On July 25, LCK introduced three new systems that will be integrated into the league in the following years: rookie development clause, agent certification, and pre-contract policy. After LCK announced the new systems, they had a Q&A session with the secretary general Lee Jeong-hoon and league management team leader Lee Ho-min. Below is a full translation of the Q&A session.
What’s the reason for having an additional transfer fee for players going abroad? What kind of information are agents forbidden to leak?
The additional transfer fee is to strengthen LCK’s competitiveness. Through this system, LCK teams will have an edge over the foreign teams in signing players.
The information agents are forbidden to leak are things like confidential information about the league and teams, and contract information about players.
How are the transfer fees calculated? How are the additional fees for foreign teams calculated?
We created a transfer fee table internally. The LCK rosters are divided into six sections, and each section will have a specific transfer fee. The transfer fee will be determined by the final signed amount. It’ll be similar to calculating tax. When players go abroad, the transfer fee will be increased by 20%.
Is the rookie development clause optional or mandatory? The players' opinions are important for systems like this to be integrated. How have you considered the thoughts of the rookies playing in the LCK, CL, and academy?
The rookie development clause is optional. When players sign with a team for the first time, they’re asked to sign an agreement. They can still sign with the teams even if they don’t agree. We’ve discussed this thoroughly with the teams and handed out material explaining the system to the players. After today’s press conference, we’ll hold extra sessions to explain to the players and answer their questions. We haven’t exactly listened to the players' thoughts about this system.
Is the pre-contract policy only available within the LCK, or can players playing abroad be selected? Also, you’ve officialized agents. Will their information be available to the public?
The pre-contract policy is only available within the LCK, so teams can’t select players playing abroad. If foreign leagues make similar systems, we’ll take them into reference. The information about certified agents will be available on the LCK agent homepage, which will be revealed later.
One of the issues LCK is facing is whether or not to reveal the players’ salaries. In traditional sports, there are advantages when they reveal the salaries. Do you plan to reveal the salaries?
It’s not yet time to reveal the salaries. As much as there are advantages, disadvantages exist too. We’re still examining the cons of revealing the salaries in the current situation. In traditional sports, there are leagues that do and leagues that don’t. There may be more leagues that do. However, in the LCK, there’s a big gap between the maximum and minimum, so some players could feel out of place. There are too many things to consider. It’s not that we’re not ever going to reveal the salaries — we need to see how things go for a while longer and think it through.
Certifying agents could mean that you’re bringing in agents within the LCK. There could be situations where agents and teams clash. Does that mean LCK can intervene?
Usually, when players’ and teams’ interests clash, agents intervene. There have been several cases up to now. It seems from the outside, the LCK didn’t intervene at all, but when it was reported, there were many cases where the LCK intervened. Having officially certified agents doesn’t mean that the LCK will intervene more. It’s to reduce the risk of having unofficial agents.
Listening to the rookie development clause, I’m curious about how practical it would be. It’ll be more convenient for players to test their value as free agents. What are your thoughts?
The rookie development clause asks for agreement from the player. They can set the duration of the contract from 1 year to multiple years. The reason this clause was implemented was that teams wanted to be assured about the stability of their investments in the CL players.
As for the clause being practical, there are many more forced clauses in other sports leagues. Systems like drafts or ownerships of the players are forced, and there is nothing players can do about it. The LCK has to consider many causes. We need to think about their ages and careers. For this clause to be applied, the player has to agree to it when they sign the contract. They can aim for a higher salary without using this clause, but we believe that many players will apply for it.
The pre-contract policy looks like a variation of the franchise contract system, and it seems that the way the original teams aren’t as protected. The original teams’ rights should be protected more for the policy to be stabilized. Are you planning to improve the system or give more privilege to the teams?
When we first discussed the system, we benchmarked many other pro sports leagues. The LCK came from a completely different starting point compared to other sports. When we discussed this system, most of the opinions said that the league can’t have strict restrictions or give too much privilege to the teams.
The essence of this system is to allow the teams to invest with a goal when they sign players and to have the teams gain at least something in return for their investment. This policy will begin in 2023, so up to that point, we’ll try to find and improve any holes in the system. We’ll be listening to the ideas of the teams, players, and even fans.
There’s a time limit to the pre-contract policy, and why is there a three-team limit? Also, when official agents are caught tampering, what’s the penalty? If the agents are caught breaking the rules without the player knowing, can the players cancel it?
The core of the pre-contract policy is to have an official negotiation period before the original contract deadline so that teams can finish signing a certain player. That way, the teams can work through the stove league more efficiently and strategically. If the period of time is longer, it could overlap with the finals of the World Championship. As for tampering or any other violations, we’ll be following the LCK penalty index. The biggest penalty is indefinite suspension. More details will be in the LCK agent regulations book that will be revealed later.
Why can one player be designated only twice?
