On the 6th (KST), Riot Games announced that the franchise model will be applied to the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) starting from 2021. The franchise model has been applied in the NA and China since 2018 and in Europe since 2019. Among the four major leagues, Korea was the only region that has yet transitioned.
Riot Games suggested a future that can create a virtuous circle, an environment where teams, players, and fans can continue to enjoy for multiple generations.
With the franchise model being installed, many changes are expected. The biggest change would be discontinuing promotions and relegations. Additionally, 2nd string leagues will be created and player support would be strengthened.
The promotions and relegations were one of the biggest obstacles for teams to invest in and operate their businesses. However, the promotions and relegations will be discontinued after the 2020 Summer promotions and relegations. As there would be no danger of being relegated anymore, teams can invest more in their businesses from merchandise and sponsorships.
The profit for the league is also distributed among the teams so they can form a more stable financial structure. Increased income can bring reinvestment within the team which can create stronger rosters. As teams and players can now concentrate on the game in a better environment, the possibility of a “2nd Faker” appearing is increased.
As the promotions and relegations will be discontinued which has been around since 2015, from the 2021 season, LoL Challengers Korea will be discontinued and a reserve league will take its place. Franchise teams will be required to own and operate a reserve team to raise prospects.
The support of players will also be increased. Currently, the minimum wages for players are set around 20M KRW (≒16,180 USD). This will be tripled to about 60M KRW (≒48,540 USD). Players will be guaranteed one of the highest minimum wages so that they can concentrate solely on improving their performances. Fans can cheer for their teams without worrying that their team may be relegated.
Riot Games said, “We’ve considered transitioning to a franchise league since 2018. Starting last year, we have been considering many different models and the validity of the business by cooperating with several corporations. Through franchising, our goal is to create stability and attract investments for teams and sponsors, aiming for improved performances and creating a virtuous circle. Like baseball or soccer, we hope that esports can also become a multi-generation sport that multiple generations can enjoy.”
Starting from this announcement, Riot Games will start recruiting franchise teams. Through evaluating the applicants until June this year, Riot Games is planning to announce the final results at the end of September.