Updates: An employment tribunal between Miss S Scott and Tenstar Personnel Limited found that that the company ‘made unauthorised deductions from the claimant’s wages and must pay the claimant £235.50 gross, after Tenstar Personnel Limited failed to present a valid response on time’.
A separate employment tribunal between Mr B Butler and Tenstar Personnel found that the company must also pay him £672 to make up for unauthorised deductions from his wages.
A tribunal between Mr C Savage and Adamo Gaming Group Limited, which saw Savage claim unfair dismissal, was struck out partly due to him not being employed for more than two years and failing to give an acceptable reason for the claim.
Also, Adamo Gaming founder Carl Thomas Roderick (aka Tom) said he resigned from Tenstar to focus on resolving the Adamo Gaming situation, but as of mid 2022 he is listed as CEO of Tenstar on the team’s website and a director of both Adamo Gaming Group Ltd and Tenstar Personnel Ltd on Companies House. It was previously said that Sydney Meral and Kieran Robertson would take care of running Tenstar in a split interim CEO position until a replacement was found, but it seems no true replacement to Tom was appointed as he is still there.
“I am deeply sorry and committed to the people who need to get their issues resolved,” Tom said. “I also recognise for Tenstar to flourish and grow, I can no longer be part of it. Some incredible people put a lot of hard work into making the job placement something to be proud of.”
In a separate statement, Tom apologised for late payments and admitted Adamo was set up “purely to support DWP’s Kickstart scheme to provide work opportunities”. He also said his children have been targeted following the layoffs. Tenstar also published this statement on the matter saying Tom was stepping down as CEO of Tenstar.
Some employees received an email on Wednesday evening (March 9th 2022) from the RZR GMZ Ltd business, which is linked with Adamo Gaming, saying they will respond to queries within 48 hours. The email also said “we are owed more than £55,000 from DWP”, that’s despite Adamo’s founder saying he was awaiting £107,237 from DWP, and that the RZR GMZ business “was not operating right now”. Something is clearly not adding up. We’ll continue to investigate.
Original article (March 9th 2022):
Adamo Gaming, a UK-based video game content business that publishes articles and reviews on its website, has cut back the core of its operations with many staff complaining they have either been paid late or lower than expected.
Esports News UK was first contacted by a few former employees last week, who on March 2nd 2022 were suddenly told they were being let go by the business (which has close ties with UK esports organisation Tenstar – more on that later).
They claimed that more than 50 staff had been laid off, with a total of £300,000 being owed to them. However Adamo’s founder Carl Thomas Roderick (aka Tom) responded to us on this, saying 37 had been laid off and that £21,356 is owed to staff overall, and that he has paid £1.8m of wages to Kickstarters. ENUK was unable to verify the exact numbers.
He promised everyone owed money would be paid, and that Adamo was awaiting £107,237 in payments from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), ‘which should come in within four weeks’.
We spoke to several former Adamo Gaming staff who told us some have been waiting since October 2021 to get paid, and still haven’t received what they’re owed. Another trusted source who previously worked at Adamo/Tenstar told Esports News UK late payments were regular, and some staff weren’t paid at all, and this was actually as far back as August 2021.
Several said they never received payslips or P45s. Some have said that HMRC has no record of them working for Adamo Gaming; others did receive payslips but not every month, while some said their payslips didn’t contain the correct amount of hours or pay.
Some staff have complained of having one week of pay withheld midway through their contract, which they were told they would get back at the end of their contracts, with some saying they never received this amount.
There are also accusations towards Adamo Gaming that employees had pay withheld until they completed an esports course, and a separate two-week (50-hour) employability course, which had to be completed before staff could join. Adamo would get funding for staff completing the course. There’s more info in the esports diploma section further in the article.
One source told Esports News UK: “Lack of funding was cited as Adamo’s reason for missing pay, but that’s not how the Kickstart scheme works. The company pays the employee, the DWP verifies that the employee was paid, and then funding is sent. Withholding pay until you get funding goes against the rules of the scheme, and even if we ignore that, the company still fell short.”
Others have also complained that they’re unable to receive unemployment benefit, because Adamo Gaming is allegedly reporting that they are still paying staff who left them months ago. After looking at ex-employee bank statements and DWP messages, it’s clear some received payslips but didn’t actually receive the money promised on the slip.
Some told Esports News UK they have been unable to contact Adamo management because their emails and numbers have allegedly been blocked.
