SK Gaming’s League of Legends team is in freefall, plummeting to second from bottom in the European LCS, one place above the beleaguered Copenhagen Wolves. After the team finished fourth place in the playoffs for the previous split, nobody could have anticipated such a dramatic change of fortunes, even after the departure of star AD Carry Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou. Yesterday, the German website Summoners Inn suggested that internal problems led to Christoph “nRated” Seitz being kicked from the team—reports that the Daily Dot can confirm after speaking with internal sources familiar with the matter.
The flashpoint occurred after SK Gaming told players that it was fining them for poor performances and for failing to deliver on their PR obligations, such as interviews with the media. The resulting argument saw support player Seitz kicked from the team, with one source stating he was told “he would never play for SK again.” Seeing their colleague treated in such a manner, coupled with a general malaise over poor results and a lack of direction, the remaining players have stated their intention to sit out the remainder of the season.
The bad feeling within the camp has seemingly been confirmed by public tweets from the team’s AD Carry Adrian “CandyPanda” Wübbelmann.
So sad ???? Wish I could write up whats going on.
— Adrian Pander (@CandyPandalol) July 10, 2015
Point of no return – Sad times
— Adrian Pander (@CandyPandalol) July 12, 2015
A source close to the players, who has asked to remain anonymous, told the Daily Dot that this reaction was expected. “Christoph is the guy who always has to stand up to the organization for his team,” this person said. “Fox is the new kid, Sven is introverted and Fredy just does his own thing. All interactions between player and management go through Christoph. This is why the players are so angry.”
This reaction has prompted an aggressive response from the organization’s management. A source within SK Gaming told the Daily Dot that the players had been threatened with legal action should they refuse to play and have even requested the intervention of Riot Games.
“Riot have told the players that they must play the remainder of their games for this season in the interests of ‘competitive integrity,'” a source close to the games developer said. “They have made it clear they will not be happy if this is compromised by forfeited games.”
“With the transfer cut-off tomorrow both the organization and Riot are applying a lot of pressure to the players to play out the season, even though the players are not happy with their conditions or treatment.”
Some members of the team had been dissatisfied with the organization as far back as the previous split, according to another SK Gaming source. “There has been issues with payments and the players have complained about the team house set-up, which is similar to Copenhagen Wolves, since last split. Things have come to a head after the bad results.”
A lack of managerial input was part of the problems. Managing Director Alex Müller has had an extended break and had left the organization in the hands of Marketing Manager Jens Wundenberg. Under his watch, certain conflicts have failed to be resolved leading to this current impasse.
SK Gaming also stands to lose a lot of sponsorship money should they be demoted to the Challenger Series. “Sponsors have already told the management that their budget will be cut if they go down to the second league” they said “which has added to pressure everyone is under.”
It still isn’t clear whether the current line-up will play the remaining games, although all the indications are that they will have to in order to avoid reprisals. Long term, it’s likely that all the players, with the exception of newcomer Hampus “Fox” Myhre, will have played their last split for SK Gaming.
“Cut are going to be made” the source within SK Gaming confirmed. “The LoL team is too important to have situations like this. Alex will be coming back to fix this problem and I doubt he will be too happy with anyone involved.”
Update July 15, 4:30pm CT: In a post on Reddit, Riot staffer Jason Yeh disputed the claims made by one of the sources in this article.
“To clarify, we absolutely did not tell players of SK Gaming that they had to play the remainder of their games to preserve competitive integrity,” Yeh wrote. “Any final decision in this kind of case would be between the players and organization. If SK Gaming is unable to field a complete roster for any week, they would have to forfeit their matches that week.”