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Wings Gaming vs ACE, players against managers

Dota 2 Andreea “divushka” Esanu

The drama currently unfolding in the DotA 2 community involving the five ex-Wings Gaming players is a subject that needs careful analysis, as the implications are potentially serious.

For the past week, the entire community has been debating one of the most controversial episodes in Dota 2 history, the conflict between the group of players that won TI6 and ACE, the Chinese group theoretically set up to support players in that part of the world. Two days ago we were contacted by LGD’s Chief Strategy Officer, Xuan Li who wanted to clear the air around the entire ACE-Wings Gaming-EHOME drama. In our discussion, he provided us with some additional information and after EHOME and ACE made their official statements regarding the whole situation we were able to piece together some of the jigsaw that is this whole conundrum.

ACE and their mission

Before jumping into details we should make clear what/who ACE are and why are they a part of any Chinese player’s career. The Association for Chinese E-Sports (ACE) was founded back in 2011 to serve as a player union, with the main purpose of protecting players from getting scammed, going unpaid by the organizations or tournament organizers or being ripped off in other such fashions. ACE became a very powerful organism in the Chinese esports scene and now a player who isn’t an ACE member cannot compete in any of the third party tournament qualifiers, with the ACE team members forbidden to practice/scrim against non-ACE members. If a player gets on the wrong side of ACE, or chooses to leave, they will then be denied any top level practice in China, and only be able to compete in Valve, WESG or WCA events, qualifying for which becomes extremely difficult at that point. They do also have the option of moving abroad, but that comes with a whole new set of problems for the average Chinese Dota hopeful.

Currently there are 24 teams and organizations members of ACE, split in two tiers:

Tier 1: Invictus Gaming, Vici Gaming, Newbee, LGD Gaming, IG Vitality, VG J, LGD Forever Young, Wings Gaming , Vici Gaming Potential, CDEC Gaming, FTD.C

Tier 2: Team MAX, FTD.A, Team Braveheart, DuoBao, Newbee.Young, We.are.young, To.be.or.not.to.be, Cavalry, Rampage Gaming, Rush B, Avalon Club, LYG Gaming, White Fries Gaming

ACE’s rules and regulations

When joining, the organizations are required to hand a deposit to ACE, which serves as a sort of insurance for players if you want. If an organization fails to pay players wages or tournament prize money on time, ACE will pay the players from said deposit, and will bill the organization afterwards. The ACE rules also state that player transfers are to be made between teams, players being forbidden from getting involved in any way. If a team is found guilty of contacting the players privately there are two level of penalties. The first time a team breaks the rule, they can be fined between 10,000 and 20,000 RMB ($1500-$3000), and/or get a ban of pre-determined length from official matches.

However, if they are caught for the second time breaking the same rule, teams will be removed from ACE. At the same time, players are not allowed to contact each other to discuss transfer details such as salaries or any given perks for moving from one team to another. If investigated and found guilty of doing so, the punishments for players can range from a fine with no maximum limit set, ban from official matches or a kick from the ACE organization.

The timeline

It is important to know these ACE rules before looking into what happened with the ex Wings players, because some of these rules were consistently broken by the parties involved. Another extremely important piece of information is that the five Wings players had two types of contract signed with the organization: a labor contract and an esports pro player representation contract. The labor contract was active under the Chinese labor law which allows the employee to end the contractual relationship with the employer if the wage payment is over 30 days late, unless the company is experiencing financial difficulties. In the second contract signed with the Wings Gaming organization however, the five players agreed that they cannot play for any other organization or team until October 2017. And this is what caused all the problems.

The five players were fully entitled to end their labor contracts after Wings delayed payment for over 30 days. They hired a lawyer and took all the legal steps to close the labor contract. According to Mr Xuan Li, in early April, ACE offered to cover the unpaid wages with the Wings Gaming deposit, but players did not accept the offer. In Mid April, Wings Gaming did in fact pay all the wages and offered to pay the players their salaries in advance, but again the players did not wish to renew the labor contract.

