Back in April, Riot announced that the LCK will finally adopt the franchise model already used by the LCS, LEC, and LPL.
Teams were invited to bid for spots in the 2021 season, with most teams opting in. Now, after months of bidding, Riot has confirmed the ten teams who will compete in the LCK 2021 season:
- SANDBOX Gaming
- Afreeca Freecs
- KT Rolster
- DAMWON Gaming
- Team Dynamics
- Hanwha Life Esports
- Gen.G Esports
- hyFresh Blade (Brion Esports)
Notably missing from the list is SeolHaeOne Prince, who finished in last place in the Summer 2020 split. The remaining nine teams have all agreed to pay the league re-entry fee of KRW10B (US$8.8M), which will be paid over five years.
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Replacing SeolHaeOne Prince will be hyFresh Blade, who previously played in Challengers Korea. For joining the top flight, the organization will pay a higher fee of KRW12B (US$10.6M).
As a whole, Riot Games will establish a separate LCK corporation that will continue to develop its esports environment into the future. With the sales and revenue of the LCK being distributed to teams throughout the season, the franchise system secures a sense of financial transparency and reliability amongst the teams, players, and its governing body.
Aside from the organizations now sharing their revenue, they will all have to pay a minimum of KRW60M (US$48,500) for each player compared to the previous minimum wage of KRW20M (US$16,000).
The league’s competition may look more compact with the removal of the relegation and promotion system of Challengers Korea, but it paves the way for the LCK’s first-ever Academy system.
Similar to the other three major regions of LCS, LEC, and LPL, the Academy system will allow teams to foster young talent and put them in a regular competitive setting with their own seasons and championships.
While things may feel drastically different for the LCK, Riot Games’ decision to create its own corporation will benefit Korea’s professional League scene for years to come.
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