year for season 6, meaning these contracts were set to expire and require a re-signing to continue the relationship. In past seasons, some players entered negotiations for a contract extension prior to the end-of-season date. However, GGRecon is not aware of any such instance having taken place.

Silver linings

According to sources with knowledge of the matter, many Overwatch League franchise-owning entities have signalled interest in the future of Overwatch esports under the right conditions. Some players GGRecon has talked to have been told by their teams that they may be reapproached if the organisation was to opt into the next iteration of Overwatch esports.

On its official Twitter account, the Overwatch League had communicated a focus on a “revitalised esports program.” In a prior report, GGRecon shared that third-party tournament organisers ESL FACEIT Group and WDG Esports had been in talks with the League to assist in Overwatch esports’ future.

Earlier today, the Shanghai Dragons released its entire roster. The Vegas Eternal had done so last week. More announcements are expected throughout this week.

GGRecon reached out to the Overwatch League for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Sascha "Yiska" Heinisch is a Senior Esports Journalist at GGRecon. He's been creating content in esports for over 10 years, starting with Warcraft 3.

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