“It’s so crazy, it just might work.” Optimism is an emotion that the European region must cling on to, as the European League Championship Series is reportedly set to be carved apart as a last ditch effort to revive the failing league.
According to an ESPN eSports report, Riot Games plans to reformat and divide the EU LCS 2018 into four regions, emulating a Champions League-inspired configuration.
The current format in place for the league is failing to satisfy neither the region’s 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 Atlantic, yet continues to lag behind the viewership numbers and infrastructure enjoyed by their North American rivals.
Riot Games is now hoping to improve the collective strength of the region by segmenting the continent’s largest player-bases.
The EU LCS, currently featuring 10 teams, will reportedly split into four regions, hosted in the major cities of London, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona. Riot is expected to lock down studio venues in each city in the coming months.
Under the new format, these new leagues will house six regional teams each; totalling 24 competing organisations across Europe.
It is understood that these teams will benefit from a softer form of the franchising process set to be implemented in North America, meaning no relegation and more stability.
The developer had previously shied away from franchising in Europe on account of the region’s sporting culture’s history with relegation systems.
Increased pressure on Riot Games from Europe’s leading eSports organisations – namely G2 eSports, Fnatic, Splyce and Misfits each submitting applications to join the NA LCS and H2K-Gaming’s latest publish plea – has seemingly caused Riot to reconsider.
The top teams from each domestic league will qualify for the greater league, set to run alongside the competitive seasons of the domestic league, similar to the manner in which the Champions League operates in European football (soccer).
The ‘Champions League’ will feature a total of 16 teams, likely to feature nearly all of the EU LCS’ current organisations. Teams will be required to decide upon and declare their home region in the coming months.
Misfits owner, Ben Spoont, who submitted an application for his organisation to transfer to the NA LCS, provided his immediate thoughts on the new format:
“I can emphatically say that the proposed competitive system from the Riot EU side is a game-changer and shake-up necessary to revitalize a diverse and strong region, a region in which by player size is much bigger than North America.
“The new competitive format they’ve created will make every match significantly more meaningful than as currently stands.
“I can speak for Misfits alone that I’m happy with the direction and structure. We feel there are improvements to what they’ve proposed and we’ve communicated it to them.
“When we originally applied to NA we did so not knowing the full competitive and economic structure proposed by EU.
“We now have a lot more information and will continue to work with the Riot group to put in place the safeguards and models necessary, some of which impacts the economic model.
“Ultimately I know we’ll get to there together to ensure the long-term success of all of us at the table.”
Ben Spoont, Misfits Owner
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.
Notably however, ESPN eSports’ report makes no mention of a proposed revenue share agreement (the ultimate deal-breaker for European organisations), though Ben Spoont’s comments suggest that this is something team owners are in the process of dicussing with Riot Games.
The new format is bound to experience teething issues. Initially, smaller teams may struggle to compete in the regional leagues today alongside some of Europe’s most established organisations, for instance.
Stream viewership figures may suffer, as presumably each region’s streams will be broadcast in the respective native language, though in turn, this may encourage more sponsorships due to the more-targetted audience opportunities for regional brands.
Crucially, Riot will 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, though it certainly won’t be the smooth transition that is set to be enjoyed in North America.
Even when it comes to revamping formats, the grass is still greener in NA.