It's been a rollercoaster week for Diabolus Esports, who were criticised by former CSGO players about their gaming house just days after the UK org secured new investment.
CSGO player Sam "Astroo" Gresham published a Twitlonger yesterday evening bemoaning the state of Diabolus' Manchester gaming house, which him and some of his teammates stayed in for three weeks.
They had several complaints, including poor levels of cleanliness in the house, PC issues, an alleged lack of food and funding for food and travel, management being disrespectful, as well as concerns around his own health.
"We were greeted with scenes of mouldy food scattered around the floor, as well as general dirt and uncleanliness," Astroo said.
"Not all of our time with the organisation was negative, however, I feel that the way we were treated – especially in times of need – was totally unacceptable."
Sam "Astroo" Gresham
He added there was a lack of bed linen for the players (a claim that Diabolus deems false), a horrible smell in the house, pubes on the floor and 'potentially' bed bugs in the dirty bed sheets, which he believes may have given him a rash on his chest.
Diabolus Esports boss Ash Boycott said he inspected the beds and found no traces of bed bugs or other insects. He advised Astroo to sleep in another room, dial 111 and seek medical advice at the time, and said it was relayed to him that the operators believed it was an allergic reaction. Diabolus emphasised that they put the players' health first.
Astroo also stated there was no kettle, saucepan, tea towel or oven gloves, and while these were soon sent over by Diabolus and paid personally out of Ash's pocket, it begs the question: how were the League of Legends team treating the house and living in it before them?
"Why should we as an organisation, after giving them the platform and tools, offer anything further when they decide to pack up and go home and disrespect the staff and organisation?"
Ash Boycott, Diabolus Esports
Diabolus also worked to get some new bed linen sent over, but Astroo says these didn't arrive until three weeks later. However, Diabolus management has also disputed this claim, saying they were delivered to the house as soon as possible but no one was there to collect them, so they had to arrange a redelivery. After the team left, Diabolus posted some images online stating that only one package of bedding had been opened by the team.
Diabolus Esports boss Ash Boycott responded to all the complaints in his own Twitlonger, disputing many of the claims and saying that the players were given a budget of 'up to £90+ per week', but Astroo contended this in another Twitlonger post, saying it was £60.
Management also tried to encourage the team to eat healthily, but ultimately left that decision down to the players.
I hope no one ever experience what we/i did. https://t.co/pzLGKJvHHD
— Hector Etlar Jensen (@HECTOzCS) October 13, 2018
Furthermore, Astroo claims the PCs had different specs to one another and were 'nowhere near' optimal enough for playing CSGO or streaming. This claim was disputed by Diabolus who said the PCs were used by the League players no problem. The org did try to improve them by talking to their supplier but at that point it seemed too late.
All of this created a situation that lowered morale and general wellbeing.
Then team losses and roster changes further exacerbated the problem. Ardis "Ardiis" Svarenieks returned home due to personal issues, Fodor "fleav" Levente received an offer from another team, Travoon "L1NK" Mendoza got homesick and other players asked Diabolus if they could return home until everything was sorted out.
Astroo said there was little response so he decided to leave, adding that Diabolus refused to pay for Hector "HECTOz" Jensen's travel expenses back home. In the end Astroo drove HECTOz to Manchester airport, who asked his parents for more than £400 to fund his flight and hotel stay.
With the team falling apart at this point, Diabolus decided to officially cut ties with the roster. They also confirmed they will not be arranging a gaming house again in the future.
What they said
There are thousands of words already in the Twitlongers and Diabolus' stream VoD, so here's a few key quotes from Diabolus and CSGO player Astroo to help you see their reasoning from each side.
Ash commented: "The organisation put out a substantial amount of money to make this work for them. Gym memberships, food and planned team bonding sessions all paid for. The plan was to get Nick's brother (a chef) into the house to teach them how to cook good food.
"Why should we as an organisation, after giving them the platform and tools, offer anything further when they decide to pack up and go home and disrespect the staff and organisation? In what other job in the world do you get sacked and your ex-employer is considered liable for your travel home wherever that may be? Sorry, the mentality of players needs to change.
"From a business and legal standpoint, I will be taking advice on how to best proceed as this defamatory write up has probably caused harm to the organisation which is completely unwarranted."
