In a last-minute shake-up, negotiations between Riot Games and two of its initial franchise-selects, Movistar Riders and North, for permanent partnership in the European League of Legends Championship Series have fallen through, sources close to the developer and teams told ESPN.
Riot has selected alternates from its franchise application process -- American esports organization Splyce, a team that has competed in the league since January 2016, and British esports organization exceL Esports -- who are expected to join the league in place of Movistar Riders and North, sources said. Movistar Riders and North were originally selected for franchise slots in the league in late September.
Since then, the league has struggled to come to terms with many of its applicants, but it settled with all except Movistar Riders and North. The league planned to announce its franchise partners on Nov. 8 but postponed that announcement as a result of multiple teams not agreeing to terms in the team participation agreements. The league and teams are expected to announce the final partner selection on Tuesday. Riot Games, Movistar Riders and North declined to comment. ExceL Esports did not respond to a request for comment. Splyce could not be reached for a request for comment.
Splyce and exceL join a list of long-tenured esports organizations, with ownership groups across the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, Germany and France. Those teams include Fnatic, G2 Esports, Schalke 04 Esports, Team Vitality and Misfits, which each competed in the league over the summer, as well as SK Gaming, RFRSH Entertainment and Rogue.
Applications from Splyce and exceL were initially declined as part of the process. Splyce allowed all of its active League of Legends roster, all of whom are contracted through the end of the 2019 season, to explore options and negotiate with other teams. It will now try to retain players and staff, who for the past month have looked to find new homes in professional League of Legends.
The news marks exceL's first entry into professional League of Legends. The organization has competed in the British national league, the ESL Premiership, throughout the year, as well as several other high-level amateur League of Legends tournaments in Europe.
The league will now be faced with a tough decision of how to handle another cross-region, multi-team ownership issue. Sydney-based investment group Guinevere Capital acquired a majority stake in exceL Esports in September. In October 2016, Australian esports team Dire Wolves was acquired by Guinevere. Dire Wolves owns a team in the Oceanic Pro League, the Australia-based professional League of Legends league.
Per Riot Games' rules, no one person or entity is allowed to own stake in multiple professional League of Legends leagues, regardless of whether they compete within the same region.
During its North American League Championship Series process in 2017, Riot accepted applications from both Team Liquid and the Golden State Warriors. Those two teams did, and still do, have overlapping ownership stakes from several investors, including Warriors co-executive chairman Peter Guber and assistant GM Kirk Lacob. In November 2017, Riot gave the Warriors and Liquid one year to resolve that matter. However, sources familiar with both teams told ESPN that neither side has come to a resolution.