Sources have informed Dexerto that the Swedish-based esports organisation Ninjas In Pyjamas are in a dispute with current and former players regarding outstanding sticker money from the canceled 2020 Rio Major that was scheduled to be run by ESL.
That tournament was canceled due to safety concerns amid rising numbers of cases in the host nation. Afterwards, the in-game capsules went on sale. According to sources close to the player who requested anonymity, Tim ‘nawwk’ Jonasson, who was on the NiP roster at that time, believes they have a contractual claim to the earnings from the sticker sales.
The sources indicated that he is looking to take action against the organisation in an attempt to get them to pay the money to all players. The amount theoretically owed to each player is believed to be in the region of $200,000 – $300,000 based on what other players from Legends status teams received, although this might vary slightly from team to team due to specific contractual agreements.
The root of the player’s claim lies in section 5.4 of their player contracts. There it states the following:
[The] Team shall receive 16.67% of the team stickers money earned by the Player. The Player shall receive the remaining 83.33% of the team stickers money divided with his teammates.
The Player shall allocate 2% of the Player’s stickers money to a marketing fund dedicated to the CS:GO team. Team shall when receiving the stickers money deduct and transfer to a dedicated bank account. The funds shall be spent on initiatives approved by the CS:GO team. Minimum four (4) members of the CS:GO team have to approve how the monies are spent.
The Player shall receive 100% of the individual stickers money, which is allocated to the players.
However, the management at NiP do not believe that this clause obligates them to pay the players any money for this specific capsule. Rather, they believe that it was Valve’s intention for esports organisations to retain all of the proceeds from this release as a means of financial relief during the pandemic. The official CS:GO blog post announcing the release of the capsule stated that “for these stickers, 50% of the proceeds directly support the teams,” which leaves the specifics out.
In an address to the players made in a group text chat the Chief Operating Officer for NiP Jonas ‘calc’ Gundersen said the following:
“I understand there’s a lot of talk floating around the ‘stickers’. We’ve talked about this earlier, but it seems people have forgotten. These were ‘Capsules’ created by the teams, and Ok’d by Valve, in order to survive the pandemic and keep paying salaries without any cuts, despite the complete lack of sponsorships and exposure. Therefore it’s not stickers as it would be normally – because there was no major. This was a desperation move for many teams because elseway something like half would have pulled out of CS:GO altogether.
“I know many teams treated this differently and some paid portions out to the players – we opted not to do that and keep salaries intact and the business running normal, adding more support staff around the team to make it an even better place to win majors. There’s also very different contracts on teams based on the normal sticker money, where you guys get almost 100% and either way everyone does things individually.”
The sources informed Dexerto that this decision has impacted on the entire team but the three players left on the roster from that time period, Fredrik ‘REZ’ Sterner, Hampus ‘hampus’ Poser and Nicolas ‘Plopski’ Gonzalez Zamora, do not wish to speak out publicly. However, Jonasson believes their case is strong enough that they are looking to actively pursue it. Dexerto understands they have forwarded their concerns to the Counter-Strike Professional Players Association for review.
This isn’t the first time that Ninjas In Pyjamas have been embroiled in disputes regarding sticker money. In 2015, players in the CS:GO team were owed $340,000 in backdated prize money and unpaid sticker sales, the fallout from which saw the then CEO, Per Lilliefelth, leave the organisation. Some former players were still chasing outstanding money as of 2019 as an interview with Robin “Fifflaren” Johansson revealed.
The allegations resulted in WESA (World Esports Association), of which NiP were founder members, petitioning ESIC to do an investigation into the organisation’s treatment of players. However, the investigation was widely criticised due to the fact that WESA had placed a hard time limit on when the investigation had to be concluded.
This matter appears less cut and dry however and could prompt Valve to make a statement about the intentions of the capsule sales itself. We contacted several team owners about how they distributed the sticker money and the ones that responded stated that they paid out either all or a sizable portion to their players. We shall update this report as we know more.