Coronavirus concerns lead ESL to move Dota 2 events online

ESL One Birmingham was a hit in 2019, but the coronavirus outbreak put a hamper on the tournament's return to a major European market this May. Photo by Bart Oerbekke/Provided by ESL

ESL will move two Dota 2 events, ESL One Los Angeles and ESL One Birmingham, to an online format because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the tournament organizer announced on Wednesday.

ESL One Los Angeles will take place from March 28 to April 19, after its in-person competition scheduled for March 15-22 at the Shrine Auditorium was postponed. Birmingham was initially scheduled to take place at the Arena Birmingham in England on May 26-31 but will instead happen online on unspecified dates in May and June.

ESL One Los Angeles is a major tournament in the Dota Pro Circuit, which qualifies teams for The International 2020. That event, which has increased the record for largest prize pool in esports every year since 2014, is scheduled to take place in Stockholm on Aug. 18-23.

"After carefully reviewing all possibilities for ESL One Los Angeles and Birmingham 2020 powered by Intel with VALVE, we have come to the conclusion that both tournaments will not proceed as initially planned this year and will both be transformed into online tournaments," ESL said in a statement on its website. "The safety and well-being of players, fans, and staff is our utmost priority."

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Several other events in the Dota Pro Circuit have been canceled over the past few weeks as coronavirus has continued to spread around the world. The OGA Dota PIT Minor, scheduled for Spaladium Arena in Split, Croatia, for April 23-26, and the following EPICENTER Major, set for Moscow on May 2-10, were both canceled by Valve on March 15.

Pending changes, there are only three events left in the Dota Pro Circuit calendar for teams to earn The International qualification. Two of those -- a fifth qualifier and another minor -- have yet to be announced, albeit their dates, May 17-22 and June 9-13, were released by Valve in late 2019. The final Major in the calendar, the ONE Esports Singapore Major 2020, is still set to take place at the Shrine Singapore Indoor Stadium in Kallang, Singapore, on June 20-28.

As of Wednesday, there have been 438,749 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, named COVID-19, globally, according to the John Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering tracker. More than 80,000 of those cases are in China, with nearly 70,000 in Italy and more than 55,000 in the United States. On March 5, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency, and on March 19, both California and Los Angeles County issued "stay at home" orders, asking individuals to only leave their houses for essential items such as groceries. That order led to the online-only production of the League of Legends Championship Series and further delays to the start of online play for the Overwatch League.

Esports and sports leagues around the world have been affected by the global pandemic. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons several weeks ago, with the MLB halting spring training and other activities. Other leagues, like the LCS, League European Championship, China's League of Legends Pro League, League Champions Korea and Counter-Strike's ESL Pro League and Flashpoint, have all moved online to help prevent potential exposure to the virus.