According to a recent report on Hupu, the League Pro League is planning to introduce a salary cap on its players next year, becoming the first league to do so in League of Legends esports. The report states that the salary cap is meant to introduce "financial fairness" among LPL clubs, regulate how much money players can earn, how they get signed to new teams, and even impose a tax on overspending clubs.
"The LPL will gradually implement the rules of financial fairness for clubs and players, and pay for the club’s training expenses and players’ training income," Tencent's head of esports Jin Yibo said.
Unlike traditional sports, however, the reported LPL salary cap will have a performance-based adjustment. Players will be assigned a tier based on their level of play, and their maximum salary will increase or decrease in relation to their tier. Simply put, the better you play, the more you earn — but it's not actually that simple.
Editor's take: What a performance-based cap could mean for the LPL
While the salary cup could be of benefit to the LPL, one could understand why there's pushback against the performance-based aspect of it. There are but few details announced on how the LPL plans to make this a fair and just system so far, but considering the multiple different positions and circumstances within a game that skew stats and data, it's potentially going to be really complicated to get it right. It is currently impossible to judge a player based on stats and post-game data alone without the context of how the player ended up there and what influenced that — be it champion, team style, winning vs losing the game, teammates strength, their position, etc.
Furthermore, this specific system could have a harmful cascade effect, changing more than just player salary but also how the game is played. For instance, if a player's salary is capped based on stats and perceived skill, they may be less likely to make high risk plays. If a game looks lost, it might be in the players' best interest to allow the enemy to win uncontested, otherwise, they may give over more deaths and lower their stat-line, and therefore, compensation. They also may fight their teammates for kills or play a teamfight differently to ensure their own survival.
If you scroll through Twitter or visit the Reddit thread, nearly all the comments are identical, stating their distrust in a mechanical system to properly evaluate player skill and that it would disincentivize fast-paced, risky play even if it worked well. Additionally, it would become increasingly difficult to evaluate players across the various positions, and even more so when team style is taken into account. Supports will likely never be able to reach the same status as a carry mid laner, and weak-side players would get punished, even if they're playing well. This could also affect the draft and how willing players are to allowing their teammates to be the stars. Though a salary cap could be a strong tool for esports, the reservations towards tying it to performance are perhaps understandable.
Nevertheless, it's too early to condemn the reported approach entirely. No specific details have been released on how the cap will be implemented, how it will affect current salaries, or how they've developed their software to accurately determine player skill, but will update with more details moving forward.
Updates as the story develops.
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