IEM Cologne Special - Part 2

Time to share information on the IEM Cologne Covid Protocol

  • Everything we are doing around the IEM Cologne tournament is driven by Competition & Safety. We want to conduct a tournament in its original format ($1,000,000, 24 teams with a Play-In, a Group Stage and Playoffs - this is one of the two most significant tournaments in the ESL calendar) and we want everyone involved to return home in good health. This dictates how everything was done.
  • We have 120 players here from 20 countries as well as coaches and managers for teams. The possibility that one of nearly 200 persons on site may have been exposed to Covid-19 is real and we need to ensure the safety of anyone on site, so the experience at IEM Cologne will be more restricted than players have grown accustomed to.
  • At the same time, we also understand that while some of the 120 players may be comfortable inside our tournament environment, others may be less so. We will be as respectful of player needs and wishes as possible. As we try to make sure the environment is protected, hopefully the respect will go both ways.
  • In order to ensure the maximum degree of comfort for players, we have shared the player version of the protocol with the teams and the CSPPA and their feedback helped shape the IEM Cologne Covid Protocol.
  • The entire document on this topic is nearly 50-pages long (we will not be sharing it publicly). We see a possibility to reassess and potentially adjust parts of it after the first week of the event, but it is too early to make any commitments on that front.
  • The C in “Competition & Safety”
    • This is going to be a LAN event. If a team fails to show up for any reason, they will not be allowed to compete online. Asking teams in Cologne to alternate between a crisp LAN feeling and an online experience while another team plays 100% of their matches online affects the competitive integrity of the tournament.
    • Our staff have gone above and beyond to ensure that players arriving from outside the European Union will not be turned around at the border, including getting in touch with all the relevant authorities and providing teams with any documentation that may be helpful. That being said, a degree of pandemic-related uncertainty relative to the travel of non EU visitors (e.g. from Russia) does exist.
    • If teams pre-qualified to the group stage fail to get to the tournament, we will be replacing them with teams from the Play-In (rules are outlined here).
  • The S in “Competition & Safety”?
    • The tournament will take place inside a five star hotel in Cologne. Going outside the areas designated for the tournament is only allowed after a person’s involvement in the tournament is concluded (and there will be no coming back). This applies to both players and ESL staff. Eliminated teams are welcome to depart ahead of schedule.
    • Our efforts are aimed at decreasing any potential contact for players and staff with people uninvolved in the tournament. For this reason meals will be provided directly to everyone’s rooms or designated areas and the entire tournament will have a zoning system with designated areas to compete, smoke and go outside.
    • Upon arrival, players (and staff) will undergo Covid tests and will be put in a three-day quarantine. Player rooms are set up with gaming equipment and they can be used for competition if a player is put in quarantine for any reason during the tournament.
    • At the end of a quarantine period, everyone undergoes another test to exit the quarantine (further testing will be done every four days, or more often if considered necessary).
    • A negative test result and agreeing to the Covid Protocol opens access to your team’s practice room, smoking areas, the hotel gym and the pool (the latter are restricted in capacity by the hotel, but bookable), as well as the recreation and tournament areas.
    • Tournament participants and ESL staff will not go shopping, sightseeing or visit bars and restaurants.  Teams will be able to spend time outside nearby the hotel under controlled circumstances to maintain a reasonably safe tournament environment.  Initially the time communicated to teams is an hour which may be revisited as everything settles in.
    • Players will be accompanied by ESL staff (masked and distanced) nearly every time they are in shared spaces. Players are not allowed to go into close contact with anyone other than their teammates.
    • The use of shared spaces (smoking areas, gym, pool, meeting rooms, the recreational space outdoors) needs to be done in agreement with ESL staff to ensure that proper distancing is observed. People in breach of the protocols they agreed to could face fines or disqualification.
    • Players are asked to wear masks any time they are in shared spaces except for when they are in front of their PCs, competing. Tournament staff will wear masks at all times.
    • Should a player test positive for Covid, he and his team will be put in quarantine as well as people this person was in close contact with.

This experience will be new for both ESL and the players. The ESL team are doing everything they can to ensure that the tournament broadcast has sufficient video and photo support (so-called media days are part of the tournament production), but also to make player experience as good as it can be within the restrictions of the Protocol.

At the end of the day, it is the collective duty of everyone involved in the tournament to behave responsibly and maintain a professional attitude. This is the first major CSGO tournament on LAN since the start of the pandemic and we would want it to be remembered first and foremost for excellent matches and everyone going home in good health.