The Future of the EU LCS
March 28 2018
By Marc 'snowbird' Schnell and Remer 'Canechurch' Rietkerk

The EU LCS is built on a foundation of incredible talent. Over the past 6 years, we've produced world class players and legendary organisations from multiple countries, cultures and languages - all brought together by our common love for competitive gaming. From the league's earliest days to the current nail-biting 2018 season, our region has been a force to be reckoned with. Our goal has always been making the EU LCS a league that fans keep coming back to.

We’re constantly exploring new ways to evolve the league, and believe that now is the right time to take the next step towards unlocking a bright, long-term future for fans, pro players and teams. We want to build on what has always been Europe's strength: our ability to surface and nurture great talent - but also make sure our pros are well supported and rewarded, sharing in the success of the league. It’s our goal to build a system that allows fans to create long-lasting and deep connections with teams and pros, and a league that provides teams with more stability.

We began 2018 by restructuring our grassroots and local competition throughout Europe, to create an aspirational, nationally rooted competitive ecosystem that allows more players to take part than ever before. Today, we are taking the next step with the EU LCS and will be launching the application for long-term partnerships in Europe.

Read on for more details about how this will work.
In a nutshell

We want to make the EU LCS a multi-generational sports league that allows fans to forge lasting connections with the teams and pros they love. In order to build strong, enduring fandom, we believe a long-term partnership structure is the best path forward for these reasons:
  • Removing the shadow of relegation, providing teams with more security to make longer investments that will strengthen and support pros, and provide better experiences for fan.
  • Long term partnerships unlock revenue sharing, allowing everyone in the league to work towards a sustainable future and an exciting EU LCS. Pros and teams will be rewarded for their success and the value they bring to the league.
  • Partnering with strong organisations will allow us to focus on shaping the long-term future of the EU LCS.
Strengthening the League
Over the past few years we’ve evaluated a variety of different models for Europe, with our goal of making the EU LCS a league that fans keep coming back to. Although promotion and relegation has worked well for us in the past, as the league matured we’ve seen issues with churn and stability for some of the most loved teams. When we explored a partnership model for EU, we found the benefits outweigh the negatives. For teams to invest the time and resources to build lasting connections with fans over years, not just months requires a level of commitment that’s difficult in the shadow of relegation. A league with longer competitive cycles will help teams to build a deeper relationship with fans, because they have security, additional resources and the stability to invest into the players they believe have star quality.
Partnering with teams

By selecting long-term partners for the league, we’re looking for trusted collaborators to work towards the success of the EU LCS for years to come. In our current structure, teams operate with individual, short-term incentives due to uncertain long-term futures. With long-term partnership we can create a healthy and successful future where everyone involved is working together towards a common goal. By aligning our goals with strong, motivated teams, we can collectively shape the future of our sport into one that’s fiercely competitive, entertaining and here to stay.

A partnership system is only as strong as its weakest link, and a competitive league is important to us all. To ensure the league remains exciting to follow and economically healthy, our system will include both incentives and penalties based on performance.

It’s still early days, but after launching similar partnership programmes in China and North America last year, we’re already starting to see some of the benefits of this system. By partnering with strong, well supported organisations, we’ve seen a shift towards better resources for pros, from training facilities to additional dedicated support staff helping teams reach their goals.
Rewarding pros

Creating an entertaining and highly competitive league starts with the dedication of the pros who play every week. European players have consistently demonstrated their talent and been some of the most highly sought-after players in the LoL esports universe. Partnered teams will be able to plan longer futures with pros, which in turn helps pros focus on what they do best - making the EU LCS a strong contender on the international stage.

Entering into a partnership model means a few benefits straight away for pro players; firstly, we’ll be increasing the minimum salary for pros in the league to €60k per year. This means whether you’re just starting out in your EU LCS career, or a seasoned veteran, the salary floor across all players will be the same.

Pros will also be incorporated into the league revenue sharing structure, which means they’ll receive additional compensation on top of their salary if the league performs well. They’ll be rewarded for the value they bring to the league - and are able to share in the profits they help to create.
Revenue Share
As the EU LCS evolves, we want teams and pros to share in the success of the league. In 2018 we introduced a viewership bonus to incentivise teams to engage with their fans and motivate them to tune in to watch their games. By becoming partners with the league, all parties involved in the EU LCS will actively generate league revenue and will be rewarded by sharing in the aggregate league revenue pool. Together we will make the league stronger than ever before and make sure everyone is rewarded.

