Why is Riot shutting down UK and Nordic League tournaments?

By Lee Jones


Feb 2, 2022

Reading time: 5 min

League of Legends players and fans have been dismayed of late with the news that Riot Games has seen to the closure of select amateur competitions. But what exactly is the cause for these latest maneuvers, and what does it mean for the future of grassroots League of Legends play?

After handing the reins of the UK & Nordic’s NLC to Freaks 4U Gaming this season, a number of grassroots organizers have seen their plans for league competitions scrapped as Riot Games’ tournament rules, seemingly overlooked by former organizer DreamHack, are now being more strictly implemented.

Why did Leagues.gg drop its spring split?

Denmark-based Leagues.gg is the latest to bring its competitive activities to a close, citing “heavy changes that are out of our hands” in an announcement that also added that the “sudden changes mean that [Leagues.gg] can no longer start the split as originally planned”. 

Leagues.gg ran tournaments across the Nordic region, most recently the Winter Showdown which featured competition in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the UK. Its leagues were competed in by more than 100 teams and their departure will leave a void in the amateur competitive scene. Leagues.gg did, however, offer a glimmer of hope for future competitions as the company spoke to ongoing discussions with Riot about potential opportunities for hosting competitions again in the future.

Members of the community were quick to call for the leagues to remain, with teams already gathering rosters to compete in a spring split that was due to start in a matter of days. A tweet from the NLC Twitter account was quickly taken on as a platform for protest, with more than 90 replies simply stating “stop choking out other national leagues.”

UKEL steps back from League of Legends competitions

Along with Leagues.gg, UK tournament organizer UKEL also recently announced its departure from League of Legends in seemingly similar circumstances, explaining that the region’s restructure “made it so [UKEL’s] previous tournament structure is no longer tenable”.

This restructure has seen the UK & Nordic pyramid move to a more streamlined tier system, where five tiers of competition will feed directly with each other and will all be run by Freaks 4U in a similar fashion to its DACH product, the Prime League. Previously, both UKEL and Leagues.gg ran national leagues in cooperation with DreamHack under the official NLC, with all such competitions offering eventual promotion paths up to the top division.

It’s currently unclear what exactly is behind the closures of the leagues, however the spring split was set to run over the course of February and March despite Riot’s guidelines stating that a medium-sized tournament may only run for a maximum of four weeks. 

Tournaments run by such organizers in 2021 would have also breached this guideline, however it appears that either DreamHack or Riot made the choice to allow this given that they were working in conjunction with their own competitions. The fact that they would no longer be part of the official NLC ecosystem in 2022 means that they would now effectively be in competition with Riot’s official league, and this may well have played a part in any struggles to acquire a license for this year.

Though the cancellation of Leagues.gg’s spring split may seem sudden given that the competition was set to kick off imminently, actions suggest that Riot may have been willing to remove the grassroots tournaments for some time.

Kami speaks on Riot and DreamHack moves

Former Nordavind manager Ole-Andreas “Kami” Skår spoke to WIN.gg to give his experience with Riot Games last year, at the time holding talks with Riot and DreamHack after being informed that his side was to be disqualified from the Telialigaen spring split after having been simultaneously competing in the NLC. 

Nordavind had been playing in both competitions for a number of months without issue, even though Riot’s tournament guidelines state that “no League of Legends pro players (participating in any of the Regional Leagues or official local leagues) are to participate without prior agreements with Riot Games.”

While these guidelines had been in place, Kami explained to WIN.gg that neither the Telialigaen nor the NLC rulesets had included the guideline as a rule for the participating teams to follow, resulting in them fielding NLC players in the Telialigaen without knowing it was not allowed. Riddle Esports also breached the same rule.

While Kami argued Nordavind’s case, a Riot employee allegedly stated that should Telialigaen organizer Good Game not disqualify Nordavind, Riot would shut down the entire league. The employee went on to indicate that Riot would prioritize enforcing its own rules over the interests of the 200 teams competing across the Telialigaen.

With both Nordavind and Riddle having made the final four, the playoff stage of the 2021 Telialigaen spring split was eventually canceled. Kami added that this occurred after an agreement between Good Game and the remaining teams was reached, with all sides opting to scrap the remaining matches in order to avoid the need for disqualifications as this was something Good Game preferred to avoid.

Good Game explained in its announcement at the time that both Good Game and the two affected teams had been unfamiliar with the rule in question before being notified by Riot. Kami claims the subsequent NLC rulebooks from summer 2021 onwards have begun adding Riot’s tournament guidelines.

Was Riot justified in shutting down regional leagues?

As well as the guideline breaches mentioned, an article by Esports News UK has brought to light issues surrounding Leagues.gg before the current cancellations which may have had an effect on Riot’s decision making.

The organizer had been embroiled in a contractual dispute after agreeing to an exclusive partnership with broadcaster SQ1, who were set to have first rights to broadcast any Leagues.gg-run competitions in 2022. Instead, Leagues.gg looked to bring in independent broadcasters. This led to a dispute over whether or not there had been a breach of contract between Leagues.gg and SQ1.

With its previous Winter Showdown there had also been confusion, as Leagues.gg allegedly informed UKEL that it had secured broadcasting rights to the tournament prematurely while SQ1 had in fact been the chosen destination.

To what extent these matters affected Riot’s decision is difficult to know, but it certainly didn’t help the cases of the involved parties.


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