Dota2

Vega Squadron accused of not paying its Dota 2 players

by Scott Robertson

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Vega Squadron, a CIS organization that competes in Europe in Dota 2, has been accused by its former manager Allen ‘Bonkers’ Cook of allegedly not paying their players thousands owed from salary and prize pools.

In the weeks after the International 2019, most teams are in the process of figuring out the next stage of their Dota 2 roster. But one team is allegedly still having issues with its previous roster.

On September 7, former Dota 2 manager Allen ‘Bonkers’ Cook went on Twitter and laid out allegations that Vega Squadron owed thousands of dollars to Dota 2 players they signed back in October of 2018.

This roster played together as Team Lithium prior to being acquired by Vega, and had qualified for DreamLeague Season 10 after Team Liquid were forced to pull out. According to Cook, Vega was already interested in the roster, and the qualification to DreamLeague helped push negotiations forward. 

DreamHack
DreamHack
Vega strategizing with stand-in Dendi at DreamLeague Season 10

But Cook alleged that Vega didn’t hold up a key agreement after negotiations, involving the prize pool.

"Vega agreed that as we qualified for the event outside of their organisation they would not receive a cut of the prize pool but would handle the money," he explained. "To this day none of the players have received anything of the $15,000 prize pool that was paid on time by Dreamleague directly to Vega."

Cook also alleged that the payment issues extend further than just the prize pool, and according to him, negotiations with Vega have been stopped for half a year.

"Some players are still owed salary and honestly, the negotiations have pretty much stopped after some 6 months of trying to get the money from Vega."

Vega Squadron celebrate after a victory at DreamLeague Season 10

But Cook claimed that Vega isn’t the only one who owes the players he managed. He says that another organization allegedly owes money as well:

"The players agreed a fee to represent Aachen City Esports - honestly it was a pretty small fee, just a case of 'we will play under your name if you pay us something and if we qualify for TI then the org gets extremely good deal.'"

"The payment was supposed to be paid during the qualifiers but was delayed. Then delayed again, and now if I'm right I believe 4 of the 5 players have still not been paid and the person responsible for making the payment isn't responding to most of the players."

The players themselves have taken to Twitter to back up Cook’s allegations. Maurice ‘KheZu’ Gutmann, who most recently played for Chaos, said that Vega was a good organization to the players, but allegedly still owes the players about $20k. 

"As Bonkers stated earlier in his statement, Vega owe us about 20k USD, 15k from LAST YEARS dreamleague minor, and 5k from online tournaments," KheZu said. "The Minor was in November last year btw. They were a good Org to us while we were in the team and under contract."

He also claimed that the Galaxy Battles tournament organizer still owes him tournament money.

"The other instance of not being paid tournament winnings, is back from early 2018. I was a standin for OG at the Galaxy Battles tournament and I've only been paid a very small portion of the money I deserve. The tournament organizer never paid out the money as im aware….Tournament organizer is GESC. They OWE a ton of ppl money."


Petu ‘Peksu’ Vaatainen, who played for Aachen as Cook described, retweeted Cook’s post and added his own two cents to the allegations.

"I really wish there can be done something about this tournament paying orgs over players outside of TI," he admitted. "I understand that there are cuts that orgs want and so on for most contracts. Another thing i feel bad about both of these situations the fact that i see Aachen city Esports still signing 'new' team and acting like everything is fine when they are completely ignoring me and some other players and giving excuses for everything makes me kinda mad."

So far there has been no comment or response from Vega Squadron regarding the allegations, which remain unconfirmed at this point in time. 

The bulk of Vega’s most recent Dota 2 roster left throughout the past summer, and the organization also stepped away from CS:GO back in August, with their roster officially hitting free agency during the Berlin Major in September.


Here's Allen 'Bonkers' Cook's full Twitter post, as written on September 7, 2019.

So there's been a lot of talk of players giving up the game, there was talk from spectators in the build up to The International about the discrepancy between money earned by players attending The International and those that don’t, and there was some interest by some people in balancing this discrepancy.

But from my experience, the problem goes way deeper.

There is a lack of "decent" organisations within esports. There are pop up orgs pretty regularly and there is no form of regulation.

Generally speaking, org take 10% of prize money and pay a tier 2/3 team something like $500-1000 per month (you're looking at probably $6000 per month before you've paid for a bootcamp etc) so getting a return on this investment is tricky without the right sort of sponsorship and without talented people running the organisation. For teams that are capable of making more lans than not, you can pretty much double this - salaries will be anywhere from $2000-5000+ on teams that will regularly make lans. So you need a solid set of sponsors, and you need to manage your finances accordingly.

Or...... you could just knock people?

During last season I assisted a stack that were picked up by Vega Squadron. Due to Team Liquid's decision not to attend Dreamleague our team "Team Lithium" qualified to the event. We were already in negotiations with Vega about picking the players up and us playing under there banner. It gave Vega added incentive to pick the team up and everything seemed fine. Vega agreed that as we qualified for the event outside of their organisation they would not receive a cut of the prize pool but would handle the money. To this day none of the players have received anything of the $15,000 prize pool that was paid on time by Dreamleague directly to Vega (there is actually also some other online event there is money due from also, but it actually appears to me as if Vega do not have any money). Some players are still owed salary and honestly, the negotiations have pretty much stopped after some 6 months of trying to get the money from Vega.

Some of you reading this will perhaps think its no big deal right? Sure perhaps if this were a one off, then some players could stomach slow or non-payment, but what if this happens WAY more often than you think?

One of the players involved in the Vega team also signed to play for another team during The International qualifiers. The players agreed a fee to represent Aachen City Esports - honestly it was a pretty small fee, just a case of "we will play under your name if you pay us something and if we qualify for TI then the org gets extremely good deal".

The payment was supposed to be paid during the qualifiers but was delayed. Then delayed again, and now if I'm right I believe 4 of the 5 players have still not been paid and the person responsible for making the payment isn't responding to most of the players.

To look at The International prize pool and be impressed by the numbers involved does not give you a fair indication of the money involved in dota, or the problems involved with being on the edge of the 1st Tier. For some reason people are afraid it will tarnish their own reputation by calling out these orgs that don’t make payment.

I appreciate it's hard to run an organisation and turn a profit, but it’s also pretty sickening when you see these organisations not paying players, outright lying when they are making up excuses for non-payment, and then pickup up further teams and players to do it all again.

Something has to be done about the distribution of money within the industry, and someone has to make those unwilling to pay be made accountable.

I'm comfortable in myself speaking about this, and I'll answer questions you have regarding this matter also, the players I've worked with don't deserve this as much as any man or woman doing a job deserves to be paid accordingly.

I urge any other players that are in dispute with organisations or have not been paid to speak up, silence will not assist you.