Riot announces NA LCS franchising, details Academy League and Players’ Association

Riot Games will move the NA LCS to a franchising model for spring 2018, which will see the end of relegation and drastic changes come to the challenger series, according to the announcement on their website.

As previously reported by theScore esports, current NA LCS organizations are not guaranteed spots in the league and will have to apply for partnership alongside other potential candidates. The new announcement says that "any current LCS teams that aren't selected as part of this process will be compensated for the investment they've made to the league."

Though Riot uses the term “permanent partnership” in their release, the model will see organizations apply to become league partners and, if accepted, will share in the league’s revenue. Applications opened June 1, and the application period ends July 14. Partners will be announced in November.

Applicants will need to provide information about their business plan, fan engagement strategies, organizational infrastructure and more when they apply to join the league. A Yahoo Esports interview with Riot's co-head of esports and head of merchandising Jarred Kennedy and co-head of esports Whalen Rozelle puts the buy-in for applicants at $10 million.

The new league will offer revenue sharing for both organizations and players and the minimum salary for players will be raised to $75,000. Additionally, while players will receive their agreed-upon salaries with organizations, they are also guaranteed revenue sharing at a minimum of 35 percent of the league’s revenues.

“What this means is that players will earn their full salary throughout the year, and if the players’ share of league revenue is greater than their combined salaries for the year, the difference will be distributed to the players directly,” Riot’s announcement explained. “If the share is less than the sum of the salaries, players won’t have any money recalled — all salaries will be 100% guaranteed.”

Teams are entitled to 32.5 percent of revenues, with half of that amount being split evenly between teams, and the other half used for financial incentives for placement and for “contribution to viewership/fan engagement.”

The Challenger Series will also become the Academy League, and each NA LCS organization will be expected to field a roster in the league. This refocuses the Challenger Series away from its previous role as a potential path to the LCS and will instead focus on developing talent.

“This will hopefully meet multiple needs for NA LCS teams: deeper rosters to experiment with younger talent, enough spots in the league for all LCS teams to be represented, and more games played to speed the development of their Academy players,” Riot wrote in the announcement.

Relegation, as it exists now, is gone, although a team that finishes 9th-10th “five times over an eight-split span will lose their right to compete in the NA LCS.” It is unclear what would happen to the spot, and whether players or the organization would be compensated for its loss. Riot also plans to implement financial incentives for teams that perform well.

A Riot-funded Player’s Association will begin forming in June. A shortlist of possible player representatives will pitch to players, who will choose who to elect. If the candidates are rejected by players, additional candidates can be provided, or Riot may accept other representation selected independently by the players. From July to September, the elected representatives will begin their work and meet with players. When it ultimately launches, the PA will act as a way for players to represent their unified concerns in negotiations.

Josh "Gauntlet" Bury is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find him on Twitter.

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