Riot and League of Legends pros reach compromise ahead of planned walkout, North American play to resume next week

League of Legends
(Image credit: Riot Games)

Riot Games has announced that the League Championship Series, the top-tier League of Legends pro league in North America, will return to action on June 14 following a two-week delay caused by a dispute with the LCS Players Association.

That dispute began in May, when Riot made changes to LCS rules that resulted in the elimination of most of the teams in the lower-tier North American Challengers League, a developmental league that launched in 2022. That put numerous players, coaches, and managers out of work, and led the Players Association to call for a walkout

Players voted "overwhelmingly" to do so, but not immediately, in order to give negotiations a chance to work. Following that, Riot delayed the start of the 2023 summer season by two weeks, which it hoped "will give us time for productive dialogue between the LCSPA, teams, and the league." 

But it applied some pressure, too, warning that if an agreement wasn't reached in that time, it would cancel the entire summer season, leaving North American teams ineligible for the 2023 world championship. 

Fortunately, that won't come to pass: Riot said today that the Summer Split, as it's formally known, will take place under a modified format beginning on June 14.

"Delaying Summer Split was not a decision we took lightly, but ultimately the dialogue between the league, the LCSPA, and teams provided the space to realign on shared goals for the future of the LCS and NACL," global head of LoL esports Naz Aletaha said. "Building for the long-term sustainability and success of the LCS ecosystem is the win-condition for us all."

The LCSPA said that both Riot and LCS teams made concessions during the negotiations, and credited players for "put[ting] their own jobs on the line to seek protections for our most vulnerable members and to secure a future for the NA talent pipepline."

"While the agreements fall short of our initially stated goals, Riot has agreed to a series of important changes and committed to meaningful collaboration with the LCSPA before making future decisions," the Players Association said. "The concessions below do not return the NACL fully, nor do they provide restoration for the players who lost jobs suddenly and incurred financial hardship, lost visas, or broken leases. The LCSPA is committed to continuing our pursuit of any and all potential paths toward making these players more whole.

"What we have accomplished is a guarantee by Riot going forward to support the new NACL format and its players—increased financial support for the NACL, accountability measures designed to protect players working fro the new operators in the NACL, and lasting protections for our lowest earning members to mitigate harm in the future."

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These are the broad terms of the deal they hammered out:

  • $300,000 for the remainder of the 2023 season to be split amongst the 10 NACL teams in order to boost player opportunity and pay
  • 50% of all future NACL sponsorship revenue will now be shared by NACL teams
  • The NACL will have a Team Participation Agreement (TPA) in 2024. This means the NACL teams will have to abide by minimum standards in order to receive payments ore revenue share from Riot
  • A minimum of 30 days severance pay for termination without cause for any player earning up to 1.5 times the league minimum salary and 15 days notice for any player competing on a visa
  • Players and teams will share equal representation on a committee to determine any future changes to the practice schedule in a collaborative manner
  • Teams will take action to ensure all foreign players have mandated healthcare available to them by the first day they are in the US
  • Riot and the LCSPA will sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes meetings and notice parameters to ensure all parties are aligned before any future decisions are locked and communications are made

The agreement falls well short of the LCSPA's initial demand that Riot reverse the changes that resulted in the elimination of NACL teams and adopt a wholly different set of proposals for the NACL in 2024, and some fans were critical of that outcome. But others credited the players for extracting some concessions and hopefully setting the stage for more in future seasons. As one follower put it, "They came in with a list of strong demands and compromised on some of them to make things better for players than they would be under the status quo. That’s how negotiations work."

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.