Once again, NEOM has seen another one of its Esports sponsorships go up in smoke. After the termination of it's partnership with the LEC in League of Legends, the CS:GO tournament organiser BLAST have walked away from their agreement, according to a Danish news website. The financial ramifications of this decision are not yet known, but it's clear that's BLAST's position became untenable following heavy criticism from the community.
By announcing their partnership with NEOM, BLAST were able to secure an unprecedented deal which would have allowed them to pursue new projects. While money has no stench, as the old proverb goes, this partnership was not well received by a large portion of the CS:GO community. NEOM is be no means your regular sponsor: it is a futuristic megacity with close ties to the government of Saudi Arabia, which has been widely criticised for it's environmental record.
The role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the project has also been a major talking point, due to his proximity to the Saudi royal family. The ruling family of Saudi Arabia have been criticised by international observers for their lack of respect for Human Rights and their discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. For some, associating with NEOM is to brush their much-criticised indiscretions under the carpet. The Saudi regime has also come under fire for its forced relocation of the Huwaitat people to clear the site for the construction of its megacity.
Numerous high profile figures in the CS:GO scene — mostly comnmentators, hosts,, and journalists — who have worked with BLAST decided to take a stand against the partnership. Following cancellation of this sponsorship, which was terminated by mutual consent, it appears their efforts have paid off. Teams, however, have not been as prominent on the matter, with Astralis being the only team to publicly come out and visibly criticise the partnership.
As more tournament organisers are drawn towards the vast riches on offer through sponsorships, the Saudi NEOM megacity project is rapidly becoming deeply ingrained in the esports landscape. Now it's BLAST's turn in the spotlight, as their controversial partnership with Neom faces heavy criticism