To pay or not to pay – Scandals in the esports world

Employment is a pretty straight-forward deal. The employee performs a task as part of their job, and their employer pays them for it. So far so easy – except that some esports organisations seem to struggle with the concept.

Since esports is somewhat of a new career branch, there is significantly less legislation in place to protect both players and organisations than there is in other career paths. Maybe that’s how some organisations get away with exploiting eager players. Not just exploitative contracts though, but just outright not paying their employees.

At the very least, that’s what Turkish esports organisation Beşiktaş Esports has just been accused of. Specifically, a League of Legends team that they operate, has leveraged accusations against the organisation. Apparently, they failed too pay players properly across multiple rosters. The esports team is part of a rather large Turkish football club.

Beşiktaş Esports Team not being paid

© Beşiktaş Arena Forum

According to Natalie ‘Stratospanda’ Kristiansen, there were issues from day one, with payments being delayed for weeks, and months went by without a single payment that wasn’t late. Affected according to her were players but also staff, and threats were levied, saying that if the issues were made public, payments would stop entirely. BSK allegedly also tried to slap their employees with non-disclosure-agreements to keep things from getting public.

Further allegations include the organisation not keeping promises like camps and media days and then failing to pay for it. So far, these allegations have not been properly investigated, but there are a LOT of voices coming forth with similar stories – how BSK responds remains to be seen.

Now, this isn’t the first scandal of this kind, and it’s not just LoL teams that are affected either. A former Ninjas in Pyjamas player – Robin ‘Fifflaren’ Johansson has made allegations against another player on his team. The accusations against fellow player Emil ‘HeatoN’ Christensen include him being a liar, cheater and crook, and accusations against another NiP members included even details like someone paying their girlfriend a salary twice that what actual players received.

Investigations into these issues are slow – there often isn’t clear jurisdiction, or even evidence of a crime, what with exploitative contracts still being binding, and muddled financial trails. One entity that investigates these matters is the WESA – the World Esports Organisation. They launched an investigation into the Ninjas in Pyjamas affair – the organisation has responded that they would support the investigation.

Fifflaren NIP


Whether similar measures will be taken for other incidents remains to be seen. Older incidents involve all sorts of high-profile names – Toronto esports, an Overwatch team that was dissolved somewhat recently, also failed to pay players once the team decided to leave the Overwatch pro tournament world. The whole affair got pretty ugly – accusations were made and even name-calling on Twitter wasn’t taboo.

Yet another such incident was one that involved H1Z1 players. After leaving the Pro League, their team – Epsilon Gaming and its CEO failed to pay its players roughly $16.000 dollars across several months, as per their contracts. The players repeatedly demanded their pay, and after months of no response were told that the reason they weren’t paid were so-called ‘childish’ invoices. Players who were paid often had their pay docked as well – money was withheld with explanations like flight or lawyer costs and similar excuses.

Once again, several players spoke out about these issues and while eventually, the CEO claimed that he had paid all outstanding balances.

Incidents like this happen a lot more than they should. With the sometimes-astronomical income levels that pro gamers are at, it’s perhaps not a surprise that organisations fail to live up to the expectations of their employees. Experts have even gone on to say that there is something of a ‘bubble’ and that it may soon burst, crashing at least a significant amount of the currently hyper-inflated and extremely lucrative esports market.

Whether these predictions are accurate remains to be seen – we do know that a significant number of individual instances of teams mistreating their players seem to have occurred or gone public recently. This could be indicative of an incoming crash, or it could simply be a process of elimination where crooked businesses are weeded out and players flock to genuine groups – that tends to be what happens in other business sectors as well, after all. Only time will tell – for now, we can simply hope that incidents like these will be cleared up as thoroughly as possible, and that all players who are indeed owed money will soon receive their dues.

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