“One of the cornerstones of building equity is opportunity.”

ESL FACEIT Group (EFG)'s ESL Impact League Season 5 for Counter-Strike 2 (CS2) is well underway. This is a CS2 circuit that champions women in the CS2 esports scene. We sat down with ESL Impact leader Charlie Sirc for an exclusive interview about this and more!

ESL Impact League Season 5 schedule (Image via ESL Gaming)
ESL Impact League Season 5 schedule (Image via ESL Gaming)

Charlie Sirc talks ESL Impact League

Since the ESL Impact League's debut, it has become one of the world's leading women’s esports ecosystems. The inaugural season had over 1 million hours watched and over 110,000 peak viewers. It also allowed players to compete on the world stage.

ESL Impact League Season 1 viewership statistics (Image via Esports Charts)
ESL Impact League Season 1 viewership statistics (Image via Esports Charts)

"Since then, we’ve continued to foster these safe spaces for women, and expanded on them with year-round programming and monthly cash cups as we create more opportunities for women competitors and fans," Sirc said.

ESL Impact at DreamHack Dallas 2023 (Image via ESL Gaming and Adela Sznajder)
ESL Impact at DreamHack Dallas 2023 (Image via ESL Gaming and Adela Sznajder)

ESL Impact League Season 5, for example, involves women CS2 teams, broadcast talent, and support staff. "One of the cornerstones of building equity is opportunity," Sirc explained. And the ESL Impact League wants women to see that there are careers in esports for them, and that starts by creating role models in the space.

ESL Impact League Season 5 graphic (Image via ESL Gaming)
ESL Impact League Season 5 graphic (Image via ESL Gaming)

"Change is fostered through positive examples, and we want women to feel empowered not just to pursue competitive opportunities, but also larger roles across the industry so they can then inspire positive change wherever they are."

As for Sirc's own ESL Impact League Season 5 predictions, she noted how she's seeing dynasties form and new squads rise. "Team Pigeons, formerly Nigma Galaxy, is looking to keep its LAN win streak alive, while teams like FlyQuest Red and NAVI Javelins are looking to claim the title from them. It’s a really exciting time to be a fan, and I’m looking forward to seeing who makes it to Dallas in May." 

Women in CS2 esports and IEM solidarity

Sirc recalled how her work in esports all began as well. She shared how she started gaming at around age five and even competed in a women's CS:GO tournament at DreamHack in the mid-2000’s. At the time, her mother was working on a project aimed to get more women interested in video games. Sirc helped with game meet ups for women as well as building activations at DreamHack events.

Besiktas versus CLG Red during DreamHack Showdown Valencia 2019 (Image via ESL Gaming)
Besiktas versus CLG Red during DreamHack Showdown Valencia 2019 (Image via ESL Gaming)

"While representation for women online, in-game, and across competitions has come a long way – there’s still more work to do," Sirc continued. "Since joining ESL, I’ve been committed to creating more opportunities for women. In fact, my very first project was managing DreamHack Showdown in 2019, a first-of-its-kind women’s CS:GO tournament. The event laid the groundwork for what would later become our larger, global circuit, ESL Impact."

One of Sirc's favorite memories from the ESL Impact League is the Season 1 Finals in Dallas and the massive support her team saw from the CS2 community. It was the first LAN finals and she didn't know what to expect. However, both streamers and fans got involved and watched the broadcast.

"And on site, we saw the players from IEM — men's Counter-Strike — come over to our stage to watch the ESL Impact matches and cheer for the women’s teams," Sirc recalled. "On the second day, we added more chairs multiple times until we could not add any more due to security restrictions. All chairs were filled and we still had a standing crowd. To us, it cemented that there is a real appetite for women's esports and all the work we had put into building ESL Impact felt even more important."

Making an impact through #GGFORALL and beyond

ESL Impact League Season 5 goes beyond North America since it allows teams from South America, Europe, and Asia to compete. To Sirc, inclusivity in gaming is essential across regions, game genres, and platforms. Since the ESL Impact League's #GGFORALL initiative, it fosters diversity and battles toxicity over the entire CS2 landscape.

In addition to CS:GO and now CS2, Sirc told esports.gg how she's proud to have set an example how the ESL Impact League has inspired other initiatives such as the first-ever women's circuit for Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) through the Snapdragon Pro Series (SPS).

The #GGFORALL program led to the ESL Impact League (Image via ESL Gaming)
The #GGFORALL program led to the ESL Impact League (Image via ESL Gaming)

"ESL Impact is just one of the many ways we’re looking to create a more welcoming and supportive gaming community," Sirc said "Through our greater #GGFORALL initiative, we have introduced programs that will help to not only continue to shape an even more inclusive culture at ESL FACEIT Group, but esports and gaming as a whole."

Fans and supporters can catch all of the ESL Impact League Season 5 action on Twitch and YouTube.

That's all for now. Stick around on esports.gg for more interviews, news, and updates!

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