Why the Full Story Matters: The Tainted Mind’s Controversy
To be ethical and make any conflict of interest clear, I was paid to ghost-write a piece for John McRae a month after this TM controversy had originally cleared up, which was about CS:GO and IEM Sydney. Although it had nothing to do with the TM controversy directly — it’s worth disclosing I have received one payment from his company PvP Live as a result.
UPDATED 21/6 12:06 AEST with evidence to key community claims
4/7 4:09 PM AEST Any independent third party with a credible journalistic background can contact me for access to the evidence I have on-hand and statements collected from both sides.
This article is largely in response to Valkrin’s video about the Tainted Minds (TM) controversy, in which a multitude of new allegations are made about the organisation and specifics of the controversy itself. While many of these claims shed new, important light on the situation, an equal amount are also said without much needed context. Which, in a story that has as many layers as this one, can vastly change public perception — a critical element in this entire controversy.
Valkrin did not make any attempt to reach out to the two most important members on the Tainted Mind’s side of the story — John McRae and Nick ‘Sav’ Bobir. As a result, the video has largely just added to the player’s side of the story creating an entirely ‘black and white’ situation. Everyone is admitting that this story is complicated and deep, yet, seemingly few are willing to acknowledge that the ‘black and white’ is actual just a strange ‘grey’ as a result.
I was heavily involved in this story since the players went public with their statements — having drafted up a long-form investigative piece (most of which has found new life in this piece) that was never published for reasons outlined in the conclusion. I have collected thousands of words in statements from the players, made attempts at phone interviews with the player group, conducted an in-person interview with Nick ‘Sav’ Bobir, hours of phone conversation with John McRae, and have developed a fairly in-depth understanding as a result. None of this was done to ‘prove’ the player’s wrong, but merely to better understand the grey of the story. I will be addressing some points made in the video, and also some elements not mentioned as well.
This piece isn’t going to break-down the whole background of the incident or every allegation made — that information is out there if you look for it, and this is already a big read as is. This piece is simply going to add more new information and clarify information that’s already out to help inform the public’s on-going discussion.
The Team House
Before any agreements were made with the international players, they required confirmation that there would be a teamhouse house ready to go before flying over, it was also made very clear that each player would need their own bedroom. This gave the organisation and Fasffy the task of finding a 7 bedroom house in Sydney ‘s property market — under budget.
Fasffy was the person who found the house itself, and was the key driver in pushing the organisation to acquire the house. She had a friend provide a video walk through of the house and inspect the property. The private video was shared with the upper-management and players, of which I have re-uploaded to YouTube to protect the identity* of its original publisher and for public consumption. You can see the video here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB94y4aD-OI). This video, while by no means highly in-depth, gives a visual to the claims made.
Investor John McRae also briefly walked through the house as well — but wasn’t satisfied with the amount of work it required. Under the pressure of wanting the international players, the keenness of Fasffy, and the market in Sydney, the organisation agreed to acquire the property and start moving players in.
The property had undergone renovation four months prior, with no tenants since, leaving a buildup of dirt and general uncleanliness. Nick ‘Sav’ Bobir and John McRae said that “in December [they] paid $950 for professional cleaning and special sealant added to the floors”. I also have screenshots of two receipts from Tainted Minds to a Sydney based house cleaning company dated on the 4th and 6th of February, about a month after Cake had moved in. This second round of early February cleaning was organised by Fasffy after the players started to complain about the cleanliness the house. However, the players and Fasffy, state that following this second round of cleaning, the house’s cleanliness still wasn’t up to par.
A further, very important piece of context is that TM offered the players/coach/manager to move to another house on the 12th of January, per a shared email. The email is from Nick Bobir to coach Nick ‘Inero’ Smith and states: “things are obviously not as they were anticipated by yourself and the players. This ranges from cleanliness, layout, air conditioning, and even things such as doors which should’ve been picked up on inspection” two options are then put out, one of which is to remain in the house, whilst the other is to “move into a different house with appropriate facilities already in place. Should a move occur electricity and internet would be installed prior to any move happening to ensure there are 0 delays. A process with a removal team who would also set-up the new would be completed in a day.”
