The biggest news in professional League of Legends this year has been the advent of franchising.
Sure, there’s a little thing called Worlds that starts tonight. But nothing is set to shake up the entire landscape of competitive play like franchising—not even a third-straight world championship for SK Telecom T1. To date, intense interest from fans, players, and especially, team owners and investors, had been met with precious little information. But today, Riot gave us an update on the process.
Riot vaguely described the presentations and initial meetings with interested teams. The company enlisted Daniel Barrett, a consultant to numerous traditional sports teams, to filter through the initial applications, which were reported to be over one hundred and included some presentations up to 250 pages in length.
After the initial cull, a smaller group of applicants met with Riot to discuss things in more detail. Riot seems focused on two determining factors: How the teams will complement each other and combine to help grow the league, and how non-endemics will set up their esports operations.
Both questions seem to indicate that non-endemics are being heavily considered. If Riot truly wants to diversify its partnerships and create the best ecosystem, it’s possible that some or even most of the endemic teams could struggle to make a case. Due in part to the relegation structure of the past, there are few teams that have truly built brands that resonate with fans and have a history tied to that of the LCS. TSM should be fine, but what of everyone else?
The good news is that endemic teams that don’t make the cut will receive a bit of a parachute payment. Riot confirmed that outside teams that are accepted will each pay an extra $3 million, which will be split among the excluded endemics based on the number of splits those teams played in either the LCS or CS. If a team with players under contract is ruled out, they will have to either release the players or sell them to another team in the league, in order to qualify for the parachute payment.
Also, Riot confirmed that, although they toyed with the idea of expanding or contracting the league, the overall consensus, including thoughts from the Players Association, was to stay at 10 teams. And about that Players Association—we still don’t know that much about it. They’re still in the process of drafting a constitution, and it’s still unclear how much impact it will have on improving player welfare and empowering esports professionals.
Finally, Riot put a timeline on the remainder of their process—Riot will announce the final team lineup in November, presumably ahead of the offseason free agency period, which begins Nov. 21.