On the 18th of April the five players contacted Valve and asked to be renamed as Team Random. Two days later the players notified ACE that they had left the Wings Gaming organization.

LGD’s Chief Strategy Officer gave us a detailed timeline of how the events unfolded from there on.

 

April 22th, 2017

Players refused ACE's offer to mediate between players and Wings Gaming.

April 25th, 2017

ACE held an online team managers meeting, Wings manager chose not to attend. All teams agreed to not recruit players from Wings until the contract dispute is resolved.

ACE attempted to keep the team together and avoid player poaching from other teams. This also protects Wings Gaming’s investment in the team and the players.

May 3rd, 2017

Players met with ACE and the team managers. ACE advised the players to settle their differences with Wings Gaming ASAP.

May 12th, 2017

ACE asked Wings Gaming to explain the details and state a resolution to the conflict.

May 13th, 2017

Wings Gaming made a public statement claiming the contract dispute was not resolved.

May 16th, 2017

EHOME manager attempted to sign faith_bian and y at the ACE office.

May 17th, 2017

iceice mentioned in a weibo post that ACE imposed a lifetime ban and that iG and LGD blocked y’s transfer to EHOME. He deleted the post shortly after.

LGD’s Chief Strategy Officer mentioned to us that ACE never imposed a lifetime ban on players. In fact, the penalty for players hadn’t been discussed yet. He also mentioned that the maximum ban for such issues is one year.

Now, looking at when ACE attempted to start mediate the conflicts between the players and the organization, it’s obvious that it was too late for the players. The Kiev Major commenced on the 24th of April, meaning that on the 22nd the players were already ready to travel to Ukraine instead of staying home to resolve the conflict. ACE were aware of the issues from early April, and this cannot be questioned as according to the LGD Chief Strategy Officer, ACE offered to pay missing wages since mid-April. 

The conclusion

Unfortunately, when they returned from the Kiev Major, the collective agreement between the ACE members that forbids any ex-Wings Gaming player transfer was already in play. And not only that, but they were left with no options for possible transfers because there was no solution for ending their esports pro player representation contract with Wings. Even more, allegedly, Faith_bian has also received misleading information from the EHOME manager and was made to think that they are facing a lifetime ban when in fact, the penalty hadn’t been discussed yet. According to Mr Xuan Li, there are two alternatives: either a one year ban or a one month salary fine (which is around $4,000) and five tournament bans after The International 7.

This led to internal conflicts between the five players who now face different options for their careers. EHOME stood firm on their decision of signing Zhang 'Faith_bian' Ruida and Zhang 'y/Innocence' Yiping. This decision was rewarded with the removal of EHOME and EHOME.Keen and all their players from the ACE organizatio because of violating the players transfer rule of ACE. Faith_bian and Y will face all the penalties stated above, being excluded from ACE while Chu 'shadow' Zeyu, Li 'iceice' Peng, Zhou 'bLink' Yang remain ACE members and will have to face whatever sanction the players union decides to apply to them. They are released from any contractual terms with Wings and ACE will take over, listing them as free to be transferred. The punishment applied to the Wings Gaming organization is that they will receive only a small portion from the transfer fees, the rest of the money is being used by ACE to help more players break into pro scene.

Judging the outcome of this conflict, it appears that although ACE’s stated mission is to protect the players from potential misconduct from their organizations, it is in fact the other way around. Players have little to no control over their careers and any independent decision is harshly punished not by the rest of the players but by the collective rule of the managers. While the ex-Wings players face career damaging punishments, the Wings organization gets a slap on the wrist and a seat back at the table as long as it continues to play along.

Successful independent ventures like OG and Team Secret have set a trend in the Western scene, and more players are pondering the possibility of self organizing and managing their future directly. ACE seems threatened by this trend, although ironically enough, going back to their mission, they should encourage it.