HOW IT WORKS

The structure consists of a league revenue pool (LRP) that all parties contribute to, and benefit from. The league will share revenues from sponsorships and media rights and in turn, teams will share a portion of their sponsorship and merchandise revenues.
Player Portion The player portion of the LRP is 35%, which pays for contracted player salaries. If the league performs well and the player portion is above their combined salaries, the difference will be shared with players.
Team Portion
The team portion is 32.5%. Part of that share will be distributed equally to each organisation and part will be divided into allocations based on competitive and engagement metrics.
Riot PortionThe remaining 32.5% goes to Riot for broadcast production, live events, and running the league.
Player Development
One of our greatest strengths as a region is our ability to nurture and develop new talent. We’ve seen rookies grow into superstars and players that redefine how our game is played. We want to make sure that never changes, so part of our 2019 structure will include a player development platform that will be essential for providing aspiring pros with the support they need to grow into star players and well-rounded individuals. We’re currently working through a few different options and we’ll be able to share an update on our plans once they’re locked in.  

While nurturing and growing talent in-game is important, we also want to make sure pros are receiving the right amount of support IRL. Over the past few years, we’ve introduced player programmes such as branding, social media and sports psychology workshops. Moving forward, we want to double down on the resources available to pros on topics ranging from personal finance, to personal development and healthcare. With the new revenue sharing structure, we also want to ensure pros have a voice and are able to take an active part in helping to develop the league. We’ll have more to share on our player development plans in the next few months.
Application Process
Europe is an exciting and dynamic region, requiring the right set of partners with the ability to resonate with our diverse fanbase. We’re looking for teams that can demonstrate their dedication to the future of the EU LCS, and can show how they plan to build a team that fans are proud to support.

The application process will consist of three phases, and while this process is confidential, we plan to check back with regular status updates along the way.

Here's an overview on those stages:
Phase 1: Application

Applications are now open until July 1st. Interested teams will be asked to submit a proposal outlining how they plan to build a successful team to compete in the EU LCS. We gained valuable insight through the NA LCS application process, and will implement a similar process in EU. Applicants will share their team strategy, brand, ownership details and business plan, with the addition of tailored questions to ensure they have considered how to connect with fans and pros in such a vibrant and multicultural region.

Here’s a brief sample of the questions we’ll ask at this stage.
Team Strategy
  • How do you plan to build a successful team?
  • Can you provide an overview of your support staff - coaches, analysts etc.?
  • What facilities will you offer to your pros?
  • How will you support pro player development for pre-, present and post-career?
Team Brand
  • What makes your team one that fans will want to support?
  • How do you plan to acquire new fans?
  • What are your plans to engage with fans both on a pan-European and local scale?
  • How do plan to connect with non English-speaking fans?
Ownership and business plan
  • How dedicated to esports are team owners?
  • Who will be responsible for driving team strategy?
  • How do you plan to engage sponsors and investors?
Phase 2: Application review and interviews

Throughout phase 2, all applications will be reviewed and assessed by the league. Our goal is to partner with strong organisations who share the same vision of strengthening the EU LCS and are capable of making that a reality. We’ll also be partnering with third party experts, with experience in structuring sports teams, to provide an outside view on the strength and quality of applications. Organisations that make it past the review phase will then be asked to present their application in-person in order to break down the core of each proposal. These in-person interviews will happen from July to September.

Out of all teams that make it to the interview phase, 10 will be selected to take part in the 2019 EU LCS.
Phase 3: Signing

This is the last stage, paperwork and partner announcement. We’ll be announcing our final line-up before the start of free agency in November to enable teams to prepare their rosters for 2019. Existing EU LCS teams that are not part of the 2019 line-up will have a buyout period during which they’ll be able to negotiate for the sale of any contracted players. These teams will also be compensated by the league for the significant investment they’ve made to the EU LCS over the years.
Timeline
Phase 1
March 28 - July 1
Applications open
Phase 2
July - September
Application review and interviews
Phase 3
September - November
Final team selection
Phase 4
November
2019 EU LCS teams announced
We’re excited to build a new and lasting future for our sport, with strong and dedicated partners by our side. Today is the next step towards achieving that future and it’s the first of many along the way. Over the next few months, we’ll check in after each phase of the application process, answer questions, and take a closer look at some of the things we’re most excited about for 2019 and in the future.