Riot bans four people in alleged LoL roster poaching scandal

Steven Rondina • February 6, 01:58

Riot Games has instituted significant sanctions against a team competing in the 2021 NA Amateur circuit. 

ANEW Esports, an organization that has enjoyed success in LCS Scouting Grounds events since forming in 2019, has seen several individuals slapped with heavy penalties over the signing of jungler William “Trixter” Benoit. Riot claims that the organization was approached by Trixter while he was signed to Wildcard Gaming and “poached” him from the team. Trixter and several individuals from ANEW Esports were handed bans for the remainder of the season.

“ANEW Esports management and coaching staff were found to have extensively tampered with and poached Wildcard Gaming jungler William ‘Trixter’ Benoit…Trixter, Akash ‘ArgentumSky’ Gupta, Edward ‘Eddy Lee’ Lee, and Abhishek ‘Sidestep’ Samadder are banned from any association or affiliation with a team in a Riot-sanctioned league for the duration of the 2021 NA Amateur Competitive Season,” Riot said in its competitive ruling.

ANEW Esports general manager Kyle Tyson acknowledged the news in a post on Twitter:

Player poaching has been a regular issue in League of Legends and esports in general. Riot Games has dealt out harsh punishments to teams in the past, with the most famous being Renegades’ ejection from League of Legends. 

What is player poaching and roster tampering in esports?

Player poaching and roster tampering are when one team effectively tries to undermine the ability of another team to retain a contracted player. This has historically been a common practice across most traditional team sports, with leagues often creating stringent guidelines regarding how and when contracted players are allowed to begin talks with other teams.

In traditional sports leagues such as the NFL, coaches and franchise staff are barred from making any public or private overtures to players from other teams outside specific circumstances. Franchises that violate these rules are typically subjected to fines and losses of draft picks, with the former being the more common approach in esports leagues.

Riot Games defines poaching as the following:

“Poaching can only occur when a Team Member (either player or coach) has a contract listed on the Global Contract Database, and another team/owner/player approaches that Team Member… While teams may be signing contracts before the League receives documentation, poaching protections are explicitly NOT put in place until the League approves of the acquisition and has received the proper documentation.”

Things get murky outside of franchised leagues, though. Games such as Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive don’t really have a singular body to police roster rules, which is a factor in those games’ relative instability when it comes to roster stability and organizational support.

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