LCS Import Restrictions | The Shameful Audacity of Certain Team Owners
According to Travis Gafford, multiple LCS team owners have been pressuring Riot to lift import restrictions. This, in case the phrasing wasn’t clear enough, would allow organizations to sign as many foreign players as they want. So if, say, Team SoloMid wanted to buy out the entire DAMWON Gaming line-up, they could actually do so — given that they have enough money to spare. This change would allow organizations to handpick any player regardless of region, write the necessary number of zeroes, and bring him over to Los Angeles as if it were a walk in the park. Of course, we’re assuming that said player would accept such an offer but, frankly, who in their right mind would decline an inflated multimillion dollar salary? It’s literally an offer that’s too good to refuse.
This kind of pressure on Riot — the fact that it’s even happening — is not only unprecedented but also downright appalling. If you happen to be fuming at the mouth right now, know that you’re not in the minority. This idea contradicts the very concept of competitive integrity and, well, pure logic and reason. It’s such a stupid proposal that it’s strange anyone even came up with it.
Holding Back the Tide of Imports
First of all, import restrictions exist for a reason. Of that we are all aware. Well, most of us, at least. Certain team owners obviously didn’t get the memo. Secondly, we have regions in place — they exist for both logical reasons but also geographical ones as well. That’s the way things are set up, not just in esports but in traditional sports as well. And, frankly, it’s a good structure, one that is basically without fault.
And these team owners surely have a laundry list of reasons why they think removing import restrictions in the LCS makes sense, but all of them — make no mistake — are smoke and mirrors. They want success because they’ve yet to taste it. And, by the looks of it, they won’t taste it any time soon, if ever. They have made no proactive moves to put North America on the map (in terms of international competitiveness) and are looking to cut corners. They don’t want to build things from the ground up. Instead, they want to throw money at the problem and hope it’ll solve itself. They’re fed up with watching other teams and organizations — obviously more superior and dedicated — get showered in confetti and they want in on the action. They’re jealous and, frankly, they have every right to be. Not that it’s justified, of course, but at least we can understand where they’re coming from and what their ulterior motive truly is.
They want success, but they’re not prepared to fight for it. And why would they, after all? They never had to fight for anything at all. Most of them didn’t “earn” their spot in the LCS — they paid for it. And they paid handsomely, too. What they want now, above all else, is a return of their investment. Unfortunately for these organizations, profit — a scarcity in esports if certain industry insiders are to be believed — is reserved only for those who win and those who engage with their fans and build their audiences. The former requires skill, dedication, and a bevy of other valuable virtues, and the latter (at the very least) requires time, patience, honesty, and a boatload of effort. Not to mention a unique identity that will appeal to the “masses.”
Either way, teams have two entirely different ways of going about it, and even if they don’t have the very best players and the biggest superstars, they can still carve out a special place in the hearts of LCS fans. If certain organizations are pressuring Riot to lift import restrictions, they probably don’t have many fans to engage with (something for which they are to blame), or haven’t found much success over the years (ditto). They want the fruit without the labor. Shameful, to say the least. But shameful though it may be, it’s somewhat easy to understand where they’re coming from. Why would they have to fight for success? With the kind of financial backing and power they have? Please. Trying your hardest is for those who can’t build a $50 million training facility.
We know for a fact that most LCS organizations (at least pre-COVID) have ample amounts of money. We’re talking millions to spare — and not the slightest idea on how to spend them. And we’re not talking about the likes of Cloud9, Team Liquid, or Team SoloMid either. If Dignitas of all teams could muster up $2.3 million for Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon (a decision that is still as baffling as ever), then any further explanation seems redundant.
So if they can’t nurture native talent (and obviously that’s not an option given their track record), then at least they can buy out whomever they so desire, for as long as their budget can cover it. After all, buying a Rasmus “Caps” Winther, for example, is a much better investment (both in terms of money and time) than trying to find one in North America. Why would they go through all that hassle, after all? Without any import restrictions in the LCS, competitiveness would be reserved for the highest bidder.
And that we simply cannot allow.