Astroo explained his reasoning behind going public with the Twitlonger: "I do believe Diabolus are a good organisation with some fantastic ideas, however, I do not believe they were in the position to execute them to the best of their ability and to our expectations.
"During our time, we did encounter several issues which we firmly believe are unacceptable and feel that some of these matters must be brought into light to help the organisation improve moving forward, as well as to protect anyone else from making the same assumptions and mistakes that we have.
"The three weeks were an adventure for sure, and not all of our time with the organisation was negative, however, I feel that the way we were treated, especially in times of need – was totally unacceptable."
Astroo shared an image of the rash he picked up while in the house
Diabolus CEO Nick Uttley said: "They hadn't signed the contracts as they were eager to get the the house and start playing. We should have held off on this, but in terms of paying for player travel, there was no legal obligation and the player in question had previously been informed of this upon first discussing him playing from home.
"The players were getting salaries and had their bills paid. But they weren't ready to do this. It's unfortunate. It was rushed. Are we cursed? Maybe. Do I care? No. We won't be doing a gaming house again."
"It was a trial for a bigger project next year and it hasn't ended well. I agree we should have slowed things down but that's our mistake. We made assumptions about the players that were clearly incorrect. I want to wish them all the best in the future. I don't want to get into a slagging match - we haven't got long in this world so be good to each other."
'Diabolus want to succeed but are inexperienced'
Here are some select reaction tweets from the esports community:
So far since DBL have come on the scene everything i've seen has led me to believe that Nick and Ash are spearheaded and emotional and i do actually believe they want to succeed and run a successful esports company but they seem very inexperienced and seem to rush a lot of stuff.
— Rift (@PureRifty) October 13, 2018
Diabolus were honestly the most professional org I worked with in the UK. Fair contract, paid me on time, did everything in their power to accommodate me. I’m obviously biased but I find this hard to believe.
— Doruk Hacioglu (@Doruk_LoL) October 13, 2018
Whilst we should respect whistle blowing the twit longer reads like a bloody fictional reddit post. Just feels very embellished is all and loses a lot of its sincerity because of it. I respect nick for sticking up for the players though as too many times no one does.
— Excoundrel (@excoundrel) October 13, 2018
I still think you should have an in house manager or cleaner on a regular basis. Players are young, and want to focus on gaming only. You cant leave 5 kids in a house alone and expect it to work.
— - Marcus (@Blumigan) October 13, 2018
Just read through the @DiabolusEsports situation.
Heres what I think:
1: Wheres the support staff?
2: if the bed sheets were that bad the players literally could have requested the money and pick them up themselves, not their problem yes, but would been much quicker.
— Jakey (@Jakey_Rey) October 14, 2018
Splyce director of operations Grant Rousseau also made some good points in a series of tweets:
You set boundaries and rules. You give and take. A manager is the final authority and needs respect from the players.
Hey guys, if you clean your desks, wash players, throw rubbish away etc-then I as manager will take bins out. If you don’t, then I don’t, and I also take moment
— Grant Rousseau (@GrievanceGR) October 14, 2018
Why did it go wrong? 5 ways it could have been avoided
ENUK editor Dom Sacco breaks it down.
Firstly, all of this could have easily been avoided if Diabolus had a team or house manager in place.
This is something that Diabolus management admitted was a mistake, saying they had attempted to find someone but wanted the players to have a say on this. But it was all last minute and I'm not buying the excuses.
You have a bunch of young esports players, you've flown them over to the UK, stuck them in a house and told them to get on with it. They need guidance. They need mentors. They need to be set an example and shown how things should be done. Nick and Ash visited the property multiple times and contacted the team every day, but without having a figure of authority in the house at all times, it was always going to be a challenge, regardless of whether the team were fine for two weeks before things got worse.
Of course they're going to focus on gaming over cleaning and cooking, if left to their own devices. They're esports players. It shouldn't be a free pass for them, but they need motivation and a manager in the house with them.
Secondly, contracts weren't signed. It's nice of Diabolus to cover things like extra linen outside of the terms of agreement, but it means nothing if the terms weren't signed and agreed to begin with.
Diabolus said the team were eager to move into the house and contracts weren't signed on time. They also said the players agreed to a head of terms which stated their pay, responsibilities and what would be provided and covered. An agreement in principle is fine, but people are less likely to stick to it than a signed contract.
