News 3 February 2016

StarCraft 2014 World Champion arrested after match-fixing ban

The 2014 StarCraft world champion, Lee ‘Life’ Seung-Hyun (pictured), has been arrested by Korean police and has reportedly been banned by the Korean eSports Association (KeSPA) for match-fixing. The 19-year old was taken into custody for questioning on 31 January, according to local reports. eSports publication MCV reports that Life’s arrest was in connection to bans issued by KeSPA to StarCraft players last year for match-fixing. It is understood from reports in Thailand that Life has also been banned by KeSPA, and that the below match is one of those being investigated.

Last year, 12 people were arrested in connection to match-fixing in StarCraft, a military science fiction game. These included players YoDa, BBoongBBoong and Gerrard, former coach of StarCraft II team Prime. It is understood that the backers made US$37,000 from fixing StarCraft games, which are often televised on services such as SpoTV. The players initially made money from fixing games, later being blackmailed into continuing. KeSPA has yet to formulate specific rules on match-fixing, but works with the Korean Cyber Bureau, established in 2014. In 2014, it was reported that a League of Legends player had fixed a number of eSports matches before attempting suicide.

The stakes are high. As reported by the Sports Integrity Initiative, Asia made up US$374 million of the global £748.8 million revenue generated by eSports in 2015. Total prize pay-outs for eSports competitions in 2015 topped $11 million, which was almost double the 2014 prize pool. However player careers are short, leading to a temptation to maximise earnings. Most players retire in their mid-20s, due to burnout and the deterioration of the fine motor skills required to stay competitive.

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