According to a report from ESPN Esports, the EU LCS is looking to split into four distinct leagues based in London, Paris, Berlin and Barcelona, Spain. These regions would field 6 local teams each, with the top teams from each league feeding into a greater 16-team league.
To discuss the potential changes, Blitz Esports sat down with Vitality Head Coach Jakob ‘YamatoCannon’ Mebdi for his thoughts on EU's unique struggles and how a system like this could shake up Europe for the better.
How could spreading talent across four regional leagues affect the competitiveness of EU internationally?
If, let’s say, 0.0001% of players turn out to be great talents in any region, EU’s larger player base would give us an advantage. I bet you there are plenty of golden nuggets out there that have yet to be discovered. We’ve seen examples of this in the collegiate championship with players like Zig, or the Spanish league with names like Jizuke and Minitroupax. This applies to managerial staff as well.
The main question is whether or not the top talent we discover will just get funneled out due to higher salaries in other regions. I cannot imagine a world where Europe realistically would compete economically with NA’s massive target demographic. I have also learned that the average American viewer is worth more money than the average European viewer. Europe just loses in every metric besides player base.
To compare to traditional sports, this "four regional leagues" model would likely look similar to the football model in Europe, where talented players want to compete for the prestige in the Champions League and their respective leagues within Europe, and then go on to soak in a bathtub full of cash over in America or China at the very late stages of their careers.
Does Europe need a safeguard along with these changes — a region block that would prevent a talent exodus?
Because of our strong player base, a region block is the only route I see, as of now, where Europe on-average beats North America in the upcoming future. We could hope for European Pride to kick in, or European competitiveness, but these are not measurable, and they are also unpredictable.
I do not see how it would be reasonable or fair to implement a safeguard in season eight of League of Legends, however. It would also make little sense for a North American league to set that limitation upon themselves, as it would just hurt them.
What challenges has EU faced in trying to merge multiple countries, and how could a split-region system resolve them?
The main problem has been that sponsors and advertisers want to target specific demographics, but Europe features a mixed demographic. With this model, EU could catch up at least a little; national leagues would mean massively increased interest from sponsors that work within those countries.
In comparison to what we currently have, I think this system would be a massive improvement. National leagues give teams a home country, a broader representation, and more targeted specification than just another EU team in the EU LCS. The clashes between countries in sports is a powerful force that brings forth even more fans. Eventually, the teams within these leagues would have more sponsors, more money to pay the bills, more roadshows, and more hyped up matches and storylines.
What would be the main drawbacks or challenges of this kind of system?
The main drawback, I would say, is North America, though it would be a drawback regardless of what system we use.
The only structure that would solve that problem would be a one-league NA/EU LCS with an equal revenue share solution. The regions would be divided into groups and have a cross-Atlantic playoff system where the teams are not locked to any region.
But really, North America has no reason to participate in this, since they will be the ones bringing in the big bucks for reasons I have mentioned above.
North America aside, the only real drawback I see is that it would take time and much effort to establish multiple European leagues -- hire staff, acquire all the right venues, set up production staff, establish gaming houses, and field a full great roster, especially as everyone is predicting an EU exodus coming 2018. I predict the first 1-3 years of this system would be very hard for Europe.
Would splitting into a multi-region league be trading higher viewership for greater local engagement?
I do not think this system would be a trade-off between viewership and engagement, rather a bonus. If you are interested in the local league, you could just tune into the season and have your regular broadcast. If you want to take a step further and watch the top 2 of France play against other regions, you can do that too and still enjoy high quality League of Legends. It is just another layer of content you can enjoy.
What supporting systems do you see as necessary for the success of this structure?
I would love to see Best-of-1s back in the picture, along with more playoff rounds and double elimination. There has been a lot of talk about how Bo3 made Korea a better region, and that other formats are holding the West back. For god’s sake, the Worlds group stage is Best-of-1. Bo1s also yield the highest number of viewers.
It would also be important that the teams within the national leagues get a revenue share of the intakes so that everyone can turn a profit in the end.
Any final thoughts?
It is important that people give any system a fair chance -- a single split is not long enough to determine its viability.
The point is that League of Legends esports is here to stay forever, and teams, fans, players, owners, and anyone else has to be patient. This is not a short term investment for anyone, so do not rally your pitchforks so fast.
Images via LoL Esports Flickr