Two weeks ago it looked like League of Legend’s North American season was going to be thrown into turmoil when the player’s union called for a strike over Riot’s plan to make cuts to the North American Challenger’s League, and Riot responded by suspending the entire LCS. After negotiations between the LCS Players Association and Riot, however, that strike is being called off and games are back on.
On May 29 the LCSPA called the strike—with members having “overwhelmingly” voted in favour—and made five key demands of Riot, whose plans to slash the NACL threatened dozens of jobs. Those demands included minimum contracts for LCS summer finals winners, a $300,000 salary pool for NACL teams, promotion and relegation between the LCS and NACL, a “roster continuity” rule for NACL teams and provisions to allow LCS organisations to partner with affiliate teams for cost-sharing.
After a week of negotiations between Riot and the LCSPA, an agreement has today been reached, with the developers announcing the following compromised terms:
- A new NACL business model, in addition to the previously committed $300,000, that shares revenue between the tournament operator and participating teams to drive towards long-term sustainability
- Improvements to the NACL governance model, including a Team Participating Agreement (TPA) and vetting process of the participating team organizations
- Minimum 30-day notice and severance requirement for players earning up to 1.5 times the league minimum salary and minimum two-week termination notice for non-resident LCS players (players and teams are free to negotiate terms over-and-above this)
- Creation of a working group between teams and the LCSPA to better optimize scrim schedules
- Reinforcement of healthcare insurance requirements for international LCS players when they arrive in the U.S.
- Refinement of working procedures between the LCS, LCSPA, and teams to continue conversations around the improvement of the competitive landscape in North America
The LCSPA issued their own statement, providing their own spin on the agreed terms while acknowledging that they’re a “concession” and that “the agreements fall short of our initially stated goals”:
The LCSPA, Riot, and the LCS teams have come to an agreement to resume the 2023 LCS Summer Split on June 14th. Concessions were made by Riot and teams to ensure a more sustainable NACL future and a more equitable voice for players in their workplace. The LCS players put their own jobs on the line to seek protections for our most vulnerable members and to secure a future for the NA talent pipeline. Today’s announcement proves the importance of giving players a meaningful seat at the table. While the agreements fall short of our initially stated goals, Riot has agreed to a series of important changes and committed to meaningful collaboration with the LCSPA before making future decisions.
More than 90% of LCS players voting to walkout was historic - the solidarity shown by players in the NACL, collegiate, and amateur spaces to oppose scabbing was monumental. These unprecedented collective efforts ultimately led to a historic response from Riot: threatening to cancel the entire LCS season.
The concessions below do not return the NACL fully, nor do they provide restoration for the players who lost jobs suddenly and incurred financial hardship, lost visas, or broken leases. The LCSPA is committed to continuing our pursuit of any and all potential paths toward making these players more whole. What we have accomplished is a guarantee by Riot going forward to support the new NACL format and its players - increased financial support for the NACL, accountability measures designed to protect players working for the new operators in the NACL, and lasting protections for our lowest earning members to mitigate harm in the future.
Here is a summary of the terms agreed to since our walkout vote:
- $300,000 for the remainder of the 2023 season to be split amongst the 10 NACL teams in order to boost player opportunity and pay.
- 50% of all future NACL sponsorship revenue will now be shared by NACL Teams.
- The NACL will have a Team Participation Agreement (TPA) in 2024. This means the NACL teams will have to abide by minimum standards in order to receive payments or revenue share from Riot.
- A minimum of 30 days’ severance pay for termination without cause for any player earning up to 1.5 times the league minimum salary and 15 days’ notice for any player competing on a visa.
- Players and teams will share equal representation on a committee to determine any future changes to the practice schedule in a collaborative manner.
- Teams will take action to ensure all foreign players have mandated healthcare available to them by the first day they are in the US.
- Riot and the LCSPA will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes meetings and notice parameters to ensure all parties are aligned before any future decisions are locked and communications are made.
Thank you again to the LCS community, both here at home and abroad, for supporting our players throughout this process. None of what was achieved today - nor the numerous issues we continue to fight for behind the scenes - would have been possible without your voices in support of the players.
While the LCSPA are correct in highlighting the “monumental” nature of the vote and strike plans, which can hopefully serve as an example to other players in other games, the “historic response from Riot”—where the company threatened to cancel the entire LCS season, a move that prompted some key players to waver in their support—highlights the limitations any union are going to face in the esports space, where nearly every system and platform they function within are controlled by the companies they’re trying to walkout on. Riot had all the leverage here, and clearly knew it.
I’ve already seen both criticism and support of the compromise, but I think it’s possible for both takes to co-exist. It’s great the LCSPA got something out of Riot, while it’s also disappointing—if understandable, given the constraints I just mentioned—they didn’t get what they were asking for.