A major French esports event attended by some of the world’s top teams has yet to pay any of the tens of thousands in prize money it owes.
FEST Lyon 2015, which featured teams like Team Liquid, Tempo Storm and Team Dignitas competing in various games, has yet to pay any of the money—€30,000 ($32,679.55) in total—it owes to those teams. Teams have had little contact from organizers, and those in charge have broken multiple promises regarding the payments.
The tournaments for League of Legends, StarCraft, and Hearthstone, each with a €10,000 prizepool, took place on July 11 2015. The event was problematic before it even started: The organizers waited until the very last minute to book travel for some teams.
“They were very late with flights et cetera,” mYinsanity staff member Adrian Gerber told the Daily Dot. “We got flight information the evening before the event, and they paid a shit ton for them.”
FEST itself ran relatively smoothly. But once players returned home, things started to go awry.
As early as Aug. 3, Michael “Mitch” Stock—who was responsible for most of the communication with the players—promised that teams would be contacted about prize money “soon”. On Aug. 14 Stock claimed players would hear by Aug. 17, another deadline which came and went.
Players and managers heard nothing more until Oct. 14, when Stock admitted the organization was in trouble, but that they were pushing ahead with plans for more events.
“As some may know, our start-up has some financial issues,” Stock told teams. “We wanted you to know that our company has not closed. We are still working on the cash prizes, as well as on the next events.”
The next time the teams heard from Stock was Jan. 12, when he told them about a press release that FEST was planning on publishing. The release, published on Jan. 12, was only issued in French to French esports media, but claimed that despite the problems, the company would forge ahead.
“You may already know it,” the statement said. “but we have had some major difficulties concerning the launch of our start-up. But our passion for eSport is still here. OVG had to stop its activities but FEST goes on and will be organized by other structures.” [Translation by Matthieu Fichot].
The statement also claimed that, FEST had renewed its partnership with Blizzard and would focus on Blizzard games for its first event of 2016.
However, Blizzard denied that there are any agreements or licenses in place for events with FEST for the coming year.
“The management of licensed third-party events falls to the event organizer,” a Blizzard spokesperson told the Daily Dot. “But we do expect them to be run fairly and to meet the requirements agreed to during the licensing process. We reserve the right to decline license requests on any grounds; not conducting a licensed event appropriately, or not adhering to a related agreement, would definitely factor into renewal or future licensing decisions.”
Seven months on from the event, players tell the Daily Dot they’ve all but given up hope that they’ll ever receive the money they’re owed.
Despite esports’ rapid growth—Deloitte has projected a $500m year for esports in 2016—the industry is still beset by payment disputes. Just a few months ago the Gaming Paradise event also showed no shame in admitting that teams would never see money owed to them. And for every new and exciting investor like NBA legend Rick Fox, there are disastrous cases like Martin Shkreli and the $75,000 he allegedly owes to former employees and associates in the industry.
FEST did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.
Matthieu Fichot contributed to this report.