Riot Games has officially announced that franchising is the future for the LCS. This change is great for a variety of reasons. Sponsors are more likely to get on board with less risk of losing their team, and jersey real estate is going to get more expensive as a result. Teams are now able to worry more about improving from split to split instead of worrying about avaoiding relegation if they fall into the bottom 2 slots. This is all great news for the LCS as a whole, it will likely improve overall viewership and improve investment opportunities. So, with the future of the LCS pinned down, how will it affect those lower seed teams? TL stands as the prime candidate for analysis in this regard. It is no secret that TL has seen a fall from grace in the past two splits, turning from a top 3 team to a relegated team in spring 2017. Having survived the relegation tournament, and made it into the franchised version of the LCS it’s time to look forward. What does this newfound security mean for a team that can’t quite seem to fit the puzzle pieces together?
A lot more than initially meets the eye. TL recently sold controlling interest to ***Peter Gruber*** co-owner of the Golden State Warriors. This means that the amount of funding available to TL has essentially increased to that of an NBA team with Gruber sporting a net worth of over $400 million. However with 2 co-owners, there are now 2 very likely and simultaneously opposite outcomes that franchising could have on TL.
The Gruber Show – Peter Gruber has done some amazing things with the Golden State Warriors. After purchasing the team with Joe Lacob for a staggering $450 million, he has watched them win an NBA championship and become a household name. He has turned it into a powerhouse organization within one of the largest professional sports in the world. This shows the kind of clout comes with having him as the new controlling owner of TL. Gruber is an expert in bringing in talent, he is the CEO of Mandalay Entertainment after all. I expect talent to be the path that Gruber wants to see taken with the TL roster.
With the newfound influx of capital it is likely TL will follow in the footsteps of other western e-sports organizations like G2 and start importing talent. It isn’t debatable anymore what the strongest regions are in the LoL scene. Korea, China, and the south pacific stand head and shoulders above the rest of the world. Organizations like G2, Immortals, and Fnatic have had great success in bringing players from those regions on board. Given his background, Gruber’s vision of the future is likely that of a TL roster riddled with world class talent. One of the pitfalls to this approach used to be the language and cultural barriers that were created when you put together a roster that spanned the globe. We have seen “All-Star” rosters come together, only to fall apart because of communication shortcomings. However, with the new franchising setup teams have enough time to develop these skills and sure up any issues. This leads me to believe that Gruber will push to form a roster full of new players, and get a fresh start for TL.
Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet’s Approach – When TL merged with Curse back in 2015, the leadership structure changed. Arhancet became co-ceo and co-owner with the original TL founder Victor “Nazgul” Goossens . At this point, Arhancet has become a co-owner of the team with Gruber and his vision is likely very different. It is well known that Arhancet’s philosophy for his e-sports organization is one of player growth. He has been helping to develop players since he joined the organization in 2015. Using TL’s challenger team, he has helped grow players like Lourlo and Matt from solo queue challengers into LCS level players. This approach has it’s proponents, but the past two splits have seen the cliff like fall of TL to the bottom of the LCS standings. Despite this reversal of fortunes, Arhancet stood firm and kept a losing roster on board for the 2018 summer split. I expect him to push back against Gruber’s talent grab approach and instead advocate for a more robust support staff. TSM has made great strides as an organization with the addition of a substantial support staff. Their staff includes sports psychologists, nutritionist, and analysts. All of these roles bring a new perspective to a team, improving the team dynamic. I expect Arhancet to look at add these type of positions in order to bolster his current rosters results in the upcoming splits.
The franchise tag is going to help TL one way or the other. Whether they opt into the buy more talent proposition, or they choose to stick with their roster is irrelevant. Time was the missing component in TL’s metaphorical rise from the ashes, and with it I expect to see them break into the top 3 within in the NA LCS within a year. In the end it’s circumstance that dictates the future many times, and for the bottom teams in the LCS, Riot’s decision to franchise has drastically improved their outlook. Look for TL to make the playoffs and potentially worlds by the end of 2018.