Last week, a piece of news hit the Rocket League community with such force that it shook everyone to their cores. It was discovered that Ryan Labriola, the owner of Fibeon, has not been paying his team what is owed under contract.
The Fibeon Allegations
From information released publicly, Ryan caught wind that his Rocket League players were in talks with team Evil Geniuses, who wanted to buy out Fibeon without violating terms. Despite having a contract that included provisions of player salaries, it is assumed Ryan allegedly denied players payment based on his discovery. At the time of writing, these claims are only verified through online sources.
The allegation was discovered through this tweet by Elle “LadyHardcore” Thibeau, though it appears shenanigans were occurring before that tweet went out. Here is one from November 7th, which covered the situation. Miss Thibeau was blocked by both Ryan and Fibeon Twitter accounts. She then posted this tweet.
After the massive blowback, Rocket League personalities put forward tweets. After a day of considering his options, Ryan released a statement on his website addressing the public’s concerns.
A New Volatile Trend In Esports?
This wouldn’t be the first time that esports team owners have taken advantage of their players.
In September, Denial Esports had similar allegations because they denied their H1Z1 and Counter-Strike teams compensation. CEO of Denial Esports stated that they had not breached their contract and placed blame on the banks.
We will be addressing the situation with our H1Z1 team, allow us time to put everything together to provide full transparency.— Denial Esports (@DenialEsports) September 2, 2017
Other fallouts include a Starcraft II debacle back in 2014. The owner of Quantic Gaming, Simon Boudreault, mysteriously vanished after their League of Legends team did not win a major tournament. With Quantic Gaming already bleeding money, and with the sweeping loss for the League team, Simon disappeared, leaving many in the organization unpaid.
Not long after this event, a special tournament was put together called “Help Support HyuN”. Fans wanted to compensate HyuN for his lost wages totaling over $20,000.
The Quantic Gaming situation was dire long before HyuN’s instance came to light. The team had other allegations levied against them. Dot Esports put together one such article on the topic. Up to that point, HyuN had consistently placed in the top four in consecutive Star Craft II Premier tournaments. He then went on to win first place duringthe first season of the American World Championship Series.
Player Unions and Lawyers
There have been more discussions in the community around player unions and protections. In fact, it’s becoming more and more necessary as the industry exponentially grows. Having people and corporations step up to form such an initiative, while understanding how to properly protect players, is quite the feat. A player union would require legal backing, which in turn would require financial backing. Not only would having lawyers be beneficial for the esports industry, but necessary.
On Reddit, u/pigrandom talked about pursuing legal action from HyuN’s perspective and made some realistic points:
[…] it would cost Hyun large sums of money and huge time investment for quite possibly zero return. You have to realise that even with a contract on paper and skype/email logs, Hyun would have to spend considerable time and money collating evidence and meeting with lawyers. On top of that they are working from the other side of the world so fees and the logistics of any case would be exacerbated, and along with it the cost of the suit.
He then goes on to say:
This is why you need players, teams and organisations to pool resources to protect the rights of players. This is what player unions and such are for.
While the esports community has expanded over the years, there are still issues to be addressed, such as who will fund a player’s union. At this time. perhaps big organizations should be utilized to get the ball rolling.
How Can Esports Be Protected?
The community needs to band together to help protect players, and if that takes a players union, then there should be a larger push to facilitate that solution. If nothing is done, allegations and bad deals like the ones discussed above will continue to happen. The protection of players is even more crucial when considering how many professional gamers are minors in the eyes of the law.
- Get a written contract. Without one, it’s harder to prove in court when terms are violated. Verbal contracts can be considered legitimate, but they are very difficult to prove.
- Get a legal professional to look over the contract before signage. Paralegals can review contracts for a lower cost, though they are not lawyers and are limited in what they can provide.
- Research the team and the people who run it before considering any offers; communication is key.
- Ask questions. A company might not be allowed to tell their players everything, but the more people hide, the higher chance that something is suspect.
It's really not hard. Don't make promises you can't keep. Pay your f***ing players. And if you can't, go away. The people involved in Secrecy/Resonant, Denial, and now Fibeon, roll in a fire. The rest of you players: GET. A. LAWYER. Grow up, be responsible, protect yourself.— Sean Stackhouse (@StaxRL) November 8, 2017
The gaming community should not have to band together to cover players lost wages, no matter the circumstance.
For more information about the Fibeon situation, check out The Talk Back on Thursday, November 16 at 8pm EST where it will be discussed at length.
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