In an investigative article by Jacob Wolf, it was announced that Riot is planning to split the EU LCS into four leagues. The new competitions will contain six teams each and will take place in London, Paris, Berlin, and Barcelona. All of these teams will have multiyear licenses and will be safe from relegation.
Additionally, top-2 teams from every region will qualify for the greater league, the following two teams will be able to participate in a play-in stage, and the fifth- and sixth-place teams will get a chance to play in an open qualifier. As for the greater league itself, it will take the form of a 16-team competition with several group stages and a double-elimination playoff bracket. The winner of the greater league and the teams with most Championship Points will qualify for Worlds. Also, current EU LCS teams will get the opportunity to choose their home league in the coming months.
Now that's quite a lot at once.
Keep in mind that everything here isn’t 100% confirmed, and Riot’s yet to come out with an official announcement., but if the changes are indeed true, this might very well spell the end of Europe being a competitive region for League of Legends.
Let's look over why!
A glimpse into the abyss
As a disclaimer, we have to specify that it’s clear Riot has good intentions. The long-standing problem of the EU LCS has always been the lack of sponsorships since most investors are interested in tackling local markets, which a global league simply cannot do. By splitting the competition into four sizeable regions, Riot is throwing a metaphorical welcome party to local investors from the UK, France, Germany, and Spain.
Unfortunately, this also opens up the doors to a plethora of problems. The first issue being the decline of Europe’s competitive strength. The region is already struggling to come up with 10 strong teams for the EU LCS, and finding 24 decent lineups on such a short notice will prove to be a tall order. Not only that, but the change will split apart the European powerhouses until the beginning of the greater league.
Teams like G2, Fnatic, H2K, Unicorns of Love, Misfits, and Splyce might very well end up playing in separate regions where they don’t have more than a single serious opponent. And while we’re all for seeing our favorite teams stomp mediocre lineups, it’s no secret that strong competition breeds strong teams. If we assume the majority of G2’s time will be spent in the local Spanish league, could they really get good enough to once again challenge SKT T1 on the international stage?
Fans are going to notice the drop in game quality, too, as there will be many teams with no LCS experience joining the local leagues. And even though the fan base might recover over a very, very long time, you can definitely expect huge viewership drops in the short term.
Also, creating four new leagues introduces a number of logistical issues. Will the casting only be done in the local language? And if not, where in the world is Riot going to find high-level English commentators to cover these competitions? What about production? The unsung heroes that work hard to bring the best possible broadcasts to their audiences? Surely, having four competitive leagues means that Riot will have to expand its staff considerably, further increasing the already inflated EU LCS budget?
And don't forget about the coaches! Finding a good means is by no means an easy task at the moment, and orgs are going to scramble to build a solid supporting staff once there are 14 more teams in the ecosystem.
And—last but not least—this isn’t even what the EU LCS teams wanted! Sure, many of them called for changes to the league, but these complaints revolved around the group format and the revenue sharing model. The fact that none of the above-mentioned ideas address these problems—in fact, you could argue they’re even making things worse—is bound to rub team owners the wrong way.
So, to recap… Europe will lose its competitive edge on the international stage. Strong teams will be put into different leagues and game quality will unavoidably drop. Teams are going to have a hard time building up their supporting staff. The costs of running four European leagues will inflate the production budgets, making Riot spend even more money that’s not going into teams’ pockets.
And all for the elusive opportunity of securing a few local sponsorships.
You could make a claim that this is a long-term plan that’s supposed to bear fruit five years down the line, but it sacrifices way too much of what makes the European League of Legends special here and now to get there. That’s just not something we can get behind.
What are your thoughts on Riot’s decision to split the EU LCS into four leagues? Share your opinion in the comments below!