Riot’s 2016 LCS rules bring in more player protections

Ahead of the 2016 year and the fourth season of the League Championship Series (LCS), Riot Games is looking to update rules governing contracts between players and teams

Ahead of the 2016 year and the fourth season of the League Championship Series (LCS), Riot Games is looking to update rules governing contracts between players and teams.

A new set of proposed changes will offer more protections to players in the biggest competition in League of Legends. Riot plans to limit contract durations, enforce minimum compensation for substitute players, allow players to leave delinquent teams, and outlaw non-compete clauses in player contracts.

The rules are designed to protect players and help foster an environment where they can earn fair market value compensation, which Riot Games believes entails an increase in compensation. Riot notes that these are just the first changes planned with that goal in mind.

  • Limit contract lengths to 3 years

Most players are only signed to one year contracts. A few big organizations like to lock players up for two. But some try to go even higher. Apparently, Riot knows of at least one 10-year deal signed to a team outside of the LCS.

“While we want to encourage the stability of team rosters in LCS, we believe contracts extending beyond three years at this point in time are not healthy for players or teams given the rapid growth of the League,” Whalen “Magus” Rozelle writes. “In addition to helping players seek a fair market value, we also believe that long-term contracts are open to abuse when teams have no responsibility to pay them or keep them on the Active Roster.”

For example, a player could sign a contract, expecting a certain level of pay, but get benched and then not receive it. But he’s trapped in that deal for potentially the rest of his career. So Riot Games is limiting those situations with a the three-year limit.

In practice, this rule likely changes the current landscape little. The only team in the LCS with players signed for longer than 3 years prior to the start of the Summer season was Team SoloMid. But it’s still a prudent rule to ensure that problems don’t arise in the future.

  • Reserve players are contracted and receive minimum compensation per split

Some teams have already made substitute players significant parts of their lineup. Choi “HuHi’ Jae-hyun, for example, never played a game for Counter Logic Gaming, but he showed enough as a member of the team to earn a starting spot entering 2016. Riot Games seeks to “standardize” that kind of relationship with reserve players, and the easiest way to do that is by ensuring they get paid.

“We believe this is healthy for the LCS and provides some stability for these players,” they say. The minimum compensation will be less than the minimum required for LCS starters, but it’s a start towards helping more teams see reserves as valuable parts of their lineup, and towards making a reserve position tenable as a pro player.

Riot sees these changes as just a “first step” towards ensuring all players are able to earn their market value; they have more plans in the works to see players score increased compensation.

  • Outlawing “non-compete” clauses

Anyone who has ever worked a job is probably familiar with a non-compete clause, which limits you from working at competitors for a period after the termination of your employment. It’s usually put in place to protect trade secrets from slipping to competitors when an employee leaves, but it’s become increasingly common in many industries as a catch all for many employers. Often they aren’t enforced, but they make finding new work an even more stressful proposition.

In esports, when a player’s career is often limited to a few short years, waiting out a season without pay for a period like this is a death sentence.

“Restricting players from joining another team once their contract expires is simply unfair and risks the player missing out on key months (or even years) of their career,” Riot explains.

Like the long term contracts, that probably isn’t a common occurrence in esports. Most players are free to change teams when their contracts are over. But it’s prudent for Riot Games to ensure that it does not become a future issue.

  • Terminating contracts with delinquent teams

Players will now be able to terminate their contract should their team be removed from the LCS due to a rules violation. Note that doesn’t include relegation—the only instances where this rule would apply so far are Lemondogs in 2014 and Rich Gang Club in 2015.

Playing in the LCS is key to a pro player’s livelihood, and getting removed from it for reasons other than performance could spell disaster for a career. It’s only fair that the players are not punished for the sins of their organization, so this rule seems like a no brainer.

The changes introduced by Riot Games today certainly prudent additions to their set of regulations, and according to the company, it’s just the beginning of its plans to protect and promote the players in its leagues. That’s certainly a good thing, considering most of these changes will have little impact on the stated goal of increasing player compensation.

In addition, changes to the LCS and Challenger competitive formats, as well as locations for its 2016 international events, will also be revealed at a later date.

The exciting and unpredictable offseason in League of Legends shows just how much the community is anticipating the 2016 season, and Riot Games is making sure it’s ready.

Photo via Riot Games/Flickr

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