Thirdly, we come to the actual state of the house, which wouldn't have been such a problem if points one and two outlined above were properly addressed, and it was properly tended to begin with. Diabolus weren't happy with the cleaning company's work, but that's not the players' problem, the responsibility lies with the org.
Why was the house cleaned a few days before the League players left, not afterwards? Why were there only three players in the house? Where is the content they were supposed to be doing? What's the point of you having a gaming house? Why wasn't the house in a decent state?
"We had similar gaming house problems in the UK scene highlighted three years ago. We need to learn from it instead of repeating the same mistakes, otherwise we won't get anywhere."
I'm not saying we should take all of the claims as the gospel, without evidence, but clearly there was mismanagement here. Take some responsibility and ensure the correct measures are in place beforehand, and you won't need to spend a weekend on damage control.
Fourthly, antagonising your players and exacerbating the problem doesn't help anyone. Leaving a hoover out to see if they'd put it away, taking photos of poo stains left in a toilet and linen left on the floor as if to direct blame onto them is unnecessary. It might be a test to see if they clean up, but making it public doesn't help.
Nick, it's nice you stressed the importance of not starting witch hunts, and I agree, but we shouldn't even need to talk about witch hunts if problems are prevented to begin with.
Fifthly, to the players. It obviously wasn't an ideal situation, but you could have done your best with what you were handed, taken some responsibility too and a bit of cleaning wouldn't have hurt. It's also always good to try and talk through the problems first before going public or making rash decisions, and back claims up with concrete evidence.
In conclusion, I don't mean to be harsh - I can see both sides. I just hope Diabolus and the players can move on from this mess and learn from it.
It's frustrating. We had similar player accommodation problems in the UK scene highlighted three years ago. We need to learn from it instead of repeating the same mistakes, otherwise we won't get anywhere.
Following the publication of this article, Diabolus contacted Esports News UK to answer some of the questions we asked in the opinion section above. We will now present this additional comment to Astroo for a right of reply.
Why was the house cleaned a few days before the League players left, not afterwards? Why were there only three players in the house?
Ash Boycott from Diabolus said: "Because two League players left before the end of Forge of Champions finals.
"The property clean was done a few days before the Forge finals and Nji, Anthrax and Flaxxish were still in the house for like two or three days. They flew out to Barcelona for the finals and then straight back home.
"It was done this way to ensure somebody could allow the cleaners in as Nick and I were unavailable.
After this, there were three CSGO players initially, Ardis left after a week meaning only two - being Astro and L1nk. Hectoz arrived last Sunday. Link, Astroo and Ardis wanted to move in straight away, Hector had some stuff at home which meant he couldn't move til October 7th. And Fleav, we decided to wait til after his 18th birthday, plus he had a pre-booked holiday at the end of October.
Where is the content they were supposed to be doing?
We have covered this in our post FoC breakdown where we talked about being thrown under the bus by media chain and having to prioritise time to even make that split happen.
There just simply were not enough hours in the day for Nick and I to have our conversations with new backers and sponsors which were a priority and do any video filming or editing. We don't have a team of unpaid fans/staff to do that kind of work for us. Everything that has been put out previously was created/edited by myself and Nick.
What's the point of you having a gaming house?
To house a fully import team put together by our then League director Sven. The lease is live until December so both parties agreed that we should move them into the house for this season.
Why wasn't the house in a decent state?
It was, and the players have not produced any evidence to the contrary. As I've pointed out in my response, those sheets, covers, pillows were accounted for and folded and put to piles for the players to use. They complained about the state of them - they were all in an acceptable condition - I put a wash on for them to give them some form of assurance and they didn't bother to do the rest.
Is there anything else you'd like to add.
We were in touch with the team every day. I feed my son at 5.30pm every day, play with him for an hour and put him to bed at around 6.30/7. In that time a received messages saying they all wanted to go home and I am not willing to respond in that period. The players were told this was a time I was not contactable on multiple occasions. Same goes for Nick and his twins.
It was around 8pm I opened my phone to see that they had decided they were actually going to just leave. The level of impatience from them this week has been ridiculous. They have been completely different people to the ones I met three weeks ago.