Riot announces arbitration Changes to LCS in 2017

With the growth of eSports and League of Legends leading from the front, Riot has announced several changes to its LCS starting next year. These changes include expedited arbitration for ruling disputes, new lines of digital goods, Head Coach poaching protection, expanded team rosters, increasing the prize pool, revising policy around NA LCS-Challenger Sister Teams, and updating relegation.

Riot had already announced their intentions to make arbitration changes in 2017 in an interview with Yahoo eSports.

According to the official announcement by Riot the changes for the next season are :

Arbitration: As we said during an interview earlier this year, we’ll be introducing an expedited process for teams to contest a ruling regarding an NA LCS ruleset violation. With this change, our goal is to provide an independent body to give both Riot and affected teams an opportunity to validate and present their findings after a serious judgment, without putting an overly burdensome cost on the team or player. Teams will now be able to present their own evidence, as well as review the evidence against them, and make arguments to a neutral, experienced arbitrator.  This arbitration process will only be offered for judgments resulting in the following:

  • A suspension of 1 or more games
  • A fine of $10,000 USD or more

In the case of more complicated disputes, such as those involving termination from the NA LCS, teams can still choose to utilize the traditional form of arbitration. The primary difference between traditional and expedited is the amount of time allocated for discovery and presentation of evidence, and the greater costs that can incur. Whether a team or player chooses the expedited version or the traditional version, the process will be conducted by JAMS, a well-established commercial arbitration firm, unless both parties agree on a different arbitration body.

New Digital Goods: Across all of our regions, creating more opportunities for fans to show their allegiance with in-game content has long been a goal, and in 2017 we believe we can take some further steps in this direction. With the recent launch of LCU Beta, we’re still exploring new content opportunities outside of summoner icons for next year (more on that in a future post). To demonstrate our commitment to those additional digital products, every NA LCS team will be guaranteed a minimum of $50,000 of new digital product revenue per split (in addition to their existing revenue from team icons). The minimum digital line revenue also ensures a guaranteed income for new teams as they continue to grow their fan base.

Head Coach Protection:  Since we’ve introduced the official position of Head Coach to the NA LCS, we’ve seen the direct impact that coaches provide to our teams. We’ll be extending an additional level of security and support to protect their Head Coach and the investment that teams have made in them. Therefore, Head Coaches will now have the same contract requirements and poaching protection as our pro players, and will be listed in the Global Contract Database.

Inactive Roster: As teams continue to import talented players from outside of the NA region, the complexities around roster management and work eligibility increase. This year, we’ve sought a solution that will allow pros to be committed to a team (and gain poaching protection) while still applying for their work eligibility or serving out the end of a suspension. The new inactive roster will allow NA LCS teams to add up to 3 “inactive” players to their roster during that interim phase. These “inactive” players will still count against the team’s maximum of 10 rostered players, but will not be permitted to play in any League match until they are eligible to move to the Active Roster.

Given the 10 player maximum, here’s the breakdown of what NA LCS team rosters could look like in 2017:

  • Active Roster: 5 players (the starting line-up)
  • Reserve Roster: 2-5 players (substitutes who can be swapped into to the active roster)
  • Inactive Roster: 0-3 players (players affiliated with a team but currently not eligible to play)

Prize Pool: We’ve increased the LCS prize pool to $200,000 per split. With rising salaries and minimum compensation requirements in the NA LCS, prize pools aren’t the main driver of competition. However, we want to continue to provide improved compensation as our League continues to grow and mature.

LCS-Challenger Sister Teams: We’ve always had two goals with Challenger: offer an organized semi-pro league where aspiring pros can develop their talent, and create a path for the best new teams in North America to make its way into the LCS.  With that in mind, we’re making one big change to the Challenger Series: we will continue to allow NA LCS teams to operate a Challenger team in 2017, although those teams will not be permitted to participate in the Promotion Tournament. They can participate in the Challenger Playoffs and earn prize money, but if they would qualify for the Promotion Tournament, we will instead invite the next highest placed team with no affiliation with a current LCS organization. Further, to ensure that we have a sufficient number of competitive teams eligible to compete in the Promotion Tournament, we will only be permitting 3 of the 6 Challenger Series slots to be occupied by NA LCS-affiliated teams.

Relegation: We believe it’s important to the overall health and entertainment value of the NA LCS to balance the relegation risk that teams face with a competitive and engaging league. With new organizations entering the NA LCS, we want to provide opportunities for teams to grow by building their fanbase but still ensuring the best teams remain in the League. As such, we will no longer be sending the 8th place LCS team into the Promotion Tournament. However, the NA LCS 9th place and 10th place, as well as NA CS 1st place and 2nd place teams, will continue to participate in the Promotion Tournament at the end of the Spring Split. Given this change, the Promotion Tournament will now utilize a double elimination Bo5 format or “dual-style”. It means win twice – you’re in, lose twice – you’re out.

All NA LCS teams have been made aware of this change well in advance of the 2017 Season.

What about the format and schedule?

Every season, we actively evaluate if the format and schedule are meeting the goals of creating competitive and entertaining matches. While we’ve only had one split of Best of 3s, we’ve seen the benefits and positive feedback from fans, teams, coaches, and pros. With the increased number of games from moving to the Bo3 format, we’re able to provide fans with flexibility and opportunity to watch the games that matter to them. We know dual streams aren’t perfect but we’ll continue to refine our schedule and broadcast experience. Look forward to our Spring Split schedule release with gameday matches in early January.

What’s next?

When we get closer to the start of Spring Split, we’ll share the final 2017 NA LCS Ruleset and our changelog, as well as the match schedule.

We hope this recap helps add context behind the changes to the upcoming NA LCS season. We look forward to kicking off the 2017 NA LCS Season with you on Friday, January 20.