Tainted Minds have also said that an AirBnB was offered to the players for as long as needed during this potential transition of houses to combat any lapses in practice or scrims. The shared logs shows they weren’t satisfied with the state of the house very early into its acquisition due to the large amount of time and money the required to bring it up to scratch.
After reaching out to Cake for a comment back in March on why the players didn’t take up this offer to move residence, he said “the reason [why we didn’t move, was because] nothing got done and it took over 2–3 weeks for the [original] house to be setup and to be able to play in it. We did not want to waste the same amount of time, or even more, to setup a new house, especially in the middle of the season.” Fasffy shared a similar response.
The packet loss issues that the players outline heavily impacted on their scrims and solo que practice in the lead-up to key games. The ongoing issues forced the players to move to a variety of internet cafe’s which greatly degraded their practice to the point where they said it was as good as being at the house without internet anyway.
Tainted Mind’s were in contact with three different internet service providers (ISP’s) over the course of the December-February period, to help combat the internet issues raised by the players — specifically in regards to packet loss. The three different ISP’s had three separate ‘Fibre to the Premises, National Broadband Network (FTTP NBN)’ lines to the house, and many of the issues were caused by area upgrades that were ongoing at the time. Two separate networking and systems engineers were contacted to help fix the problem, and one was given remote access during this time. TM said to me that following the network engineer being given remote access “8 packets within 1500 were lost… [as seen] through a WinMRT [test] (a network diagnostic tool).”
The players also brought up the issues of being promised $4500 computers but never receiving them, instead getting sub-$2000 towers.
The three international players were given a basic outline before they headed to Australia that said they would receive a specific high-end computer valued at $4500. This outline was drafted by Fasffy and her friend, and would be superseded by the official contract the players signed (more on that below). The contract — not the outline — saw each player receive a Lenovo machine that members of the team had done a promo for beforehand. Tainted Mind’s has also provided receipts for ordered spec upgrades for these machines that is dated on the 7th of February. It should be noted that these spec upgrades were ordered after the third week of play in the OPL.
I was also very surprised to hear this back and forth between Fasffy and Valkrin at the start of the video, as outlined below, given a statement she gave to me in late March.
Valkrin: “And you, and you would say, in your own words, the he, John [McRae] would bully people?
Fasffy: “Yeah, a hundred percent I would say that confidently to anybody.”
When I asked Fasffy for a comment in late March, she said to me on McRae’s involvement in the house: “John was actually the person who was stepping up to the mark most of the time since we moved in. Almost every time we experienced issues, TM upper management would pass things onto John to handle and fix to which he at least made time for us and put effort into.”
McRae was present in the house, along with his wife from December to February, trying to resolve many of the issues — including investing his own money to purchase fans, a 4.6kw AC unit, and a 6.4kw AC unit to combat the lack of ducted air conditioning in the house during the hottest summer on record in Sydney. He was also found clearing away and assisting the waste management situation in the house when required. McRae was responsible for helping to lead key discussions between Fasffy, coach Nick ‘Inero’ Smith, the players, and the TM organisation as well.
Whilst the issues regarding the team house are the most public and focused on, they are only apart of some larger key problems with the controversy surrounding the Tainted Minds OPL team.
The contracts have been the core foundation which the player group has built their case of alleged breaches from, and one of the key motivating factors behind the scenes that motivated the parties involved to seek legal advice in the manner they did. As such, the way in which these contracts were drafted — and if required, renegotiated — plays and will continue to play an integral part in the story.
I have been provided with a series of logs that shows Fasffy communicating with the organisation in mid-October where she states she has a “friend [who] is a visa expert” and this friend was willing to draft the original player/manager/coach’s contracts for the split pro bono. The organisation agreed, and the contracts were drafted up, and signed by the necessary parties. Although Tainted Mind’s had their own in-house legal counsel, the idea of having the free services of an expert to organise the esoteric matter of international contracts and Visa’s was very appealing.