Some staff have made complaints to the DWP and the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS). Others said they were afraid to speak up internally for fear of upsetting management or affecting their standing as an employee. One employment tribunal concluded – see the top of this article.
The DWP said it could not comment on this individual case, but that in general, it would investigate any allegations of fraud or other wrongdoings, and that all Kickstart participants have employment contracts, meaning they are entitled to legal protections.
A DWP spokesperson told Esports News UK: “We are unable to comment on individual cases. The Kickstart Scheme is delivering value for money for the taxpayer and our dedicated work coaches have already helped over 130,000 young people into paid work, and continued to support them throughout their jobs, and on their journey into employment.
“We have robust controls in place to identify and reduce the risk of fraud and error which has been kept low in the Kickstart Scheme.”
All Kickstart participants have Employment Contracts, meaning they are entitled to legal protections, and DWP can advise individuals more about this.
A spokesperson for ACAS added: “ACAS offers a free conciliation service when a worker wants to take their employer to an employment tribunal. We respect the confidentiality of both sides involved in these types of disputes and we cannot confirm details of cases that we deal with.”
At 5pm on the evening of March 9th 2022, the official Adamo account made a tweet that was swiftly deleted. Esports News UK understands the former social media manager had timed this to go live, with company founder Carl (who now has the social media passwords) quickly deleting it.
What was the now-deleted tweet that Adamo Gaming posted? And what have former employees said on social media?
The deleted tweet was sent to Esports News UK, saying Adamo was shutting down (Carl disputes this, saying it’s downsizing – see his comments at the bottom of this article).
The deleted tweet was sent to Esports News UK, and several disgruntled laid-off employees took to Twitter to complain. We’ve highlighted some of these below:
I’m still asking for my September paycheck <3 https://t.co/nagOyWveZc— 🌦hannah🌦 (@hannah__2599) March 9, 2022
The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation, a law around the protection of people’s data in Europe) claim has been made by others too, including former Adamo Gaming community manager Jess:
It was never just about the pay, there were a lot of other things going on internally that breached multiple peoples privacy, EG contracts being stored against GDPR— Jess (@dreamjes_) March 9, 2022
Esports News UK has learned that the contracts for the original Tenstar Valorant pro players were accessible by all members of staff at one point.
Multiple sources told Esports News UK they would chase up payroll daily for updates on when they’d get paid, and were often ignored for days or received excuses, or promised the money would be coming soon. A former employee said a higher up told them: “It’s just the way of life.”
Another said they were told, after they complained about the layoffs: “You shouldn’t have applied for a Kickstart role if you were looking for stable employment.”
Another said they were told that the person in charge of payroll ‘didn’t get notifications on their laptop’ and that’s why they hadn’t seen the messages chasing up payments.
One former employee said anonymously: “When they did ‘address’ pay issues, particularly in August 2021, we were informed that any missing pay would be rolled into September’s pay, and that the issues would then be fixed. People were then beginning to do apprenticeships with another of Tom’s (aka Carl’s) companies so that their wages would be funded and they could continue their employment.
“This cycle repeated over and over again and has been a continuous way that Tom abused the trust that more than 100 under 25-year-olds put into him, with any complaints often being deleted or ignored if they were mentioned in public forums.”
One person shared a recent email with ENUK from Carl Thomas Roderick, who told them that there was £40,000 of ‘underpayments’ from the DWP due. This is lower than the £107,237 figure Carl told Esports News UK was expected.
Some were angered they’d been let go, only to see a £100 Valorant giveaway on the Tenstar social accounts. When they questioned this, they were told it was “funded by a third party” known as Acti-Fit, another company that Adamo Gaming founder Carl Thomas Roderick previously had ties with.
Zachary Beniston, a video editor at Adamo Gaming, told Esports News UK he was close to being evicted by his landlord as his payments were coming in late and so he couldn’t pay his rent on time.
Zachary was accepted through the Kickstart scheme in April 2021 and joined in June, before leaving in October when his Kickstart placement ended. He later rejoined in December 2021 through a separate apprenticeship scheme, before being let go last week.
He told us: “I’ve permanently damaged my relationship with my landlord due to these late payments, which have been late every month by either a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
“I only got paid because I kept chasing up Tom via text, saying I was going to be made homeless – he was aware of my eviction notice. He hung up on me when I asked him a question on the phone, after he handed me my notice. They constantly set up several companies to get more Kickstart money, and I don’t know where the money is going.
