League of Legends' Chinese Pro League (called the LPL) is set to resume on March 9 after being suspended in January amid a growing outbreak of Covid-19 (generally called the coronavirus) in parts of China. The LPL organization tweeted the announcement earlier today, explaining that while the series would resume, matches wouldn't be open to the public and would instead be streamed online.
"The rest of the 2020 LPL spring split matches will be held online until we can safely resume using the esport venues," the update reads (opens in new tab). "Players will be attending matches from their club headquarters. The only exception are players in quarantined provinces who are currently unable to leave."
Though LPL tournaments will resume on March 9, the first broadcasts will only be available in Chinese (you will still be able to watch them, though). English broadcasts will resume several days later on March 15.
The post explains that referees will be available on-site when possible to ensure fairness and impartiality of each match. But still, this is a significantly different format. Until now, LPL (like most of League of Legends' pro circuits) matches were always hosted in tournament venues in front of a live audience. Hosting online opens matches to a new realm of potential hiccups and technical difficulties, and
it's not clear how it might affect different teams and their ability to compete. Players, for example, will have to first complete a 14-day monitored quarantine period and meet all local health requirements before they will even be allowed to play in league matches.
The LPL says this online-only arrangement will only last until the end of the Spring Split, which ends on March 30. The LPL Summer Split should begin sometime in June, but it's likely it will continue being online only if the coronavirus epidemic isn't contained.
Still, it's good that Chinese League of Legends pros can get back to competing, even if fans won't be able to attend directly. Another major gaming tournament happening this weekend, IEM Katowice, also just announced that it would be online only and that the public wouldn't be admitted after having its license revoked by the Polish government over concerns of coronavirus.
You can tune into LPL matches on Twitch (opens in new tab). Exact times for the first match on March 9 have not been released.