With gamer Aaron “J0k3r” Gomez’ releasing his cutting statement about Team Flash’s treatment towards him, Stel Stylianou spoke to Hibidi (NFG eSports) and RippedJean (Mineski eSports) about their reactions to the news, and their own experiences with the company.
‘’After winning June’s international qualifier, I became the Malaysian Number 1 and was asked to represent Malaysia in the EA Champions Cup. Team Flash became interested and Terrence (Owner of Flash eSports) offered to provide equipment, support and a bigger platform to help me improve as a player. He even offered to give me a salary and expenses, noting that I would also receive lots of media attention.
To be honest, I’d never played for an eSports team before so it was a very attractive proposition. I’d always dreamed of becoming a professional player, I was very innocent. Three months after joining the team, I still hadn’t received a team jersey, yet the other Team Flash members had theirs; it was unreasonable.
Several tournaments took place in Malaysia during this period, but they never once gave me any travel expenses. I had to arrange my own transport or find another way to attend. The company never reimbursed me.
In September, Newbee (a Chinese eSports team) asked me to join them. It’s every pro FIFA player’s dream to play in the pro league in China so I spoke to Terrence and asked his permission. I attempted to negotiate with him, suggesting that I’d only use Newbee’s name in China, but remain a Flash player when competing in the rest of Asia. Unfortunately, he rejected it and told me that the only way the move would occur was if: 1) Newbee promoted Flash and 2) I bought out my contract. For me, this was unreasonable because Team Flash hadn’t stuck to their side of the deal.’’ Aaron “J0k3r” Gomez’
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HIBIDI: When I heard this, I knew Newbee wouldn’t promote a team like Flash. Newbee have been competing at the highest level for years, whereas Flash seems to use its players as bargaining chips. I was in Team Flash, but when I clued up and wanted out, Terrence asked me to pay a release fee. I declined, but it concerns me how many players are experiencing this.
THE CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT WITH FLASH
RIPPEDJEAN: The contract stated we would be paid a salary after we qualified for the EACC twice. This tournament only occurs twice a year so it was a very difficult target to achieve. It was also stated that if I wanted to leave the team then there would be a buy out fee. Another player has represented a Chinese team whilst contracted to Team Flash so I’m not sure why this was allowed.
HIBIDI: Nobody outside Singapore knows Team Flash, whereas Newbee is big so when RippedJean received Newbee’s offer it made sense for him to use the platform to become more widely known in Asia.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TEAM JERSEY & OFFICIAL PHOTOSHOOT
HIBIDI: A lot of players are young and have no experience in marketing themselves to secure sponsorship and endorsement deals. When they join professional organisations, they assume that the PR and marketing side will be taken care of for them, something Aaron was very vocal about in his statement.
Perhaps these teams feel young players don’t require such publicity but, to me, this is wrong. The fact is, because these players are so young, they don’t know how to approach brands for potential sponsorship deals and PR teams to raise their profiles.
ESPORTS TEAMS SHOULD PROVIDE PLAYERS WITH EQUIPMENT
HIBIDI: When Darren (RippedJean) and Aaron signed to Team Flash, they were verbally promised adequate equipment to develop their skillset – which wasn’t followed up. This deal wasn’t included in their contract, however. I was on the team for a year and a half, but like them I left because I was so upset with the continued broken promises.
RIPPREDJEAN: Terrence promised there’d be a lot of sponsorships coming in to the company but didn’t name any. I didn’t see or hear of any sponsors, nor was I sponsored.
HIBIDI: Unfortunately, young players don’t have the clout to make contractual demands, which is why Esports teams offer unfair deals because they know players won’t go elsewhere.
ON PRO PLAYERS BEING ASKED TO FORM THEIR OWN TEAM
HIBIDI: Pro teams are supposed to understand the market so it shouldn’t be down to the players to find teammates. In FIFA Online 3, we formed teams of 3. The eSports company should also look after players’ travel expenses and other admin/logistic matters to ensure that they can compete nationally and internationally at the highest level.
Many of these players are youngsters who are studying at university. Not only do they need to make time for this, but also to practice, so scouting is the team’s responsibility. Small teams like Flash should have some financial muscle and provide players with the equipment to better themselves and attract other players to the team.
CONTRACTUAL DEMANDS & PRIZE MONEY
HIBIDI: Some teams are financially able to offer players’ wages, bonuses, equipment, etc., so in terms of contractual demands, players don't really have any say. The owners are in the driving seat in that respect. Prize money differs from contract to contract. There are certain deals where there are prize cuts between players and teams, and there are definitely prize cut clauses.
‘Contrary to what people hear, players can refuse to travel or play if their travel needs aren’t met.’
ON TRAVEL EXPENSES
RIPPEDJEAN: Every player wants to play in tournaments as it increases their exposure, but it’s sad when teams won’t pay expenses. It’s not just about the money. It’s about competing and getting known.
HIBIDI: If players aren’t competing, what good are they for the ecosystem? If my team refused to pay travel expenses, I’d still compete but it’s shocking that travel expenses weren’t given because: 1) Darren wasn’t being paid a wage at all and 2) If travel expenses aren’t paid, then what are you saying to your players about their worth to the team?
‘So how can we protect players? Should tournament organisers take some responsibility too? E.g. deploy fit and proper tests for every competing team.’
HIBIDI: It’s a new industry. Standard growing pains are to be expected and, currently, there aren’t any regulatory bodies who can step in to oversee everything. Young players bear the brunt of these problems. From an owner’s point of view, they want to cut costs. Are they cutting costs ethically? That’s another question.
See the image below or CLICK HERE to read Aaron 'J0k3r' Gomez' full statement