Four European League of Legends Championship Series teams have applied for chartered membership in the forthcoming NA LCS franchise, sending up one final SOS flare to Riot Games as the European scene struggles to keep its head above water.
The EU LCS has been slowly sinking for the past two years, desperate for the levels of investment and infrastructure that have kept it’s North American sister afloat.
European heavyweights, G2 eSports, Fnatic, Splyce and Misfits all submitted applications to join the forthcoming franchise model in North America, desperate to escape the doomed vessel that is the EU LCS.
The story, orginially broken by ESPN eSports , came as a shock to the League of Legends community. European fans in particular struggled with the concept that two of it’s largest and most-established organisations could be relocating overseas.
According to ESPN‘s sources, each of the teams submitted their applications independently, with no collective effort to apply pressure to Riot Games. This detail is almost ironic, considering it was arguably the collective pressure of NA LCS organisations that brought about the decision for a franchise structure in North America.
The motivations for applying for chartered membership in North America have been clearly outlined by key figures within the European scene in the past.
Notably, G2 eSports founder, Carlos “Ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago, outlined the possibility of his organisation applying to the NA LCS.
Ocelote cited the lack of communication to EU teams regarding the future of the EU LCS as a primary motivator for applying in North America.
“It is a possibility for G2 to move to NA.
“If there is a franchised region and one not, if in the one with relegation, the teams that stay in the league are rewarded more than those in a franchised system, then it would make sense.
“It’s more risk and more reward… but that is not the case”
Carlos “Ocelote” Rodríguez Santiago
G2 eSports and Fnatic are exclusively based in Europe, with G2 based primarily in Berlin and Fnatic locating its head office and store in London.
Both organisations would be required to relocate their League of Legends rosters from Berlin to Los Angeles, in addition to dropping the majority of their rosters due to the two-player import rule via Riot Games’ interregional movement policy.
By contrast, Splyce and Misfits executive operations are already based in North America: Splyce, has its roots in New York, whilst Misfits is based in Miami and has received substantial backing from the Miami Heat.
It remains highly unlikely that any of these teams’ applications will be accepted by Riot Games, given their existing fanbases and brand establishment within Europe. However, their desire to leave the European scene has certainly sent a strong message to Riot Games.
In June, Riot Games announced that the North American LCS will be moving to a franchising model in 2018, but that it had no plans to franchise the European branch of the league.
“Europe is a large and uniquely diverse region that spans multiple countries, cultures and ecosystems.
“While this can be challenging, it is also a great opportunity.
“We are excited to further explore ways to deepen and strengthen our competitive ecosystem to benefit the many talented players, organisations and fans from all over Europe.”
Riot Games Official Announcement
Despite outlining plans to work towards a more sustainable future for the EU LCS, actions to match the words have not been forthcoming. The prospects for professional players in EU pale in comparison to those of their North American rivals.
The fight for Europe’s strongest organisations to hold onto their brightest talent is like swimming against the current. Due to the forthcoming franchise model, NA can offer bigger salaries, a more secure future, a Players Union, bigger viewership and the potential for bigger individual streaming numbers.
Even Europe’s strongest organisations are gasping for air in the current state of the EU LCS, desperate to climb aboard the safe ship of the franchised NA LCS.
For now at least, it appears that Riot Games intends to ignore Europe’s SOS and continue sailing into the sunset with the favoured North American region.