The Riot Games press conference ahead of the Worlds 2019 grand final is currently ongoing and Rioters are talking to members of the media about the company’s future plans esports wise. A natural question that was asked was the future of LCK and whether it will join its major region cousins in becoming franchised.
So far, Korea is the only region among the big ones that still hasn’t embraced the permanent partnership program, as Riot calls it. Between seasons, it still features relegation matches, where the bottom two teams of the LCK drop down and play the best Challenger teams. Winners go up, losers drop down.
That’s not the case for LEC, LPL, and LCS. In them, all participating teams are guaranteed permanent spot in the league regardless of their results, even though a long history of underperforming could mean a potential exit. The franchise model therefore trades the excitement of elimination for slot security, which in turn can be used to develop the business in the long term.
But when it comes to the LCK, Riot Games have no set-in-stone plans for franchising yet. Head of LoL Esports Global, John Needham, said there are no news to share about LCK establishing a partnership system.
“LCK is like the father of esports. […] These are incredible, important markets for us and for our sport. We don’t have any news right now to share on franchising, but hopefully we will have something to talk about soon.”
This would imply that at least the 2020 Spring Split, and perhaps the Summer Split too, will continue featuring relegations, and if franchising even comes to the LCK, it’ll likely be from 2021, considering the long process of collecting, appraising, and accepting applications that comes with such major shift. At the same time, the LCK has been doing just fine without franchising, so it may be even more years before that happens, if at all.