The North project is one of the more interesting in recent CS:GO history. For those who don’t know, the Danish team was originally formed and funded using VC from a number of European sources, with the majority of the funding provided by FC Copenhagen, one of the top teams in the Danish Superliga, and traditionally one of Denmark’s best football sides.
This created a lot of headlines and excitement about the prospect of two world-class teams in the country, and fans latched on the angle of ‘professional sports team invests into CSGO’, as they have with Complexity and Dallas Cowboys or PSG’s involvement in Dota. However, things have been a lot more difficult for North of late than the other juggernauts.
The first, and most important thing to state before we get into the meat and Akvavit of the topic is that FC Copenhagen are not a team like PSG or the Dallas Cowboys. The French champions have virtually unlimited funds provided by their Middle Eastern owners, and Complexity’s success has been funded by the richest sports team in America, which throws the ‘underdog’ story Jason Lake is pushing into a different light when you consider they have spent more money than any team in history just to become top 5 in the online era. But we digress…
The point is that in Denmark, the average salary in the top division of the football system is around £150k a year, or £2,868 a week. While this is good money, it’s not close to the obscene amounts the likes of Neymar or Demarcus Lawrence will take home, and quite a way below the reported £305k a year Astralis are said to be taking home at present, or the £14,500 average North players earn per month.
This means North have never been the same as Complexity, in terms of having the power to just flex and make a life-changing offer to a player that would otherwise never dream of moving their way, even if fans have viewed them as a rich team. Now, as the org seems to have reached a crossroads, it is time for the people in charge to make some tough decisions, starting with what they do now that they have no star players on the books.
Eighteen months ago, North were still not a great team, but they at least had a caveat. While the results were mixed, nobody could doubt the quality of valde, their star man, and anyone with a CS:GO brain knew that former Astralis man Kjaerbye was still a formidable operator, capable of gracing a top 5 team when playing at his best.
Today, valde is struggling to reproduce that same form for OG esports and Kjaerbye has just announced his departure from the team, having taken time off to deal with stress a few months ago, leaving North without a star, and to be honest up that creek without a paddle. DBLTP reported last week that the owners were considering the possibility of an international lineup to get back on track, so what exactly can North do to stop things from continuing to go south?
Given what we know about the finances, and with the existence of big-spending teams like Complexity, it’s not going to be a case of whipping out the checkbook and making everything alright. You simply cannot spend on a level high enough to convince players to move at present, and in these COVID times there is no way to convince investors its worth it either, so that is a dead end.
For this writer at least, it’s time for North to really build a team, rather than trying to become Astralis 2.0. Though valde is a top-level player today, he was signed from Heroic as nothing like the name he has become, and that should be the route North go down to get back to the top. For me, the North hierarchy should stop looking at existing players, and work with the sports division to improve their scouting, as Denmark produces CS talent like no other nation, and FC Copenhagen have the tools to potentially revolutionize the scouting landscape.
The Danish club are no Ajax, but a quick look at their history will show Copenhagen’s strength in developing and selling world class talent. Over recent years, they’ve sold talent to the Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and every other top division you’d care to name. As the top team in a tiny league, it’s vital generally to ensure you get value for any player you develop that surpasses the expectations of your club too, and they team has managed on most occasions to get fair return on the players they have been forced to sell.
It may be slightly expensive at present, but if the investors in North decide to push down that road and potentially add a little more cross-pollination to their two properties it could transform the fate of the org, and don’t forget they are far from poor in esports terms. FC Copenhagen might have to sell if they uncover the Danish Messi, but if North find the next dev1ce they have the cash to ensure he plays a good chunk of his career under their banner.
FaZe and others are doing a decent job of finding young players in FPL, and mousesports have done the same with players like ropz and frozen. If North can combine the existing expertise in scouting their sports department undoubtedly has with the CS knowledge the org possesses, we could see them back as a powerhouse that gives the stars of tomorrow a stage to shine on, but if they chose to try and buy their way out of jail in 2020, with the CoLs of the world circling, it’s going to be a long, maybe impossible journey back to the top.