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Changes to the Interregional Movement Policy (IMP)

We’re making a few key changes to the Interregional Movement Policy (IMP) we established back in September 2014 in order to preserve opportunities for homegrown talent in their regions, facilitate a healthy balance of imported players and homegrown players, and maintain strong regional identities.

Under the current system it’s likely that by the end of this year, 4 out of 5 starting players will be imported players on many teams in certain regions, which drove us to make these changes. The IMP will still require that teams field no more than 2 non-residents and at minimum 3 IMP residents on their starting rosters. The two key changes are:

  1. Increasing the time current non-residents need to reside in a region to be classified as an IMP resident from 2 to 4 years (calculated in splits).
  2. Preventing future non-residents (for instance, imported players who first join a league in 2017) from earning IMP residency status through time spent residing in a country, and instead basing that status on other prerequisites like citizenship.

Summary

The IMP was introduced to help balance local and foreign talent on professional and semi-professional teams. It was originally designed to grant IMP resident status for prolonged presence in a region, with the goal of preserving opportunities for local talent while maintaining options for pro players who wanted to compete abroad.

However, we misjudged the degree to which foreign talent would be prioritized over local talent and crowd out local player development. In 2014, the ecosystem was much younger, players’ careers were typically shorter, and players switching regions was a less common occurrence - factors which made the original IMP requirement seem appropriate at that time.

Demand for foreign talent has only increased since 2014, and an increased requirement for residency is needed to ensure that local talent has a chance to flourish and to represent their region, while also preventing excessive talent drain from certain regions. We’re making this change in a further effort to preserve the distinct regional identities that help keep competition interesting to watch and regions meaningfully distinct.

Full context

When we first set up the Interregional Movement Policy (IMP), we gave context on why it’s important to balance talented pros being able to take advantage of opportunities in foreign leagues with creating space for homegrown talent to flourish. Since establishing this policy, it has become clear that our initial framework didn't fully meet these needs - and so we're adjusting to hit closer to the original goal.  

Future imported players will no longer be able to become IMP residents simply by residing in a region. Instead, they will need to make a credible commitment to the region by acquiring lawful permanent resident status (for example: citizenship) as specified by regional league rules. For current non-residents, we recognize that some of them planned on staying long term, so we’ll still allow existing non-residents to become residents, but will be raising the period of time it takes them to become an IMP resident from 2 to 4 years.

We’ve decided to make this update to the existing policy in response to the evolving market for teams and players - a lot has changed since this policy was originally introduced in 2014. Demand for highly skilled foreign pros has increased - when building a new team, owners often first look abroad for talent. This has resulted in a greater need to maintain a healthy balance of local and foreign players. It’s now clear that opportunities for homegrown talent will only become more scarce if action isn’t taken.

Without change, under the current system it’s likely that by the end of this year, 4 out of 5 starting players will be imported players on many teams in certain regions. Lengthening the time requirement for a current non-resident to become an IMP resident will help prevent this from happening. Additionally, it can help ensure that by the time current non-residents become IMP residents, they are better integrated into their adopted region and have greater rapport with local fans. Furthermore, this change, along with the other changes we are making to the IMP, protects regions consistently producing world-class talent from talent drain while simultaneously preserving opportunities for local talent to flourish.

We recognize this change is disruptive to teams and players who made plans based on the old policy, and regret that such an impactful change is needed. We had to weigh the meaningful hardship that this change will cause several teams and players with the importance of preserving the future of an ecosystem that has a healthy balance of local and imported players-- this was a tough choice that we did not make lightly.

Current non-residents: increased time to become a resident

We’ll be increasing the amount of time it takes for current non-residents (now called “provisional non-residents”) to become IMP residents. Provisional non-residents are non-residents who, at some point between May 11, 2015 and Aug 1, 2016, either:

  1. Were on the Active Roster of a pro or semi-pro team, or
  2. Relocated to that region for the primary purpose of being trained by a pro or semi-pro team to eventually compete.

    1. An example of someone who relocated for the primary purpose of being trained to compete is a player who joined a team as a trainee but had yet to be added to a roster.

At each regional administrator’s discretion, regions may now track participation in a split (as opposed to time spent in the region) to build credit toward residency.