Fasffy said to me that: “After the OPL finals in Brisbane last year (2016) it was apparent that next year big changes were ahead for the OPL. So from this moment on I started looking into what was possible for the team and getting started. This lead me to trying to find out more information about VISA’s because I knew I’d be interested in recruiting international players. I made a post on facebook asking for people who have had experience applying for VISA’s so I could speak to someone who has applied for Australian working VISA’s and basically start educating myself on the process. Off of this post I found out that a good friend of mine was actually a registered migration agent. . Everything was put forward to TM to approve and make changes to until they were happy with the contract to go forward with ”
This period of time of the when the pro bono drafted contracts were signed was before John McRae invested into the Tainted Minds organisation. Upon investment, and with years of experience in dealing with contracts, McRae outlined that the contracts — specifically Fasffy’s contract as manager — were too ambiguous and poorly drafted. He drew the biggest problems with the roles and responsibilities of Fasffy as the manager, as they weren’t specific enough.
One has to remember that this is the first split in Australian League of Legends history that has existed in team houses. As a result, the roles of a player manager become far more nuanced and deep, requiring actual in-person care and maintenance of the players. Because of how new this role was in Australian LoL, the contract that went along with it would have to be resolute and very specific in its make-up.
The organisation discovered after signing the contracts that the person who drafted the contracts wasn’t a visa expert, nor an actual lawyer; but rather, a practising legal clerk. Two months after the contracts were signed, and as shown in the shared logs, Fasffy asked for compensation on behalf of her friend for the drafting of the contracts, based on the implied undertaking the Tainted Mind’s organisation made when originally accepting the work pro bono, that they would not use the work anywhere else. Tainted Minds did not pay the legal fee and logs show they were upset and confused when the matter of compensation was brought up. TM have since said that they did not use the drafting work anywhere else.
Fasffy initiated her own individual contract renegotiation with the organisation on the 3rd of February (Friday) in a discussion that included both Inero, and Mcrae. Fasffy’s new contract would’ve included more specifically defined roles and responsibilities, along with a pay rise. Importantly, this meeting also discussed her December invoice, which amounted to $5k for her work alone, and was a central point in any ill-feelings Fasffy had to the organisation.
Although the parties started off at vastly different positions, by the end of the negotiation everyone was in seemingly mutual agreement. The org would pay some of the invoice, whilst Fasffy would pay the other part, and she would have a new contract.
The following Monday (6th of Feb), was the mediation meeting between the players/Fasffy, John McRae, and Riot Games.
Before the mediation meeting but after the contract meeting, on Sunday, Fasffy posted on Twitter that she was looking for for accommodation in Sydney. Although the parties had left the contract meeting amicably, Fasffy wasn’t satisfied with the “extra conditions continuously being tied to [the payment of her December invoice]” and went into Monday’s meditation with a different mindset than how she left on the Friday meeting.
In McRae’s eyes, he “thought [the mediation meeting went] well and there were definitive action points that came out [of it]… Many of the players who did not speak up previously were comfortable having input.”
On the 9th of February however, Fasffy asked Tainted Minds to terminate her agreement which they agreed to. On the same day, a deed of settlement was offered over the December invoice (more on that below) which she did not accept. She posted on Twitter that she will “no longer be managing for Tainted Minds”. This caught TM off-guard, but given the problems that had been put forth in their working relationship together, they were willing to terminate the agreement.
Fasffy had this to say on the December invoice: “Without doing everything I [did] in the month of December the team wouldn’t have stayed. So yes I do believe all the time and work I put into that month was in the best interests of Tainted Minds and justified.”
Both Nick ‘Sav’ Bobir and John McRae agree that Fasffy was the most important figure in integrating the international players into the side and maintaining a strong, positive, working relationship with the players, but don’t see the 80–90 hour weeks she was working as reasonable or proportionate to the amount actually required in the house.
