Munster Rugby Gaming is no more, at least in its current form, after allegations of missed payments towards the team’s partner Irish organization Phelan Gaming surfaced. Dexerto spoke with sources close to the situation, who allege that the money owed is in the thousands.
The situation first emerged when event organizer DreamHack and League of Legends developer Riot Games announced that Munster Rugby Gaming, previously known as Phelan Gaming, would not be competing in the 2021 NLC Spring Season.
Instead, the team team would revert to their original name and compete in their UKLC for 2021 – their domestic event which feeds into the NLC.
Phelan Gaming partnered with Irish rugby club Munster Rugby in April 2020 to expand into a “global gaming lifestyle brand,” but the alliance has already ended. The NLC update states that “operational constraints from the Summer Season” are responsible for the team’s departure from the tournament.
Now, sources close to the situation have informed Dexerto about the exact nature of that ruling and why the partnership ended prematurely.
Phelan Gaming assembles a team for the NLC
Ahead of the inaugural season of the NLC, a merger of the UKLC and the Nordic Championship ran by DreamHack, Phelan Gaming — operating under the banner of Munster Rugby Gaming — had to assemble a team. April 1 marked the first day of work for the team’s head coach, general manager, and team manager.
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Towards the end of the month, the organization sent an offer to hire a head of performance — a role that would see the employee work closely with Munster Rugby to build a brand in esports to “do what they did in rugby,” according to evidence provided to Dexerto. It was very clear at this point that Munster Rugby Gaming was the team, with almost no references to Phelan Gaming to be found in any communication.
It didn’t take long for problems to arise, however, according to insiders. After not being paid for work carried out in April, per sources close to the organization, a member of staff had to move in with another as they had nowhere to live. Other members were yet to be paid, too. Fast forward to June and an emergency meeting was held between the recently-assembled team and the CEO of Munster Rugby Gaming, Ciarán ‘Wings’ Walsh.
Those with knowledge of the situation claim that Walsh told staff in the meeting that he was working with Munster Rugby to get a grant that would allow them to be paid, and that June 19 would be the latest in which the money would be sent. The grant did not materialize and, according to sources, it was later confirmed by the rugby club that the organization never applied for the said grant.
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Throughout this entire ordeal staff were working without having signed contracts despite their requests, sources have revealed. Blame was passed on to Munster Rugby for this, with Walsh explaining that the club has been “inefficient and slow” in getting them sorted. The rugby club, once again, confirmed to staff that they were not involved in this process.
As this entire ordeal progressed, it became evident that Phelan Gaming were effectively licensing the brand name of Munster Rugby and it was down to the organization to handle all operations. Dexerto was shown correspondence that appears to show Walsh, Phelan’s CEO, neglected to assume responsibility for shortcomings throughout.
Problems with payments progress
Shocked by the revelation that Munster Rugby Gaming was simply operating under the rugby club’s name via a licensing deal, the team still had to deal directly with Walsh to receive what was owed to them. What followed was a series of alleged lies surrounding payment, despite persistent requests and evident disgruntlement on the behalf of staff.
An update on the participating teams of the 2021 Spring split.https://t.co/TcFq3hVHK0
— NLC (@NLClol) December 7, 2020
In one example, a team member was allegedly informed that payments had been sent on June 27 and they requested a receipt two days later. On July 1, a screenshot was sent that appeared to confirm that the money had gone out of a bank account — however, no specific information was shown to confirm that this transaction was legitimate.
Payments were still not received, insiders informed Dexerto, even leading to one of the staff members leaving the organization. Another member refused to work due to problems not being solved.
On July 5, staff started to receive the first drafts of their contracts. From evidence obtained by Dexerto, they were rife with errors — including mixed-up personal information from different members — and appear to not have been written by a lawyer. The drafts also mentioned that they would be contracted to Phelan Gaming, not Munster Rugby Gaming.
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Two days later on July 7, payments had allegedly still not been received. Walsh also reaffirmed that he was able to pay due to receiving a “government grant”, according to sources. The following day, event organizers DreamHack were made aware of the aforementioned problems but struggled to hold a meeting with the team’s CEO.
On July 19, Walsh allegedly told one member of staff that he was “going to random banks” to try and resolve issues with payments. Money was received by some, but not all, on July 22. Instead of receiving the full amounts owed, sources confirmed that the team was informed this was a “bonus or a thank you” and additional to what was owed. This was later framed as being a salary payment instead of an additional reimbursement, according to sources.
Sources say that DreamHack informed the disgruntled team towards the end of July that payments should come at the beginning of August. This didn’t come to fruition. On August 5, a spreadsheet was created by staff and sent to Walsh which included rough estimates of what he owed. No payments were made until months later.
Fast forward to November 11, the former member who resigned after a couple of months finally received full payment from Phelan but only after five days of continuous pleading with the CEO. Almost two weeks later, the spreadsheet was amended anonymously and a significant amount of money was taken away from just a single person — an amount far surpassing the “bonus” that was previously paid.
Shocked by the revelation that Munster Rugby Gaming was simply operating under the rugby club’s name via a licensing deal, the team still had to deal directly with Walsh to receive what was owed to them. Although one staff member was led to believe that a transaction was taking place, it would be months before they received anything and they still have not been fully paid.
Dexerto has contacted Phelan Gaming for comment.