Riot Games has suspended League of Legends commentator Martin "Deficio" Lynge for failing to report ongoing negotiations with the Copenhagen Wolves over an offer of a job with the team. Riot said in a statement that his failure to disclose his contact with the Wolves "showed poor judgment in navigating this conflict of interest."
The matter came to light as a result of allegations that Lynge had discussed the strategy of SK Gaming with Wolves head coach Karl "Dentist" Krey prior to a match between the teams. Krey had told his players that Lynge was feeding him information about SK's plan, but a subsequent investigation determined that no such conversation had actually taken place, and that Krey had only boasted about having inside information "in the interest of shoring up his authority with the team."
However, the investigation also revealed that the Wolves had offered Lynge a management position following the conclusion of the 2015 season, and that there had been "ongoing conversations" between the two over the previous six weeks—conversations that Lynge failed to mention to Riot.
"Although it’s not unusual for Rioters to be approached with offers from LCS organizations, it’s important that the organization and Rioter let us know as soon as an offer is made to raise awareness around potential conflicts of interest," Riot said. "In this case, we believe that [Lynge] showed poor judgment in navigating this conflict of interest. Over the course of our investigation we found evidence indicating that [Lynge] had begun speaking with several active LCS players—contracted and free agents—about their future and the possibility of working with them on the Copenhagen Wolves. These conversations influenced—or had the potential to influence—player decisions on where they chose to play, and affected the competitive integrity of the LCS."
Riot declared that Lynge's actions constituted tampering, and that while it's inevitable that he'd have relationships with various pro players because of his own status as a former pro, "his unique position as a shoutcaster and representative of the EU LCS meant that his actions were inappropriate and a breach of the trust that the League and Riot places in him."
As a result of the lapse, Lynge has been suspended from broadcasting until week four of the current LCS season, and will not cover any Copenhagen Wolves games for the indefinite future. He will also be prevented from joining any LCS team for the remainder of the 2015 season and all of 2016, and on top of that, "be subject to internal disciplinary measures which by law are confidential."
"Our goal is not to mandate that all Rioters approached by external organizations report their conversations to us. In the case of esports, however, where crossing the line in terms of competitive integrity can be so easily done, making us aware of the job offer would have allowed Martin (and us) to sidestep the almost inevitable conflicts of interest that came up," Riot said. "Reporting firm job offers doesn't challenge the Rioters' position—whether or not they choose to take up the offer—but it creates transparency in a competitive environment where we ask for total neutrality from Rioters."
In a statement of his own on Facebook, Lynge said he made "poor decisions" and failed to take the matter as seriously as he should have. "Throughout my career as pro player and shoutcaster, I have always been close with a lot of players and I value these relationships very highly. This will not change but I have had to learn the difference between talking to a player as friends and talking as a Rioter," he wrote. "It is 100% NOT okay to give opinions on career choices and to share your own potential future plans as a Rioter, as it can impact a player´s decision making. While I never intended any harm, I definitely didn’t act in the professional manner that I expect from myself and as Riot expects from me." He added that Riot has been supportive throughout, and isn't trying to force him to stay on as a broadcaster.
Krey, the Wolves coach, was also suspended until week four, for obstructing Riot's investigation and being complicit in the tampering. Because Riot found no evidence that Lynge had actually shared information regarding team strategies, however, the result of the SK Gaming/Copenhagen Wolves match—which, by the way, the Wolves won—will stand.