Originally, we were going to add a “matching” clause within the policy. A matching clause is if the original team offers the same as what other teams offered, the original team can keep the player. However, this can have the teams keep a player indefinitely through the policy, so we put a limit on the number of times to prevent that.
Why does there have to be an obstacle when players move to other teams? For example, about 90% of the LCS players decide where they’re going before the stove league. What if the player gets afraid of being designated? You said that you didn’t listen to what the players had to say. What makes you sure that this would benefit the players?
The goal of this system is to officialize transfer fees when players move. We made a reasonable system to calculate the transfer fee. Before, the transfer fees and players’ salaries rose together, and a high amount was required for a high-salary player. However, the new transfer fee calculation system should be accepted as reasonable.
Since there are multiple leagues that want to sign Korean players, so we also asked the other major regions (LCS, LPL, LEC) about this system. We asked how they think of the transfer fee system, and since the LCS and LPL had already signed players with transfer fees, they said that it won’t be much different and that the system is reasonable.
Whatever system there is, it’ll be difficult to benefit both the players and the teams. Please understand that this policy is to improve the way teams enter the stove league. While we explain this system to the players and answer questions, if we missed anything, we’re more than willing to improve it.
Right now, the LCK is making something out of nothing. It was a free trade market up to now with almost no regulations. In fact, what’s most beneficial for the players is to become free agents every year through single-year contracts. There’s a reason why players can’t become free agents every year in most professional sports. Our goal is to create an ecosystem where the league, teams, and players can all co-exist. With that goal, I believe we need to persuade all that’s involved when a new policy or regulation is implemented.
The same goes with agents. One player can select one agent, but to players, having more agents is more advantageous because they can bring more positive negotiation plans. However, looking at the market as a whole, there will be excessive competition, and only the expenses will rise.
During the transition period of such systems, there could be players that have complaints about the system, and they could go abroad. Compared to before, the early days of this system can decrease the competitiveness of the LCK, but these systems aren’t the end; they’re only the beginning. We’ll be adding more systems such as benefit programs for the players so that they can be motivated to stay in the LCK.
In the last stove league, a player formed a squad with other players in advance and asked to sign with a team with that squad. This system looks like it’s to prevent that from happening again. Is this correct? Also, there are many teams that complained because the teams can’t take as much as the increased value of the players. Are the new systems to supplement these issues?
Up to now, the LCK was very free compared to other sports leagues when players and teams signed contracts. As you know, there was much more demand for players than supply, so their values rose in that process. We’ve checked that the teams lost much motivation about bringing up new talent and that certain players moved together to other teams around one star player. It is intended to finish some negotiations early so that the teams can prepare for the next year during the stove league more conveniently.
There can be conflicts among the players, the league, and the teams. What’s your stance on the players forming a union?
When we started the franchise system, we thought there needs to be a player association, rather than a union, so that they could speak for the players. The league was going to create an association for the players to sit at the table, but as most players are very young, we thought it was too early to do that. I think that matter needs to go naturally. If the league and teams can’t speak for the players’ rights, the players forming an association or a union is natural. The league has no intention of stopping that from happening.
The LCS made a union as a league. When they transitioned to the franchise system, the LCS created a player union. Most of the costs were covered by the league. After seeing how it went on, we checked that a players association run by the league can’t really speak for the players. For a players association to meet its goal, it has to be made naturally.
You said one agent per player. Are you going to limit the number of players one agent can manage?
We will not limit the number of players per agent. We did consider limiting the number of players, as one agent could take up all the players to have excessive influence. When we went through the cases of other sports leagues, there were plenty of ways to go around the limit, even if there was one. There can be agents that do the same in the LCK, so we won’t be limiting the number of players one agent can sign. In the future, if one agent has excessive influence on the industry, we might be considering a limit.
How will you manage the agents if the players’ families work as agents?
To improve the system, when we took a survey, about 10% of the players’ parents worked as agents when they signed the contracts. The families can be agents. Unlike other agents, they can be certified without separate tests — they can just take classes for certification. However, they cannot represent other players.
These systems seem like they’re for teams, not players. Do you agree? Since they’re systems that aren’t really beneficial for the players, teams might include clauses to prevent the players from objecting when they sign a contract. Are you going to restrict those clauses?
We have to admit that these systems are to aid the teams’ continuous development. We will be doing our best to help the players understand these systems and use them for their careers. We haven’t decided if we’ll restrict those clauses yet. The pre-contract policy will be effective as of 2023. There’s still time, so there can be modifications after we listen to the evaluations of the policy. We’ll be discussing with our legal team to see if we’ll include it in the standard contract or regulation book, etc.
We can’t really say if we’ll take sides with the teams or the players. The rookie development clause isn’t specifically for the team and league — it came to be because each team appealed that there needs to be motivation for them to develop young players, and the league agreed. The pre-contract policy started from the thought that each LCK team should have its own identity.
The agent certification is regulation for a fair market. On paper, it may look disadvantageous to the players, but we’ve decided to go with these systems because everyone agreed upon the direction the league should go.