A top professional in FIFA’s esports competition has been suspended for encouraging collusion. They’ll miss the remainder of qualifying for the FIFA Ultimate Team Champions’ Cup. The suspension follows an investigation and a Eurogamer report on big-name pros working together behind the scenes.
FIFA 20 includes a global ranking system, which groups players of similar skill levels into several tiers. Each weekend during the season, EA Sports runs the Ultimate Team Weekend League, which includes rewards (usually rare and highly-rated players and in-game items) for everyone who performs at a high level — including the professionals in the highest tier. Eurogamer’s investigation alleges that, by coordinating over a so-called “dodging Discord,” the best players were able to dominate weaker competition and scoop up the rewards.
The Discord channel, according to Eurogamer, came to light in late October in a YouTube video by Nick Bartels, a streamer and top FIFA player with a large following. Members of the dodging Discord used it to avoid playing each other in the Weekend League, and to cherry pick who they would play against. Bartels alleged that colluding players were “stream sniping” — that is, watching streams from around the world to see when certain competitors were active, and matchmaking in those times in hopes of drawing them out.
EA Sports acknowledged the collusion in handing the two-round suspension to Christopher Holly, who plays as NYC_Chris in the FIFA 20 Global Series. “Suspended in response to encouraging experienced players to avoid match-making at the same time as the player to gain a competitive advantage,” is how the company put it. Holly has also competed for MLS’s New York City FC in the FIFA eWorld Cup series.
On Twitter, Holly apologized to the club, Electronic Arts and the game’s fans. “I’ve made a mistake that I will learn from and I’ll do my best to earn your trust back,” he wrote.
I want to say I’m sorry and apologize to NYCFC, EA and to the fans. I’ve made a mistake that I will learn from and I’ll do my best to earn your trust back. https://t.co/gZiEk6h8Z8
— Christopher Holly (@didychrislito) November 1, 2019
Another top player was permanently banned, although not for collusion. Kurt Fenech, who plays and streams as Kurt0411, was perma-banned for publishing videos that EA said were harassing and abusive to Electronic Arts employees. That followed multiple other warnings and sanctions for abusive misconduct.
Now, Eurogamer reports that social media accounts of several FIFA community staff were hacked to deliver messages in support of Kurt0411. In response, those accounts were either suspended or deleted. Eurogamer has much more about the specifics of the harassment, with specific quotes attributed to Kurt0411 going well beyond toxic behavior.