The LCK has reached out to team owners, inviting them to apply for a long-term partnership program starting with the 2021 Spring Season, The Esports Observer reports. Organizations have been asked to provide business and team management plans, as well as their financial documentation, which are some of the parameters on which Riot Games Korea will judge applicants.
The LCK is the only one of the four major competitive regions in League of Legends to not feature a partnership model with its team. The league, therefore, is the only one where relegation exists, through which the weakest teams of each season have to fight for their spot in the LCK or be edged out by rising Challenger teams.
With the introduction of the partnership model, the LCK will follow the example of LEC, LCS, and LPL in abolishing said relegation. Partnered teams will have a permanent stay in the LCK and will likely share parts of the generated revenue. In the other partnered leagues, teams were also required to pay an entry fee, which in the western regions has been between $9-12M. The LPL and the LCK have not disclosed their entry fees, with the LPL opening bids for new partnership slots each season.
It remains to be seen which LCK brands will make the cut, but there are a few that are clear stand-outs. T1 and KT Rolster have been mainstays in Korean esports and are owned by some of the largest telecom companies in Korea and abroad: Comcast Spectacor/SK Telecom, and KT Corporation, respectively. Gen.G is another team that is likely to be in the new LCK, already having a track record in partnered leagues through its Overwatch League vertical Seoul Dynasty. Simiarly, DAMWON Gaming and Afreeca Freecs also have popular brands behind them.
Other teams, however, might not be so lucky. Formerly one of the best teams in South Korea, Griffin might find themselves out of the LCK, given its multiple management issues in the past. DragonX, the current #3 in the LCK Spring Season, also had its fair share of disputes. Previously ownership of China’s Fighting E-sports Group (FEG), DragonX were bought out by a private business, whose management soon got entangled in conflicts with the players, including the firing of the coaching staff and re-negotiating contracts in the middle of the split, Inven Global reported.
Who makes the cut and who gets left out will be announced in September. The deadline for submitting all necessary documentation is June 19.