Despite the regional League of Legends professional leagues all being firmly in the off-season, yesterday was an eventful day for the North American LCS.
Riot Games, who develops League of Legends and runs the EU and NA pro leagues, handed down competitive rulings for three of the teams competing in the NA LCS. Long story short, all three team organisations are being kicked to the curb and can no longer play in Riot-sanctioned leagues.
Riot imposes strict rules upon teams playing in their pro leagues about team ownership, player contracts, payment, poaching and much more. And it's those rules all three teams have breached, says Riot.
First up is Team Renegades. Apparently the team's former co-owner, Chris Badawi (who has previously received a one-year suspension from Riot and is thus not allowed to hold an ownership stake in any team) had a deal in place with current team owner Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles to re-purchase his stake in the team once the suspension was up. But Riot sees such agreements as de facto ownership, and thus they have permanently banned Badawi from holding any position associated with a team in the Riot-sanctioned leagues. Mykles, meanwhile, gets a one-year ban from involvement with team organisations. Mykles also works as an English-language commentator for the Korean LCK league and international Riot events, but his work there won't be impacted by the ban.
Badawi is also accused of misconduct towards the players on Renegades, which Riot says "included confrontations between management and players, refusal to honor payment and contract provisions, and failure to maintain a safe environment for all team members".
Then there's Team Dragon Knights, or TDK. Renegades and TDK traded several players earlier this year, but apparently some of those players were still formally signed to and paid by their former teams. Neither team had disclosed those conditions to Riot, which is against the rules, and therefore the owners of TDK, Chris Shim and Sean Shim, have been indefinitely banned from being involved with Riot-sanctioned leagues - alongside the bans already handed to the Renegades owners.
Finally, Team Impulse haven't been paying their players on time, and also didn't have contracts with any of their players for 2016. Therefore, the organisation is getting the boot from Riot.
Where does this leave the players and their teams, then? The owners of Renegades, Team Impulse will be forced to sell their team spots in the NA LCS, while TDK has to sell their spot in the challenger division. These spots are highly valuable - Team Dignitas reportedly received bids over $500,000 when they were forced to sell the European LCS team last year, and NA LCS spots are generally believed to command an even higher price.
The eventual new owners have the option of signing the former players of Renegades, TDK and Impulse, but they are also well within their rights to build brand new squads. Given that most player contracts don't expire until the World Championship has been played this fall, there probably aren't a lot of top players available for signing, though.
Riot has given the three teams until May 18 to sell their team spots and hand over their organizations to new ownership.