In the wake of the controversial partnership with NEOM, Riot Games is set to shake up how it handles global deals.
This new global deals council aims to provide company-wide transparency for all business development and sponsorship deals within Riot Games’ global markets. The new council will feature members from the Global Esports team, Riot's social impact division Karma, alongside legal and diversity and inclusion teams.
According to ESPN, Riot President Dylan Jadeja had this to say to employees in a call on Thursday:
"The intent is for all of us to have a voice to raise a flag and for that to be followed through on. That team, that department, will also be responsible for formalizing and reinforcing the deal evaluation framework."
The news follows off the back of the LEC announcing a new partnership with the new Saudi Arabian city of NEOM. The deal was walked back within 24 hours, after LEC staff, including casters and talent called on the LEC to cancel the deal.
This is disappointing because this is the LEC. It's my team, my product, my managers, my office.
My family. My home.
This isn't someone far away in HQ that I don't know. This is devastating because I know who made these choices and I feel silenced.
— Froskurinn (@Froskurinn) July 29, 2020
The issue was, among other things the LEC prides itself on its inclusivity. A brand built around fun, being yourself, and accepting other people. The news was even revealed by the LEC which at the time was an LGBTQ+ variation of the LEC’s logo. Thankfully, the deal was retracted. But the fact it even got to that stage caused a shockwave among LEC fans and talent alike.
The deal wasn’t even known to LEC talent until 24 hours before it was revealed on Twitter. It took just moments for a number of those staff to take to Twitter and express their shock.
Is change coming or is it just empty sentiment?
This news seems like a good sign from Riot Games. However, caution is needed when pushing forward. The NEOM deal not only highlighted the lack of due care from decision-makers at Riot/LEC but that by telling the LEC staff just a day before, they knew full well the issues it would cause.
NEOM’s partnership with the LEC was no doubt lucrative. The Saudi state via its many avenues and ventures is investing heavily across Europe and certainly not just esports. A recent partnership with BLAST, which is even more significant than the LEC deal has yet to be walked back, and as of publishing is still very much going forward.