“I want to see Tom brought to account and take responsibility for his actions, it feels like he’s killing off Adamo and he’s shutting all the socials and running away. I don’t want him to get away with it.”
Another former employee said: “I just want staff to get paid like they deserve. Our payroll is forcing designers to work on other businesses. It’s gone too far. I’ve fallen for too many lies. Tom is not acting as a responsible boss and it’s all sad to see. We were let go with a short message saying: ‘Hello everyone, I’m afraid to say Adamo is shutting down soon’.”
There’s another thread here by Zaniel that goes into more detail and offers another perspective, saying general management tried to help as much as they could, but were ‘being screwed over’ by those at the top.
Adamo’s former social media manager Kyle told Esports News UK: “I raised concerns with management that the course was negatively affecting my mental health. They never really listened and still reiterated it was mandatory and that it was expected we would do it. When questioned why the course was mandatory, we never received a transparent answer. We were occasionally given days (and one time even a full week) where instead of doing our usual jobs, we could work on the course instead. Last time I checked, that’s not what the Kickstart scheme was about.
“The other thing I wanted to mention was just how absent the senior management team were. We’d hear from them once a week in the Friday end of week meeting and honestly who knows what they were up to for the rest of the time. I truly believe they did not care about us, as long as we were giving them their £1,500 for being on the placement and whatever other money they were receiving for the course. I don’t actually know what purpose Adamo ever served. We barely grew in following and the amount of people hired was ludicrous to put it bluntly.”
Another former Adamo employee said there were serious issues around the handling of complaints around pay.
Some of those working for Adamo who would joke or discuss on Discord about when they might be paid were kicked from the server by Carl for ‘passive toxicity’.
Other former employees have sent Esports News UK examples of Carl allegedly using burner accounts on Twitter to hit back at people who criticised Adamo over the situation, using account names such as @bingobanger98, @shadowman9421 and @zygotewarrior1.
One source said: “During my first payday it reached 9pm and a lot of us had not been paid, I raised the question in our work Discord which others chimed in and a meme was also used saying ‘first time’, suggesting that being paid late was a regular thing. Another employee cooled off the discussion and nothing afterwards was said.
“About two hours later, every person in that thread of conversation was swiftly banned from the work Discord and were ignored about the reasoning or about work. ‘Tom’ told us through his higher ups it was ‘an accident’ that he banned everyone and not muted each individually.
“We were informed we’d get a one-on-one with him about the situation which was swiftly ignored and two days later were invited back to the work Discord and told to continue as normal. I never received pay on time and had to wait five days at most for pay (excluding this current issue where most of us are still waiting for January pay). I just want us all to get our money.”
Adamo later told employees that their first week of work was in-hand (meaning ‘free’) and unpaid, despite this not being in employee contracts.
The company had also later changed the date employees would get paid, from the 20th of each month to the 30th or 31st, due to ‘advice from the DWP and how it was affecting some staff other benefits’.
Adamo Gaming: What is it, how is it funded and what are its links with UK esports org Tenstar and the other companies connected with them?
Carl Thomas Roderick registered Adamo Gaming Group Ltd as a limited company in April 2021 (though work on it began a little before then), and more than 80 staff were appointed within a few weeks.
The business was funded primarily by the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme, set up to help young people aged 16 to 24 on Universal Credit looking for work.
Kickstart provides the employer with £1,500 per job, and also pays 100% of the National Minimum Wage to each employee on the scheme for six months (on a 25-hour work week basis).
At its peak, Adamo had some 150 employees on the scheme, meaning it raised £225,000 not including employee wages. Carl says that ‘the Adamo project’ had 260 people overall, including referral partners to undertake a Kickstart placement.
Several former staff told Esports News UK there was no deep interview process, and that they felt the company hired as many as they could quickly, in order to obtain Kickstart money.
Some say the recent layoffs are due to the Government ending the Kickstart scheme and that funding drying up.
However, it soon transitioned from esports into a general gaming content business, producing articles on the Adamo Gaming website (which is now no longer live).
A separate entity, Tenstar GG Ltd, was set up to focus on esports instead, also apparently funded by the DWP. This is the company behind Tenstar, the UK esports organisation that has done particularly well in the VCT Game Changers Valorant tournaments.
Carl Thomas Roderick is also the founder of Tenstar GG Ltd. There are more businesses he owns or is a part of, or conducts business or partnerships with, and this is where things get confusing.
