Riot Games, eSports Team Owners Reportedly Clash over Merchandising Strategy

Riot Games currently have their annual League of Legends team owners conference underway. The event is where Riot orientates new team owners, discusses rule and strategy changes, as well as discussing matters that they believe to be of an overarching concern for teams and their product alike. After only the first day, sources have contacted Breitbart to inform us that several team owners are outraged at some of Riot’s proposals for the upcoming season.

The cause of consternation comes from Riot Games new proposals surrounding sales of official LCS team shirts. Riot’s current proposal is that all teams in the league have to agree to the condition that Riot will handle the sale of licensed shirts for each participating team, despite the intellectual property belonging to the respective organisations. The current percentages of the sales on the table are what one source described as “heavily favouring Riot” and “leaving the organisations with the lesser share.”

This becomes even more complicated when Riot have also reputedly dictated that the space on the chest, the most prominent logo, will be reserved for a sponsor Riot Games bring in to the league. This means that title sponsors, or prominent endemic sponsors will be denied the shirt space that would yield them the most exposure; instead a sponsor that most likely will have nothing directly to do with the teams will be featured most prominently.

This ties in with plans that Breitbart had learned of earlier in the process of another report, namely that Riot were looking to bring in a title sponsor to the league to cover the cost of the team stipends. The upshot of this meant that the sponsor would be featured on all the shirts of the competing players, even if the league’s title sponsor conflicted with a team’s endemic sponsors.

Naturally the team owners have made their feelings about this matter known. One owner who contacted Breitbart and requested anonymity stated that the move was being “resisted heavily” and that a group of team owners were “forming an alliance” to try and ensure a better deal for the brands that have helped grow the league overall. Whether or not Riot will budge on this isn’t known.

“The teams will also be using it to discuss other issues regarding treatement,” the owner continued, “such as the stipend not increasing in three years and cutting corners on travel expenses.”

This revelation comes at a bad time for Riot in terms of publicity. The company was already reeling from the community backlash they received from it being revealed that OnGameNet would be losing its exclusive broadcasting rights in the Korean region. Riot also registered trademarks and logos that were near identical to the ones OGN had used. The decision to deprive the broadcaster of their rights was seen as a insulting way to reward the efforts of the company that had done so much to grow support for League of Legends in the South Korean region, a landscape previously dominated by Starcraft.

Riot threw oil on the fire when their official explanation stated that the decision “is simply part of the preparations for the official sports legitimization of eSports,” as if this hadn’t been achieved by OGN and KeSPA in that region long before Riot even had a game to offer them.

This was then followed up by the rolling out of a new league format for the North American and European regions. Instead of uniformity, Riot Games elected to give North America the format most commonly used in the World Championships, a best of three series to decide the winner. Europe was offered the format used only in the Chinese league, a best of two, which means that teams can have ties in their league.

While this was a perceived disadvantage for the European region, as they would play less games overall and play a format not used in their World Finals, Riot offered an embarrassing explanation for their reasoning. “We decided to implement Bo2 format in a region where ties are both understood and accepted in sports culture,” they explained, adding, “In North America, where there’s a regional sport tradition of avoiding ties, we chose to implement Bo3.”

Editor: After reaching out to contact with Riot Games they informed Breitbart that while this was a suggestion they had made to teams it would be on an opt-in basis and would not be enforced across the league.  “There is no obligation to opt into the Official LCS Jersey program – all teams are free to opt out and continue producing their own jerseys” is their official stance.

Riot Games also added that the information regarding the sponsorship logo on the chest area of official jerseys was not accurate and that the space would be reserved for team branding. They didn’t comment on the possibility of whether or not they would feature a league sponsor on the shirts.

Follow Richard Lewis on Twitter @RLewisReports.


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