One rule for some, another rule for others – it’s the underlying notion that continues to cause concern within the League of Legends eSports ecosystem. In the wake of Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng’s surprise move from Team SoloMid to Team Liquid, the long-standing relationship between team owners Andy “Reginald” Dinh and Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet immediately raised concerns of potential collusion within the NA LCS.
As outlined by Team SoloMid’s official announcement on the trade, Steve Arhancet, CEO of Team Liquid, has been desperately searching for an AD Carry after Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin transitioned from the position to TL’s mid lane. It is understood that Steve reached out to Andy Dinh at TSM, “indicating a dire need for talent within the position”, at which point Doublelift agreed to join the relegation threatened squad for the remainder of the Spring Split, treating the temporary move as an “opportunity to ease back into the competitive LCS scene and acclimate to the stress.”
Doublelift’s position on Team Liquid will terminate at the end of the NA LCS 2017 Spring Split, conveniently providing TL with a window in which to utilise the star’s talents to escape relegation before Doublelift fulfils his original intentions and returns to TSM for the Summer Split.
To the letter of the law, neither Team SoloMid nor Team Liquid have breached any of Riot Games’ legislature for the NA LCS. The trade took place within Riot’s outlined window for roster swaps and, as with any typical deal, the value of Doublelift’s contract and abilities were negotiated. Reginald’s boasts on social media certainly reinforce this notion:
— Andy Dinh (@TSMReginald) 8 March 2017
Where the waters get murky is the areas in which direct comparisons can be drawn to the case of Team Dragon Knights and Renegades, two teams who were banned from the NA LCS for colluding in their roster swaps to avoid relegation. After a number of curious personnel shuffles to distribute talent evenly between the two rosters, both teams seemed set to hold their valuable spots in the prime time of League of Legends – Riot was quick to set the precedent that these form of back-hand deals would not be permitted.
What some sections of the community deem to be similarly unethical is that, with Doublelift’s move from Team SoloMid to Team Liquid, TL are temporarily improved, likely to the point where the team avoids the serious threat of relegation. As outlined the veteran AD Carry will then leave again, leaving TL to face the same problems as before, but having avoided relegation in place of a team potentially more deserving of the spot.
Good guy Regi helping his buddy Steve dig himself out of relegations. All those years of friendship paying off.
— MonteCristo (@MonteCristo) 8 March 2017
Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet was quick to dispel this theory however:
“Look, TSM didn’t do me any favors. I had to increase our offer multiple times to even get their attention to consider.
“Riot pre-approved the initial paperwork and then provided final approval on the Doublelift deal before we announced. Everything goes through them.
“Andy and I have been friends since season one (and he carries me pretty hard in league), and that’s why there’s always going to be conspiracy theorists. Riot decides if they want to approve or deny trades.”
Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet
Importantly, unlike the Renegades and Team Dragon Knights scandal, all the negotiations and paperwork have been completed through the proper channels. The confusion is aroused as a result of Doublelift’s inevitable return to Team SoloMid, but this is not something that will be recorded in any written document.
Technically speaking, Doublelift is now a full time Team Liquid AD Carry; he is now signed to the Team Liquid organisation. Liquid have paid a hefty fee to Team SoloMid in order to release Doublelift from his current contract, allowing them to negotiate with their desired replacement. If the terms that Doublelift and Team Liquid have agreed to only lock his services until the end of the split, that’s what was negotiated.
Yet the fact such a debate has occurred in the first place suggests that Riot need to provide further clarification and apply more consistency when it comes to trades made during the regular season. Whether the ‘LCS Old Boys’ are genuinely colluding or presenting a conflict of interest is difficult to determine, but what is crystal clear: a significant proportion of the community’s faith in both Riot Games and the LCS team owners is dented with each instance that issues of this nature arise.