ESL/Dreamhack and the 24-hour coaching controversy

By Matt DixonMay 12, 2021
Over the past 24 hours, we have witnessed a brief uproar in the Dota Pro Scene around the role of coaching during official games. After players discovered that new Alliance coach, Peter “ppd” Dager, was present with the team during matches, it was revealed ESL and Dreamhack (organizers of the CIS and EU regions, respectively) had changed a longstanding rule at the start of the 2021 DPC's second season. They decided to allow coaches to be present during games, able to give real-time advice to their players.
After some fiery Twitter exchanges between pro players, CEOs, and fans, the rule was reverted and coaches are now no longer allowed to be present past the drafting phase. Here’s a rundown of the whole situation:
An eagle-eyed Redditor noticed that, during a clip of a vlog posted by Alliance, coach ppd was speaking with the team live, offering information and watching the map for his team. Alliance were quickly painted as the villains in this case, with many believing the team to be taking advantage of the online league system to receive help from their coach, giving them an unfair advantage against competitors whose coaches were leaving the team after the draft. Fellow pro players quickly began weighing in on the topic, with some furious accusations that Alliance were cheaters.
Shortly after this, various insider sources confirmed that both ESL and Dreamhack had changed the rules around coaching at the start of Season 2, specifically stating that coaches were free to remain with the team and communicate with them during games. This change was communicated to teams via email, yet many teams were seemingly unaware.
At this point, it became clear that Alliance were, in fact, acting within the rules given by the event organizers and had not cheated in any way. Even so, pros and the community alike were very unhappy with the rule change, feeling the presence of a coach detracts from the need for macro-level skills in players, and minimizes the skills of a captain to make important decisions in the moment.
In a surprisingly quick turnaround, both ESL and Dreamleague retracted the rule; coaches are now only allowed to be present for the draft once again.
With Alliance in the clear, attention has moved to ESL, Dreamleague, and most importantly, Valve. It seems highly unusual that a major rule change was communicated briefly through an email, but why do different regions have separate rules at all? Other regions have not allowed coaches to be present with their team past the draft, so why would EU and CIS be allowed this privilege? When we reach the Major, will coaches be allowed to remain present during games? At least one group of regions would have been affected negatively by this, based on the rules of the regional league they had played.
Overall, the issue is that Valve has handed off too much responsibility to individual event organizers to dictate the rules of the leagues. A single, consistent rulebook for all regions is essential for a fair scene.
With the rules now consistent between scenes, we can get back to what matters: top-tier Dota. The remaining weeks of the DPC are still playing out with many spots at the Major still to play for.
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