The LCS import rule has been brought up once again and all LCS teams have a say on the matter.
Ahead of the 2021 competitive season, the LCS import rules changed once again. This was due to Riot shutting down the Oceanic Pro League in October, which resulted in free entry to all Oceanic players in the LCS or LCS Academy league. Giving organizations the possibility to import players without being affected by the import rule resulted in a big injection of fresh talent to the league, and now the discussion is continuing if Riot should remove the import rule completely.
I have now asked all 10 teams for their stance on the import rule. None voiced support for keeping it.
Responses fall into 3 camps generally:
Vague non-answer with implied support for removing it
Arguments for ‘changing’ it rather than fully removing
Desire to fully remove
— Travis Gafford (@TravisGafford) February 19, 2021
League of Legends influencer Travis Gafford asked every LCS organization what their opinion on the import rule is. According to Gafford, no team voiced any support for keeping it. The feedback from the teams ranged from veiled support for abolishing the rule to an explicit desire to throw it out.
The import rule originally stated that a team must play with at least three players on Summoner’s Rift with North American residence. Players with this residence are either domestic players from the United States or Canada, or imported players that have participated in the league long enough to gain residency. The rule was originally created back in 2014 after the organization LMQ participated in the LCS with an all-Chinese roster after qualifying through the Challenger league. Even though LMQ participated in the league on a fair footing, it quickly got fans to put pressure on Riot to make changes.
Since then, LCS teams have been limited to two imports per starting roster which has forced organizations to develop domestic talent, but there is still a long way to go. North American fans are still worried about the domestic talent pool and whether the ecosystem is able to develop talent that can rival the players seen in the LEC, LPL, and LCK.
For now, many teams could be in favor of removing the import rule in order to freely sign whoever they want. The big question is whether this would improve the league or just bring more problems. Luckily, Riot is starting to take action in 2021 by remaking the amateur and Academy format. With the new format, young talent will hopefully have a better opportunity to develop and LCS teams will be better able to easily spot pro-caliber players.
On the other side of the court are plenty of LoL fans and even some experts who have voiced their opinion. Most notable is LCS caster Isaac “Azeal” Bentley who voiced his opinion on social media, and it’s fair to say that he is very much against abolishing the import rules. Azeal worries that removing the import rules will fill up the league with players that have no connection to each other or the region. Being able to import players freely from all over the world could potentially result in mixed teams with players from all over the world who have never been in North America.
“You can lose the feeling of cheering for the ‘home team’,” Azeal said. “To me, there’s a huge difference between someone like Jensen who has spent his whole career here and filling a team with Korean or Chinese challenger players I’ve never heard of.”
Whether the import rule will be changed is still unknown and it’s not a given that Riot will comment on the matter.
I am very against the removal of import rules.
I worry you end up with a League full of players to whom you have no connection – players who have not spent time to earn residency & establish themselves in the league.
You can lose the feeling of cheering for the “home team”.
— Isaac CB (@RiotAzael) February 19, 2021
An LCS team can have a maximum of two imported players on Summoner’s Rift. Some teams have more than two imports, but will always be forced to have at least three players with North American residence in each game.