Research by Esports News UK has revealed a complicated web of connected businesses, operating as separate limited companies but with links between them. For example, employees of Adamo Gaming were paid by Tenstar Personnel, a separate company designed to on-board staff through the Kickstart scheme.
Then there’s RZR GMZ Ltd, which was previously known as Adamo Gaming Group Ltd (with a different company number to the newer Adamo Gaming Group Ltd business set up in April 2021).
There’s also Propello Ata Ltd, which recently changed its name to Metaverse Recruitment Limited, and Pat Clarke Qualifications Limited (aka PCQ), which some Kickstart staff were asked to send their CVs to before joining. Some employees were allegedly employed by Propello ATA Ltd and RZR GMZ.
There’s also Adamo Gaming Fellowship Ltd, which was previously known as The Fellowship of Gaming Limited, set up by Benjamin Drew and Sarah Sanders, two people who were part of Adamo/Tenstar but broke away from Carl in September 2021 due to differences to focus on The Strive Group, which runs esports and digital skills traineeship courses for young people and recently partnered with LDN UTD.
Then, an outside company known as Yellow Tree Workforce Development Ltd, handled the separate and more recent apprenticeships for Adamo staff. This business is not linked with Ben, Sarah and Carl, as in, they do not have roles or ownership at the company.
Also, there’s Acti-Fit, another company that Adamo Gaming founder Carl Thomas Roderick previously had ties with (as a director, in the Acti-Fit (Midlands) Limited business specifically), which funded at least one of Adamo’s £100 Valorant social media giveaways. Acti-Fit has also got involved in positive initiatives with Tenstar like esports, sports and food camps for kids.
Yellow Tree and Acti-Fit said in a statement to Esports News UK:
Another separate company called Dimensions Training Solutions (not linked with Carl or Adamo) provided some of the employability training and assessments to Adamo staff, as part of a ‘Tenstar Employability Programme’.
One source said: “Dimensions Training Solutions were great and the qualification is nice to have, but despite being told I’d be paid for my time completing the course, I wasn’t. The wages for those two weeks simply never turned up.”
Target Recruitment & Training Ltd ran the esports diploma for Adamo, while Enigmaz Ltd focused on a traineeship. These two companies have links, with Joanne Wade a director at both companies.
Carl said some of the businesses he’s connected with are ’employment vehicles/partner companies with direct or indirect DWP contracts’, which employed people to work on the Adamo Gaming brand.
One source said: “The Kickstart scheme gives people a chance to learn on the job, but problem being, the company that does the training for these roles, is also owned by Tenstar/Tom. So he’s essentially paying himself to take people on and then once they had reached their six months, he’d drop them and move on.”
Esports News UK was planning on digging into all of these further, however with this news going public on Twitter today, we have published as is for now, and will continue to look into the situation over the coming weeks, and update this article where necessary.
What is Carl Thomas Roderick’s background?
Carl purchased his business from Raymond Fairclough, who pleaded guilty to benefit fraud in 2014.
Following this, and upon setting up his gaming businesses, Carl began referring to himself as Tom Roderick, swapping his first and middle names.
A statement about Carl on the ‘about us’ page on the Adamo Gaming website (which has since been removed), stated: “Tom heavily promotes inclusion, as an ex-offender himself, Tom has an appreciation for how labels and history can invite prejudice and judgement, he uses his own experience to promote tolerance, opportunity and to challenge stigmatisation.”
Let’s be clear – there’s been some good talent at Adamo and Tenstar. The latter has really made waves in UK esports over the past year, with wins in Rainbow Six Siege, Valorant and more, and that’s something the teams can be proud of. Speaking of Tenstar…
Will this affect Tenstar?
It’s hard for us to say for certain. Several staff, as well as Carl, have told Esports News UK the entities are separate.
One ex-Adamo employee who is currently with Tenstar, told us the issues were ‘Adamo centric’.
“Every Tenstar employee – bar one – aren’t on the Kickstart scheme,” they said. “Both businesses are owned by Tom (aka Carl) but are two completely separate businesses. So although it might get more traction and it is fair to mention a correlation, it’s not a Tenstar issue.
“All Tenstar support staff came from Adamo and we all have a love for the people there and the opportunity it gave us, but this entire thing is sad.”
However, with Carl working on both businesses, others said they are closely linked – some have said they are fearful for Tenstar’s future. One former Valorant player told ENUK they had not ‘received proper payment for three months’, leading to them being kicked out of their house and tension between people they had to borrow money from to live.
