Russian football club FC Anzhi Makhachkala was just one of many established mainstream sports teams to have opened an esports division over the past year. Now, that division has been closed down, and serious allegations have been levelled at the club – just four months after the announcement of the project’s inception.
At the beginning of March, FC Anzhi, which competes in the Russian Football Premier League, announced the creation of ‘Cyber Anji‘ – an esports division which aimed to tap into the ‘exponential growth’ of the industry, starting with the formation of a team in Dota 2. Such teams run by football clubs are often considered an investment into brand marketing, which aim to positively highlight the team brand to the elusive millennial demographic, rather than to simply start reaping immediate profit.
Now, Anzhi are making headlines for all the wrong reasons, having seemingly failed to pay the majority of their roster for the time they were playing.
A statement has emerged on Russian social media site VK from the former Cyber Anji project manager Aliev Murad which alleges that Alexander “XBOCT” Dashkevich, former Dota 2 world champion, was the only player paid at all. A translation on Cybersport reads:
“…On 10th of May [agreed upon day of payment] the player’s[sic] salary never arrived [except for the first time, with only one player with a signed contract in the roster], after which I started calling the directors to inquire about the payment delays, and they said that it would arrive tomorrow. They kept feeding us with “tomorrows” until the start of June…”
After a mediocre run of results, XBOCT left the lineup (amid reported internal disputes), and was replaced. No other players appear to have been paid. Aliev also claimed that no financial support was offered for the team to bootcamp in preparation for Valve’s Dota tournament, The International 2017.
According to Aliev, the club claimed “unsatisfactory results” were the reason for the lack of payment. After crisis talks sometime in June, the Anzhi management then ignored calls and messages that Aliev made to try and secure wages for his players.
The debacle ends with the Cyber Anji closing down as the players and club part ways. Aliev said that they felt “spat on” by the ownership.
The full roster of players who were reportedly left unpaid included Vadim “Sedoy” Musorin, Yaroslav “Pikachu” Vasilenko, Maxim “yoky-” Kim, Evgeniy “Chuvash” Makarov, and Alexander “NoFear” Churochkin, all aged between 19 and 25.
Esports Insider says: The explosive growth that esports has witnessed has led to a number of organisations entering the space who are looking to take advantage. Done right, esports teams can be a fantastic addition to a football club brand. However, organisations must be held accountable for following standard business practices – a lack of commitment to the industry can be no excuse for unethical behaviour, and maltreatment will lead to a black stain on the club’s reputation.
FC Anzhi Makhachkala have not responded to a request for comment.
Esports Insider will be hosting a forum at Fnatic’s Bunkr in London later this month, with a focus on why football clubs are entering esports, and what the future of this should entail.