There’s one more party left to act in this dreadful play. Valve haven’t got involved yet, but given the fact that at the centre of the drama are five reigning TI champions, maybe it is time they put their foot down. The entire conflict has split the team apart and obviously affected their friendship, which is probably the saddest part. It is unlikely that they will have a chance to defend their title as a team, although that’s exactly what they tried to do in the first place by forming Team Random.

QUICKPOLL

Will all the five ex-Wings Gaming make it to Seattle this year?

Yes, different teams or together they will be at TI7
Thank you for voting!
No, some of them won’t be able to make it
Thank you for voting!
Andreea “divushka” Esanu
<p>I can resist anything but temptations... Follow me @DivDota</p>

Discussion

  • Kyrl Haydn "MercyrL" LIgan ,
    The sad truth when bureaucracy and e-sports mix... I hope valve will have a say in the matter, but knowing the Chinese culture, it would be difficult. I feel sorry for the Ti6 champs... Losing their friendship because of some assholes who disguise themselves as player-friendly, but is siding on the teams management. Good luck to Chinese doto...
  • Ste "holypepsi" A ,
    wings did not pay players - players want to leave the organization - legal according to Chinese law but breaks ACE rules. does this mean chinese labour law protects human rights more than ACE? LOL
    • Eric "Tktoast" St-Jacques ,
      They weren't penalized for leaving Wings. They're penalized for creating a new team. Also Faith Bian and Y and Ehome penalized for poaching while the conflict remains.
      • Ste "holypepsi" A ,
        leaving wings and wanted to play together is a common sense, what would they do other wise? when the rule is opposing the common sense they dont make sense
        • Arvell "revyrain" Skynative ,
          'In the second contract signed with the Wings Gaming organization however, the five players agreed that they cannot play for any other organization or team until October 2017.' At the other hand, Chinese Labor Law is a common law in the country which is used widely by its people, so it is a whole different matter with ACE law. According to the Labor Law they have the rights to leave Wings organization (this is not the problem at all). But according to the eSports contract, the 5 players had agreed that they can't join any other team or organization until October 2017 (this is the main issue). So basically if they wanted to leave Wings, they can. But consequentially they shouldn't join other teams yet until October (which will wait until after TI7) as stated in their eSports contract. But they created Team Random, that's regarded just the same as 'joining other organization'. And also faith_bian and y then move to EHOME, that's another more violation to their eSports contract. It is a sad contract overall. But who the hell will know what's gonna happen in the future. I bet Wings players were just singing the contract back then in the beginning. With a vision in mind that they will stay loyal to the organization until TI7, without foreseeing any possibility of management problems behind the scene at all.
    • Tanawat "fides5566" Phadungkiatsakun ,
      Player union runs by team managers. Seems legit.
  • Frederik "archyo" A ,
    Sad that they get caught up in a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit but it's typical Dota players who are young, uneducated and not very intelligent. It's common knowledge that you need to settle any contract dispute before moving on to sign new contracts. This article is extremely biased though. To me ACE does protect the players but they also protect the teams, they ensure that the players have to treat the teams with respect and vice versa. If the ex-Wings players didn't start acting on their own, I'm sure they would have been able to form their own new team or join different teams. Just because Wings violated the players contract doesn't allow the players to violate their contracts as well.
    • James "Yared" A ,
      Your comment has the best take on it so far. But the lifetime ban from ACE is definitely insane. Wings management is also their biggest depositor. So locals are mad about the way power was abused. Although Valve will never try to intervene on such things.
    • jamic "escamunich" villa ,
      You're forgetting that this is a "player's union" so it should, at all times, side with the players. If a player's union favors or even tries to pursue any sort of interest of the corporation/organization over the player , then it defeats its very purpose. If Ace tries to strike a balance between the teams and the players then it becomes a mediator or arbiter, which in effect renders the players voiceless and nobody to represent them. I think Ace is a regulatory body that disguises itself as a "union". A regulatory body and a Union are two different things. It's like Ace is acting as the lawyer and the judge at the same time.
  • planes "plnswlkr" walker ,
    the money they won in ti6 is the biggest. Delayed????

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