ENUK also understands Tenstar asked those who had a main job outside of esports to leave it, so that they could receive the maximum salary with Tenstar.
One source said: “There was a lot of shady roles on offer. Tom tried to pick up a Valorant academy team at one point and tried to put them through the Kickstarter scheme as ‘social media executives’ (ENUK understands the titles included ‘content creation assistants’, ‘traineee social media content creators’, later changed to ‘competitive e-sports trainee’ and on-boarded by the aforementioned company formerly known as Propello. ‘Hospitality Assistant’ was another title that was given via Empower Employment Support).
“I feel that Tenstar only pay those who they know could expose them. Everyday employees who weren’t in the esports/gaming scene would be overlooked. It’s come to my attention now though that current players are also owed money. Doma (who joined from Fnatic) has only been paid 1.5 months salary, despite joining in January.”
ENUK understands his payments are being sorted.
A few other sources said they felt Adamo was used to fund Tenstar.
What is this ‘esports diploma’ that Adamo staff were apparently forced to take?
An esports diploma was pushed to Adamo’s Kickstart employees, accredited by education supplier Pearson (which produced the esports BTEC qualification with the British Esports Association) and run by Target Recruitment & Training Ltd.
New recruits were told they had to complete it before joining Adamo. But it was later removed following complaints from staff that it was more entertainment-focused than esports.
Some staff told Esports News UK they received no feedback after filling in the forms and answering questions.
One said: “The esports diploma had a ton of issues, this diploma was pushed to Kickstart employees – they had to do it on top of their workload. But it was ridiculous with what they were asking, they were confusing esports with entertainment. It was terribly run, with typos, grammatical errors, no support given, people were having mental breakdowns doing it.
“People were told: ‘If you don’t do it, you won’t be employed.’ It was forced on people and there was no need for it. But they never even marked my work! No one were told they passed the diploma, some people may have received certificates but I never saw one.”
Another source close to the situation told Esports News UK that while there were ‘flaws’ with the diploma, these were questioned internally but not fixed by certain people as they should have been. They added that the diploma was an overall benefit and that some staff were ‘chuffed’ with it.
We also learnt there was a separate employability course some staff were made to do, run by Dimensions Training Solutions.
What does Adamo’s founder have to say about it all? Why is Adamo downsizing and why haven’t people been paid?
Esports News UK spoke to Adamo Gaming/Tenstar founder Carl Thomas Roderick in-depth in a phone call earlier to give him a right of reply.
He said Adamo Gaming is awaiting grant funding and has been chasing up DWP to get this sorted.
“People will get paid what they’re owed, 100%,” he said. “I already put £60,000 of my own money in.
“£21,356 is outstanding to workers and £107,237 is owed to us by DWP. I have correspondence with them – people will get paid but it’s not going to happen quickly. Hopefully it will be within four weeks, but it’s out of my control.”
Tom added that Adamo Gaming isn’t shutting down, but that its content arm is closing, they are making redundancies, and that he hopes to revive it in the future.
When asked why there are so many different businesses Tom operates that are connected, for example Tenstar Personnel paying Adamo Gaming staff, he said: “There is common ownership, but Tenstar Personnel is a recruitment agency. That vehicle is what was providing work placements for young people to work.
“RZR GMZ Ltd was the original name for Adamo Gaming. Others wanted to change its name because it sounded similar to Razer, the peripherals brand. RZR is not operating right now.
“Tenstar GG is the gaming company. Tenstar is very different, Tenstar is a separate business which is flying right now. Tenstar is in a good place – good conversations happening with prominent brands.
“The plan for Adamo Gaming changed. It was going to be commercialised and be a long-term vehicle and in esports, but it’s hard to make it financially liable. Tenstar launched instead – my team wanted to have a better name. At Adamo, we didn’t grow our viewership and there wasn’t enough for people to invest in.”
Others said Adamo staff were let go because a deal broke down between Tenstar/Adamo and another company, and also due to the DWP/Kickstart funding drying up.
Have you been affected by this situation? Please DM Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco on Twitter if there’s anything else you’d like to share.
For clarity, Dom had previously agreed to help Adamo with consultancy work in early 2021, but decided to step away and cut ties after one week.
Dom is an award-winning writer and finalist of the Esports Journalist of the Year 2023 award. He graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Federation up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and offer esports consultancy and freelance services. Note: Dom still produces the British Esports newsletter on a freelance basis, so our coverage of British Esports is always kept simple – usually just covering the occasional press release – because of this conflict of interest.