League of Legends esports’ ERL systems expands in 2023. What previously was named the European Regional Leagues shall become the EMEA Regional Leagues. This includes Turkey, the CIS region, and the MENA region, creating a bigger, cohesive second-tier level of competition.
After the official announcement, Riot executives spoke to the press to answer questions about the changes coming to the ERL system. David Higdon, Global Head of Communication for Riot Esports, hosted the press conference. League of Legends EMEA Director Maximilian Schmidt answered the questions.
Note: Given the length of the press conference, it has been split into two parts. This second part contains all the questions and answers about the future of ERLs, Turkey, the CIS region, and the MENA region. For the questions and answers about the LEC, click here.
Incorporating the Middle East and North Africa
Looking at the Middle East and North Africa region, which are now included in the ERLs: considering the format and the calendar year, which went very differently from other ERLs, how is that going to change going forward?
Schmidt: Very good question. Frankly, when we started exploring this direction, we were willing to make certain concessions to ensure that we deliver the best possible outcome for the fans there. That being said, we found a fantastic partner who we’re working with in the region. We also have a project manager who is directly working with them to ensure that we can deliver the best possible league. To answer the question very specifically: the format will be very much akin to the other non-accredited ERLs. It will not diverge too much from the others. We’re actually looking for a much more streamlined competition to what we’ve seen so far within the Arabian Cup, which as you rightfully pointed out, was a very different system compared to the ERLs. So, it will be a full integration into the ERL ecosystem.
MENA is an enormous region on its own, with its own mix of languages and cultures. What’s the decision behind combining it with Europe? Is there any plans for Arabic or Middle East broadcasts for the LEC, for the fans there?
Schmidt: I’ll be perfectly honest: when I first got into this role, I did not know the first single thing about MENA. It’s been a learning experience for me over the last couple of years to understand the region better. I’m very, very happy that we have a dedicated product manager who knows the region incredibly well and is based there, who has been helping me in understanding exactly how the region functions. We believe that this is the first step. The Arabian league should be seen as the first step for MENA and their step into League of Legends esports. We’ll continue to monitor how that develops and how successful they are, and then obviously make adjustments where necessary. As for the broadcasts, we will definitely explore in that direction. That being said, I want to manage expectations that that will most likely not happen for 2023.
“The Arabian league should be seen as the first step for MENA and their step into League of Legends esports.”Maximilian Schmidt
All the LEC teams right now are Europe-based. How will you make sure that the MEA part of EMEA will get adequate representation in the LEC?
Schmidt: When we look at that, we really don’t think that the organizations themselves and their bases or their ownership groups are at the crux of the issue. We have some organizations that are even America-based or have American ownership groups. It hasn’t stopped them from succeeding or from gathering success in the European or now EMEA market. What we want to ensure is that we put the players first and that we provide a pathway to success for the players. By including MENA specifically, and Turkey as well, we want to ensure that players of those regions actually go through the ERLs, qualify for [EMEA Masters], and then hit the stage of the LEC. Fans of somebody can cheer for somebody directly, whether it’s an Armut, who is going through the different stages and then also plays at Worlds, or, hopefully, a player from MENA.
ERL accreditation & NLC
Can you explain the thought process behind the AL and NLC being non-accredited ERL, while the TCL enters the ecosystem as an accredited one? What do non-accredited ERLs need to do to reach accredited status?
Schmidt: This is a super fair question. Frankly, it’s a complex thing that we evaluate, always together with our partners. There are various factors that go into the accreditation system. The reason that we positioned the leagues as we’ve done it, is in very close collaboration with our partners and our local experts. It ensures that we factor in the market that exists on the local level, the potential of the player base, the professional players that exist, the potential viewership, and obviously commercialization opportunities in these local markets. [This is] to ensure that the higher standards and the higher requirements of an accredited ERL are sustainable and the longevity of the league can be sustained.
The NLC has now become a non-accredited league. There are a few people in UK League of Legends, and in Nordics, who are a little bit upset this morning. It’s now going to have eight teams, down from ten. Do you know how it will be decided which two teams will drop out and if there will be any other changes?
Schmidt: On the details, we will communicate with the teams as soon as possible to ensure that they have all the details when it comes to the changes and how they will affect them. For the teams themselves, though, we have been working very closely with them to ensure that there is an option on the table where we would continue the NLC as a non-accredited ERL, but retain ten teams, provided that all the ten teams are aiming to participate and continue in the 2023 season.
LCL & EMEA Masters
With the LCL being suspended, and you don’t know when that’s gonna end, is there a possibility of them returning during the year? Or is it a clear “no LCL for 2023”?
Schmidt: It really depends on how the situation develops. I want to set a clear expectation that, as of now, there is no indication or expectation that we would make any changes regarding the LCL’s integration for 2023. I don’t think it’s something that’s off the table, and for the second half of the year it could be a possibility, but I don’t foresee that happening, realistically.
“There is no indication or expectation that we would make any changes regarding the LCL’s integration for 2023.”Maximilian Schmidt
Will there still be two splits in ERLs and will EMEA masters be played online or offline this year, with the fact in mind that Turkish teams might play with higher ping?
Schmidt: Ping issues are actually something we very much looked into detail with, with our competitive operations team, to ensure that we have solutions for the potential ping issues and that the ping discrepancies are at justifiable levels for the EMEA master. We are sticking to a similar system as the 2022 system for the ERLs and EM. We are expecting to host the majority of EM online, as we have done this year. More details on that to follow in the upcoming weeks and months.
Lessons from the LCK
Yesterday, the LCK also announced that it’s changing the format. We now have two major regions changing formats. Can we expect other regions to be updated as well?
Schmidt: I can not speak for the other regions and I really want to focus today on the LEC and League of Legends esports in EMEA specifically. That being said, I think it’s fair to say that we are seeing this as an evolving sport. We want to ensure that we cater to the fans and [to the] needs of the people who are sitting at home watching, as well as the players who are participating in it, obviously. These [needs] change over time. We want to continue to evolve and deliver the best possible experience for them. That can obviously change over time, so I think it’s very natural that various regions are experimenting with how they can best deliver their products to their audiences.
The LCK announced today that they will be having an integrated roster, with the LCK and LCK CL. There are a lot of sister teams that are now known as EMEA masters. Was there any consideration, when changing this format, to have integrated rosters for the 2023 season?
Schmidt: I would argue that we already have a very fluid process between the academy teams, or the secondary teams in the ERLs, and the main teams in the LEC. That’s something that we have been finetuning over the last couple of years and we will obviously continue to do so. But I don’t think that we’re in a bad spot by any means, in that regard.
For an overview of the announced ERL changes, click here. You can find part one of the press conference here.