Four days after Fasffy terminated her agreement, the players left the house and claimed that their contracts were terminated based on legal advice from a sports/entertainment contract expert in Sydney. Riot Australia and Tainted Minds did not see the contracts as terminated at the time.
Bobir said “the legal advice given to TM was that the grounds on which the players tried to terminate their agreements were not valid in the circumstances.” On Twitter, the players were very vocal about the opposite being true.
Cake had this to say on the issue: “We knew Tainted Minds breached our contract in multiple ways, but we were not sure if we could get out. After seeking legal advice, we were convinced that our contracts could be terminated legally.”
When TM entered discussions with the players they gave them a series of offers which included “buyout figures, transfer fees, or the option to come back and play for the team” Bobir said. All of these attempts were rejected and the players instead, asked for a large lump sum of money as compensation for ‘reputational’ damages.
Following declined arbitration from TM and a lack of money to pursue their case in courts, the players slowly settled with the organisation one-by-one. Due to Riot Australia not viewing the contracts as breached, the players were forced to more or less rest on their laurels and negotiate with TM to reach an endpoint to the conflict.
Fasffy also mentioned in her talk with Valkrin that the contract she signed would allow TM to control what she wore — including forcing her to don cosplay at events if they wanted.
Nick ‘Sav’ Bobir had this to say on the allegation, also providing screenshots of the contract to support his claim: “The contract states that we can request members to wear TM branding (Jerseys/Hoodies/T’s) if livestreaming from the house which is pretty standard from my understanding from a team/marketing point of view. It doesn’t have anything to do with what is worn off stream as that is a basic human right and would never be asked of any TM member. This clause was never activated for any team member, which is evident in live streams completed by the member in question throughout December to the end of February.”
It should also be noted that this element of the contract was apart of the original draft done by Fasffy and her legal clerk friend.
Riot, Tainted Minds, and the player’s group all agree that poor communication over the course of the entire incident was one of the key drivers in the situation ending up the way it did. The players alleged that TM and Riot’s lack of communication and direct responses/actions forced them to take many of the actions they did.
Both Tainted Mind’s and Cake confirmed that Fasffy was the direct, and most important line of communication between the players and upper-management before her contract was terminated. Cake said: “At first we would communicate everything to Fasffy and she would talk to the organisation. After a while of nothing happening, Nick started trying to get stuff done by the organisation. Then we all separately were communicating with the organisation.”
As Cake mentions, early on, Fasffy dictated the flow of information to the players, and played an important part — along with coach Nick — in making decisions with the team. The players could only access the ear of the upper management through a skype group or email, often resulting in delayed responses, as can be seen through one of the public logs.
Nick Bobir identified that a lack of direct line of communication between the players and the upper management was a key element in the early communication breakdown that started in mid-January. Bobir said that “[The upper-management] had no idea what was actually being passed on to the players and what wasn’t.”
The logs which were published by the player’s group, show much of the communication breakdown in hard evidence. This is especially shown when the complexities of organising three different internet lines, multiple technicians, modems and routers, resulted in the different parties having different ideas of what was transpiring.
A key point brought up in Fasffy’s public statements was the food situation, in which she mentioned that Tainted Minds gave the team a $2000 a month budget for food. TM provided me with a spreadsheet that showed there were $500+ left in the monthly allowance in both January and February. Fasffy did not comment on this topic.
Tainted Mind’s also made it very clear in their correspondence over the course of my investigation, that all of the necessary reimbursements and overhanging invoices for Fasffy, and what she bought has been paid — except for her December invoice. TM has tried to settle with Fasffy on the remainder of the December invoice multiple times, however, Fasffy has refuted these offers.
In the eyes of the organisation, Fasffy’s role as manager was one of the cornerstone problems in this incident. Whilst her great relationship with the players was key to resolving some of the earlier issues, this ended up working against the organisation as she could leverage it in negotiations and proceedings.
