LCS: Why the Import Rule Should Stay and Three Ways to Fix It

Photo by Michal Konkol/Riot Games
Photo by Michal Konkol/Riot Games /
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Photo by Paul de Leon/Riot Games.
Photo by Paul de Leon/Riot Games. /

Now, we get to the crux of the discussion: how do we fix this mess. Well, first, we need to acknowledge a few realities that will inform our options.

First, we’re likely not going to see a super league with teams across North America, Europe, and Asia fighting against each other. Logistically, it would be difficult to coordinate (even if we weren’t living in the middle of a global pandemic), scheduling, travel, visas, and the like. Also, Riot continues to get tons of eyeballs and attention around Worlds, their premiere event, which really can’t exist in its current form if there was a super league. So the regional leagues are staying.

Since they are staying, then, keeping region-locking makes sense. However, the goal is not to keep the league restricted to players who are from the countries in this region, but rather to retain the talent developed in the region. This is a key distinction that I will go into further, but basically, the goal should be to encourage players to come to North America if they are genuinely interested in staying within the region for a significant amount of time, rather than just popping over for a year or two to get a paycheck.

If we get rid of the import rule in the LCS, there are a few constraining considerations.

Second, we have to remember that whatever rule Riot implements for NA would also apply to the rest of the world. LCS owners advocating for the removal of import restrictions seem to conveniently forget that this would apply to all professional teams, not just natively. What is to stop the LPL from simply buying up every good player in the world, forming a pseudo super league, and there never really being any chance for an LCK, LEC, or LCS team to challenge at Worlds.

Finally, although it is tempting and a good suggestion, there will never be any sort of salary cap. Not only would this be a non-starter for the Chinese teams (remember, it would apply to them too), but any sort of cap would require a collective bargaining agreement between the LCS and players union, which seems unlikely.

So, with those caveats in mind, here are the options. I believe any mix of these could achieve the ideals of keeping the regional leagues while also opening the leagues up to a freer movement of imports.