Part of my morning has been spent reading through the big League of Legends' [official site] esports rulings which will affect North American teams Renegades, Team Impulse and TDK as well as slapping bans – one permanent – on various people involved with said teams. In case you were curious, the other part of the morning was spent wondering whether to try my hand at making these Jabba The Hutt marshmallows.
Let's look at the Renegades/TDK ruling first. That's the one you're more likely to have seen mentioned if you follow people from the professional League of Legends scene on social media as it's the one which has left one of LoL's most well-known shoutcasters, Chrisopher 'Montecristo' Mykles, banned from owning teams or holding an official position like general manager, coach or analyst on a team until Summer Split 2017.
Basically it states that "Renegades management has been found to have knowingly violated the competitive ban against Chris Badawi, misrepresented their relationship with TDK, and compromised player welfare and safety."
What that means is that Riot say they have evidence that Monte had a deal with Badawi which would give him a 50% stake in Renegades once Badawi's suspension had expired. Badawi used to be a part-owner of the team as well as part-owner of TDK (Team Dragon Knights) but was suspended in 2015 after a Riot investigation found that he'd been trying to solicit players from Team Liquid to join Renegades. That ruling only banned Badawi from holding any official positions on a team in a Riot-affiliated competition until the end of the 2016 season. But the granting of future rights is still considered a firm ownership stake by Riot and thus granting future rights to a banned individual would violate League's rules.
The ruling goes on to state, "Further, Mykles failed to disclose this arrangement during the LCS team vetting process, which we consider to be an intentional and material omission apparently designed to circumvent the clear and public ban of Badawi."
The second section of that ruling corresponds to allegations of player welfare concerns which "included confrontations between management and players, refusal to honor payment and contract provisions, and failure to maintain a safe environment for all team members."
The third section revolves around team independence and integrity – specifically that TDK and Renegades were not acting as entirely separate entities. For example, one team continuing to house or pay a player even after they had been traded to the other organisation. Riot explains here why that's problematic:
"Co-mingled finances and operations can lead to establishment of influence between teams that forces one party into non-beneficial decisions (like trading away strong players) and, at worst, unfair play (described in Rule 10.1 of the LCS ruleset)"
The result of all of this is that Badawi's continued transgressions in the eyes of Riot have netted him a permanent ban from association or affiliation with any team in a Riot-sanctioned league. Monte is deemed to have "lesser involvement" and thus his ban is until Summer Split 2017. The ban doesn't cover his casting work, by the way. TDK co-owner and manager Chris and Sean Shim are banned indefinitely but can apply for reinstatement from January 1, 2019.
Renegades have until 18 May to sell all rights and legal claims to its LCS spot (so a finalised transfer agreement has to be presented to League officials by that with the new owner/s meeting the standard ownership requirement). TDK is not allowed to participate in the Challenger Summer Split (that's the level just below the professional top tier) and has until May 18 to sell its spot.
There's not a lot in the ruling about the specific evidence that was presented to Riot to back up these claims. The ruling states that this is partly to protect the people involved from possible retribution and partly because "some of these are serious allegations that extend beyond our LCS ecosystem, and it is not our goal to affect these parties outside of LoL esports." Which: yeesh.
Since the ruling Monte has been retweeting messages refuting the player safety bits of the ruling from some of the Renegades players and he also states:
"To my knowledge there was never any misconduct regarding player, nor have any of my players ever alerted me of any problems."
He later added:
"For those asking: I was never presented evidence by Riot for these claims, nor did I know most of them existed.
"I was also told of my ban 30 minutes before the post. I was given no time to respond or present any information.
"I will make a more complete statement in the future, but for the moment have been advised by counsel to wait to say more."
The other competitive ruling involves Team Impulse. According to Riot's top line summary:
"Team Impulse management has repeatedly failed to pay their players on time and to provide valid contracts for their players, as required by the LCS Rules and Team Agreement. League officials have, on multiple occasions, clarified requirements and even directly intervened in team operations to ensure payments, and have determined that Team Impulse does not meet League standards for a professional organization. As such, they will not be permitted to continue participating in Riot-sanctioned leagues."
Essentially, not all players (and, at some points during seasons, no players) had valid contracts and Team Impulse were repeatedly late in paying players the minimum player compensation amount. The lack of contracts has added to confusion about some of the actual amounts owed to players by, according to the ruling, "several team members are still believed to be owed money, in some cases amounting to multiple months of pay."
As with Renegades, Team Impulse must sell its rights and legal claim by May 18. Additionally, they've scored a $20,000 fine to be deducted from its final team league payment.
Whether a buyer will be found for the spots and how many (if any) of the existing players they would choose to keep is now the big question. Protection for players in esports is a big concern when talking about the future of pro-gaming and I think it's good that Riot are being active in ruling against organisations over issues like not handing out contracts or paying players on time. The Renegades/TDK ruling is harder to parse given the lack of presented evidence.
I'd like to reach a point where there's a better understanding of contracts and employment law and how it relates to esports, as well as related issues like player welfare, in a way which supports players from outside specific games. A third-party support system, better information for players/teams, maybe even a union of sorts. There have been rumblings and efforts in that general direction every now and again but it doesn't feel like anything has really *stuck*.
Anyway, yes. We'll see what the Renegades and Team Impulse news does to the NA LCS. In more positive NA LCS news, Counter Logic Gaming are still in the running for the Mid-Season Invitational going on in Shanghai at the moment.