Provisional non-residents will need to have participated in 8 out of the last 12 splits (which is roughly the equivalent of 4 out of the last 6 years) in order to be considered an IMP resident. Participated means having started in at least 50% of regular season matches in a given split. Time already accrued under the old time-based policy will be retroactively converted and credited toward this new policy, regardless of whether they played in their league in the past. This will make it easier for all parties to track progress toward this requirement and ensure that going forward, provisional non-residents participate in leagues where they will become IMP residents. Under the previous system, players had to account for time spent in and out of the country, which was overly burdensome.

We believe that adding the equivalent (in splits) of an extra two years to the residency requirement creates a long enough timeline for provisional non-residents to become well-integrated parts of their adopted leagues, while also giving local talent critical time to develop.

New IMP Residency Standard

For everyone except provisional non-residents (such as Huni, Trick, Mata, etc.) and grandfathered IMP residents (such as Bjergsen and Seraph, etc.), a player must be a lawful permanent resident (e.g. citizen, etc. - will vary by region and country) of a country in that region in order to become an IMP resident.

Future imported non-residents (for example, non-residents who start playing in 2017)  will no longer be able to become IMP residents by residing in that region for a determined period of time. “Future” means that a player was not on the Active Roster of a team in the pro or semi-pro league, nor had they relocated to that region for the primary purpose of being trained by a pro or semi-pro team to eventually compete, between May 11, 2015 and Aug 1, 2016.

If a player becomes a lawful permanent resident of a region after having played in it as a non-resident, he may petition for IMP resident status with his region’s league administrators.

Additional Changes

Single Region Residency

A player may only be an IMP resident of a single region at any point in time. Upon joining an Active Roster, a player will be considered a non-resident until and unless they declare themselves a resident (and can provide the proper credentials).

Grandfathered IMP residents and switching regions

Players who are already classified as IMP residents (Bjergsen, Seraph, etc.) will be able to keep their residency status, irrespective of legal status. If a player has inherited IMP resident status in a region due to meeting the time-based requirement of the old IMP policy, but is a citizen (or any other lawful permanent classification) of a country in another region, they may switch to IMP resident status in the latter region at any point. However, in doing so, they relinquish the inherited IMP resident status in the former region, and can only get it back by obtaining lawful permanent resident status and submitting a petition to the league.

Dual IMP Resident Eligibility

Players who have lawful permanent resident status in multiple regions (e.g. dual-citizens) cannot be an IMP resident of two regions simultaneously. After declaring residency in one region in which they are eligible, in order to switch residency from one region to the other, they must first have participated in at least 50% of regular season matches of their team within that region in its most recent split.

Scope and Timeline

We know this issue varies from region to region, but it’s important that key rules governing player movement be applied as consistently as possible across all regions since player movement can affect competitive parity amongst all regions. That’s why this rule will be in immediate effect in all leagues globally.

We also know that changing the rules can be disruptive to roster planning.  To prep teams and players for this change, we gave them a preview of the changes affecting current non-residents before the start of the Summer Split to allow them time to plan accordingly and we’re making this change now so that players and teams have adequate time to adjust to the new rule.

Q&A

Why extend the amount of time current non-residents need to become residents rather than keep them on the same timeline?

Many teams in several regions have heavily recruited imported players, and if trends continued, many of these teams could have 4 starting imported players by the end of 2016. This would have major negative repercussions for local talent development and regional identity, which is why it’s important that we make this change. Although local talent development has improved somewhat as of late, many regional ecosystems are still not ready for the impact of having an overwhelming number of imported players on their rosters who will crowd out homegrown talent.

Although we want to provide consistency and stability in our competitive infrastructure, we also want to be responsive to a changing market - and open to changes to legacy structures that no longer fulfill the goals they were designed to.

Why are you making this change now, as opposed to earlier?

Major changes of this sort require data on current trends. We made the best decision we could at the time with the information we had, and given what we’ve learned by watching each league develop over the past 2 years, we realized we had to update the policy. We aimed to make this change after enough information was available from observing past and current roster changes to make reasonable predictions about how player movement would look in the next few years. We gave teams a preview of the provisional non-resident policy before the start of the Summer Split to allow them time to plan accordingly.

Who is most affected by this?

Based on current projections using the previous, time-based policy, fewer than 10 non-residents currently on teams worldwide would have become residents by the end of 2016. While this is a small percentage of players worldwide, we recognize that it is a disruptive change for those players, even with the advance notice that we provided before the start of the Summer Split. By still preserving a route to residency for them while revising the standards for future non-residents, we’re attempting to strike a balance between fulfilling old expectations and achieving the goals of the IMP.