Esports organisation Team Immunity has been banned from participation in any Riot-organised League of Legends competition after failing to pay their players in a timely fashion, a ruling issued today explains.
Team Immunity has been part of the Oceanic League of Legends scene since 2012, and placed first in 2013's Season 3 Oceanic Championship. They've posted middle-of-the-board rankings in the time since, but this will nonetheless come as a blow to a competitive scene that, due to geography, has always had to fight hard for its place on the international stage.
The players themselves are exempt from the ruling, which only applies to their managers—and if they choose to form a new squad, the ruling states that they'll be offered a slot in the 2016 season. Additionally, Riot pledge to "work with them as they decide what to follow in the 2016 season of OPL [Oceanic Pro League]."
Commenting on the decision, Riot's CptStupendous writes: "unfortunately, Team Immunity has repeatedly proven they are not capable of operating at the standards we expect on behalf of their players and fans. The players themselves, however, have done nothing wrong here".
Team Immunity also operates squads in Counter-Strike: GO, Dota 2, and more besides. Their Heroes of the Storm team competed in the 2015 Americas Championship last weekend.
Competitive gaming has grown from ad-hoc LAN competitions held in cafes to multi-million dollar, weekend-long events held in the world's biggest venues: but it's never quite lost some of that original DIY sensibility. Esport has been the wild west for a number of years, and as professional as it is becoming it'll be years yet before the last vestiges of that old, makeshift way of doing things is fully behind us.
Riot's ruling is laudable because it stems from a desire to professionalise the scene and protect the rights of players. Their pledge to work with the players of Team Immunity to help them find a place in the League scene is welcome, too—but it underscores that, however you slice it, it's the players that suffer the most when something like this happens. When gaming is this competitive, and there are so few avenues to entry, even a bad deal represents an opportunity. Regulation is the only way to protect players, but this situation highlights why well-structured routes into professional play are important too. The players of Team Immunity worked hard to get to this point, and it'd be a huge shame if they don't get to continue that journey.