Why wasn’t this published in March?
No fault of anyone, but my own. I was, and still am, a studying journalist who’s learning how to condense massive swaths of information into a readable and structured way. As a result, I largely lent on peers and my editor of the publication this was originally going to be published to — delaying the editing process massively.
This delay was so large that TM ended up running pretty much all the evidence I’ve listed above in a statement of their own due to sponsor and personal pressure — effectively ‘killing’ my exclusive and the piece as a whole.
I’m publishing this on Medium now just to get it out public as quickly as possible — I’m all too familiar with how savage the news cycle can be.
I’d like for you, reader, to keep in mind that many people have access to the same documents I have access to — including Riot Games. Lots of people have reviewed this case, legal counsel included, yet look at the consequences that have come as a result.
If everything was as damming as the narrative being pushed publicly was, Riot would love to get the community on their side and be the arbitrators that kick the ever evil Tainted Minds out of the space. But they didn’t. They levied a small fine and left it. Nothing has gone to court. Riot have been forced to take community flak for not imposing harsher punishments because, well maybe they couldn’t.
I’m not saying one party is right or wrong, because as I said at the start, this story is an exercise in grey. However, due to just how much the players side of the story has been told and paraded, the TM side of the story, when all the evidence is in front of you, will be the one that naturally shines through — even if it’s at risk of sounding very biased.
Hopefully you can have a better idea of why this is the case after looking at the new context provided in this piece.
EDIT 21/6 12:06AM AEST
Due to the concerns levied against the lack of hard evidence included in the piece and the credibility of my integrity — given my bias that I chose to outline in the introduction out of fairness. Understandable for a community that’s been clapped a couple times by the ‘lack of hard evidence’ problem.
I really want to stress that if I see any hard evidence that strongly disproves or reveals an inaccuracy, I will publicly update the piece. This isn’t about my pride or proving someone right, it’s about getting a clear idea of what’s been happening. I have reached out to the player party as well throughout the process and they can contact me at any point with evidence of their own.
In regards to the grocery evidence:
Michael ‘Voltris’ Stewart, operations manager for Tainted Minds said on the spreadsheet: “I made this spreadsheet to allow the players to easily choose what items they want on the next shopping order and just add the quantity. It was going to be all automated to try and make it easier because they were refusing to even order shopping for themselves. They were always meant to handle food for themselves, it was never a TM responsibility. I kept track of the budget and would tell them how much they had but the team living in the house (managed by Fas) had to actually get the food or have it delivered. Hence the classic quote about ‘initiative’ because they refused to even get the shopping delivered.”
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In regards to cleaning evidence:
In regards to arbitration
Michael ‘Voltris’ Stewart responding to the concerns around TM declining arbitration:
“Around why we declined arbitration if it hasn’t already been made clear to you was because Riot’s recognised arbitrator was US based operating under US law when the contracts are from Aus. We thought it was pointless to waste money on arbitration of a contractual dispute with an arbitrator outside the jurisdiction of the contracts. An entry point to arbitration was that it would cost several thousands to initiate the process from both parties. The players couldn’t honour legal contracts let alone be trusted to pay thousands of dollars in fees. We didn’t want to have to cover the bill for them, for a process they were the only ones interested in doing and in a country outside of the contract jurisdiction. I’m glad we didn’t because as we saw Fas decided to fund their legal fees for them and couldn’t maintain it after a few weeks, so it proved that they wouldn’t have been able to do it.
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… is the email we sent to Riot after looking into arbitration in the US. We later offered arbitration in Aus instead when a commercial settlement couldn’t be reached which Tristan declined.
The arbitration fee began at 5.5k USD per day and scaled with other fees the longer it dragged out or if it went to court afterwards. We always preferred to avoid that and just seek resolution directly.
*The video was published on an account that listed the full-name and presumably, real-life photo, of a person involved in the controversy.