The LCK is officially franchising in 2021.
Riot Games Korea has announced its plan to adopt a franchise model in 2021. The LCK is the fourth and final major region to transition into a long-term partnership with competing teams and organizations.
Organizations interested in taking part in the new league will have to submit a business plan, a team operation plan, and a fundraising plan. Teams must detail things like intended strategy for expanding the current fanbase, the recruiting and training process for players, and plans to ensure the players’ rights are upheld.
The application process starts on May 8. Riot will announce the new members of the LCK in late September.
The LCK is raising the minimum salary for players to 60 million Korean won, roughly $49,000 USD. That amount is only a starting point, as most players are likely to receive better salaries as they enter multi-year contracts with their teams. In the LCS, the minimum salary is $75,000 USD, but it was revealed that the average is around $300,000.
Teams that are part of a franchised league cannot be relegated. The promotion tournament will be played one last time at the end of the 2020 LCK Spring Split. Challengers Korea, the secondary league, will be replaced with the LCK Academy league.
Challengers Korea is an important part of the ecosystem. Teams like Griffin, Sandbox Gaming, and Damwon Gaming found their way into the LCK after successful runs in the secondary league. According to the announcement, the LCK will support the migration of players from Challengers to the new LCK rosters.
This migration might prove to be difficult, considering that most of the teams have plenty of trainees and subs already on contract.
Now the big question is which of the current teams in the LCK will return in 2021?
There are some big companies involved in the LCK at the moment. Gen.G and T1 are partially owned by western companies. KT Rolster is owned by one of the biggest telecommunication companies in South Korea. Afreeca Freecs is backed by Korean streaming service Afreeca TV. Hanwha Life Esports belongs to one of Korea’s biggest insurance companies, Hanwha Life.
Gen.G and T1 already expressed their wish to be part of the newly franchised league.
It remains unclear how many teams will be part of the LCK. The league might go for ten, like the LCS and LEC. Or it might go the LPL route and allow for more than ten franchised teams.