The Los Angeles Valiant of the Overwatch League have fired the entire roster and most of the coaching staff ahead of the 2021 season, a few weeks before transfer of the team to China, where he would play next season in the League.
Ari Segal, CEO of Immortals Gaming Club, the company that owns the Valiant, said in an interview that both the franchise and the league concluded that “It will be impossible to obtain visas for these players to get them to China ”. “This isn’t really a choice,” Segal said of the decision to release the Valiant roster. “Obviously, it’s a difficult situation. Obviously, salaries and people’s daily bread are involved“. Several players will be transferred to other Overwatch League teams, but Segal declined to say where. Michael “Packing 10” Szklanny, the team’s general manager and coach, will remain with the Immortals Gaming Club but in another role.
Segal said the franchise will retain the Los Angeles Valiant name and the Immortals Gaming Club will continue to own the franchise. Earlier this month, after Valiant announced the team’s move to China, the franchise denied rumors on Twitter that it was sold to another organization. The Valiants are now in one partnership with an organization based in China, but full details of this agreement have not yet been disclosed. The Valiant yes join New York Excelsior and Philadelphia Fusion, two other North American franchises that will move to South Korea this year to compete in the Overwatch League.
2021 Roster Update: pic.twitter.com/wLegf51MAI
– Los Angeles Valiant (@LAValiant) January 29, 2021
Before parting with his entire team, the franchise investigated whether visas could be obtained for the North American roster but without success. The decision to move the Valiants came down to improved pandemic time planning capabilities that China or South Korea offerSegal said. There is a greater likelihood that live Overwatch League competitions will be possible again in both countries in this season. The Shanghai Dragons have already hosted a series of live show matches in December. “In a challenging operating environment, you really need to take stock what’s the difference on the pitch“, Segal said. “There is a passionate fan base, hungry for Overwatch and – in many cases – under-served in Asia“.
Last season was the first time that Overwatch League teams competed live in Asia in prime time and the league reported record viewers in China for broadcasts. Despite all the challenges brought by the pandemic, the championship finals were held in South Korea. Segal said the team’s move is a temporary decision caused by the pandemic, but Segal also said that, historically, sports franchises have moved and renamed very often in case of need.
“We didn’t take this decision lightly,” Segal said, adding: “We don’t know what the future holds“. A few days after the initial news of the move to China, Josh “Sideshow” Wilkinson and other Overwatch League commentators discussed rumors surrounding the Valiant on “Plat Chat,” a podcast dedicated to the Overwatch League. At the time, Wilkinson said that any decision by Immortals Gaming Club to eliminate Valiant’s entire roster so late in the season would have been “unethical behavior“. “I think it’s just a bad deal,” Wilkinson later said. “People will no longer want to be fans of the Valiant, certainly not after management has just stolen their favorite players ”.