Was Players’ Association A Flawed Concept From The Start?

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The NA LCS Players’ Association is a closed book. The organization was created last June with the intent of protecting player rights and giving them a voice in the era of the NA LCS franchising. And yet, 10 months later, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who remembers it even exists.

Combine that with the fact that the Players’ Association was an incentive of Riot Games, and there’s an obvious conflict of interest at play. That said, was it a flawed concept to begin with?

Shroud of secrecy

Since its inception, the Players’ Association has been anything but transparent. Its goals sound great on paper, but they are so vague that it’s unclear what the organization was doing—if anything at all—to accomplish them.

The fact that its head, the former NBPA counsel Hal Biagas, prefers to stay away from the public eye certainly doesn’t add more clarity.

Moreover, the Players’ Association itself also tends to avoid the spotlight, even when it could make a legitimate difference. This was the case with a potential conflict around Selfie’s departure from Cloud9.

Granted, the Selfie situation was later resolved. But the lack of action (or even comments) from the Players’ Association still left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Of course, players themselves are at the core of this issue. A series of Blitz Esports interviews revealed that pros don’t have a good grasp of what the organization is supposed to do. And they don’t care much for it either.

Can you really blame them, though? Most players are focused on doing their job, which involves grinding League of Legends games for 12-14 hours a day. So while the idea of an organization that fights for their rights is appealing, they simply can’t devote any time to it.

In the video above, independent esports journalist Travis Gafford mentions that the attendance of the Players’ Association meetings is at an abysmal 20 percent. Can an organization truly hold any power when the players it’s meant to represent aren’t interested? And if that’s the case, should it even exist?

The ripple effect

The accomplishments of the Players’ Association come in the form of whispers and rumors. In the same video, Gafford mentions how the organization set up meetings to help players negotiate their contracts and guide them through their careers.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with helping pros behind the scenes. However, players were supposed to act as one of the NA LCS pillars along with teams and Riot Games. And while other parties have been very vocal about their roles, the Players’ Association remains silent.

In an interview with ESPN, Riot Games’ league operations lead Chris Greeley mentioned that the company has no intentions of influencing the Players’ Association in any way, shape, or form.

“The players’ association representative will only report to the players,” he said. “Other than cashing our check, they have no duties or obligations or even ability to report to Riot on anything.”

It’s a noble sentiment. Unfortunately, it also makes the organization even more opaque.

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The idea of the Players’ Association is a powerful one, though. Parties in other esports like Overwatch and CS:GO are already making steps towards uniting players under their banners. But can they find success when they’re likely to face the same challenges that came up in the League of Legends scene?

Moving forward

So what’s the point of this? After all, people have discussed most of the topics in this article before. Fair enough, but that doesn’t mean that the League of Legends community should stop talking about them.

The current role of the Players’ Association is confusing, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s playing its part in the NA LCS infrastructure. The organization needs more transparency, and it would be great to see its representatives give interviews and share their thoughts on the state of the Association.

On a similar note, more and more pros retire every split. And while it’s sad to see players step away from the competitive scene, the veterans could become a valuable resource. People like Hai and Xpecial are well-equipped to fight for the rights of their former colleagues. And if they actually become a part of a player-focused organization, they could make a real difference.

Whatever the case, the current form of the Players’ Association leaves a lot to be desired. Neither Riot Games, nor the fans, nor even the pros, know what the organization stands for. And if the NA LCS truly wants to empower players, this has to change.

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About

Daniil "inthecure" Volkov is an avid LoL fan that's well-versed in the competitive scenes of Europe, North America, and South Korea. A support main in game, but a carry at heart, he spends a little too much time making content around the LCS, LEC, and LCK matches.