The current format in place for the European League of Legends Championship Series is failing to satisfy neither the regions competing eSports organisations nor their respective fan bases.
The EU LCS has long-since prided itself on presenting a superior quality of League of Legends to their cousins across the Pacific, yet continues to lag behind the viewership numbers and infrastructure enjoyed by their North American rivals.
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 situation for Europe’s heavyweights reached dire straits as G2 eSports, Fnatic, Splyce and Misfits each submitted applications to join the forthcoming franchise model in North America, desperate to escape the doomed vessel that is the EU LCS.
The state of the EU LCS is both frustrating and puzzling, given that Riot appears to be ignoring Europe’s SOS, content to sail into the sunset with the favoured North American region.
The developer has shied away from franchising in Europe on account of the region’s sporting culture’s history with relegation systems. Alternatives have not been forthcoming, but a new model proposal is now beginning to gain traction.
A format which replicates that seen in football’s (soccer) European Champions League is proving to be a popular model for the potential future of the EU LCS.
The premise of the Champions League is to pluck the best teams from the strongest national leagues, uniting them for a single competition.
This process would involve removing the struggling Challenger Series and replacing it with regional leagues across Europe. Riot previously promoted regional leagues across Europe, supporting the respective leagues within Germany, Spain, France, Poland, UK and the Nordics.
In a Champions League-like model, rather than qualifying for the flawed EU CS, the best teams from each respective region would qualify to compete in the EU LCS directly.
The pre-established infrastructure within each of these six regions has been largely supported by external entities, like ESL in Germany and the UK or LVP in Spain.
Many of the EU LCS’ current heavyweights would need to establish themselves within their home nations: Fnatic returning to London to compete in the UK, G2 Esports in Spain, Team Vitality in France etc.
Fueling a new-look EU LCS with national pride may provide the much-needed injection of personality and excitement the league has been lacking, utilising Europe’s cultural diversity to its advantage.
Initially, smaller teams may struggle to compete in the regional leagues today alongside some of Europe’s most established organisations. The likelihood is that the current cohort of LCS teams would dominate their regional leagues, but this would hopefully level out over time.
Crucially, Riot would need to deviate from their current path and invest a significant amount of capital in the European scene, supporting third parties to run the regional leagues, improve production value and provide financial incentives for teams to compete.
A Champions League model has potential within Europe, providing the EU LCS with a desperately required revamp of format and identity.