This weekend the League Championship Series heads to Wembley Arena, but one of Europe’s most storied teams won’t be coming. Gambit Gaming blamed Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, for informing them of the location change too late to acquire visas for their Russian born players, leaving them with no option but to use four ringers this weekend.
“We’re truly sorry for this poor experience for Gambit Gaming and all the fans,” the statement read.
“We really wanted the core of Gambit's roster to be with us in London. We apologize for underestimating the difficulty Gambit Gaming would have in attending the LCS London event. We wish that we had informed the teams sooner about the roadshow so this would not have been an issue.”
Of course, for a 4-6 Gambit Gaming squad who could end up relegated due in part to losses this week, wishes will be no consolation.
Riot admitted to notifying Gambit Gaming “near the end of the processing time line” for visa acquisition, and said they did “everything in their power” to speed up the process. But there was no mention of the fact that Gambit would need to interr their passports at the consulate for two weeks in order to complete the process, which would have forced them to miss other weeks of the regular season.
Riot also claims they “investigated alternative options” for playing the matches, like Gambit Gaming participating remotely from Riot’s Cologne studio, or simply rescheduling the matches and tacking them on to another LCS day or after the regular season. But they ruled them out for various reasons like “security and connectivity risks, unfairness to other teams.”
For example, if Gambit played from Cologne they may have a ping advantage over teams in London, connecting to Riot’s tournament servers, and less pressure with no live crowd in front of them. Rescheduling the games would force Fnatic and ROCCAT to change their own schedules, and play extra matches on match days, and inconvenience for them despite not being involved in the situation.
But that ignores the unfairness to Gambit Gaming, who could potentially lose their pro gaming careers if relegated in part due to this fiasco, and for no fault of their own, other than being Russian nationals. Fans and media were quick to point out the hypocrisy.
“Regarding rescheduling, I again think this small disadvantage for teams (by making them play extra games so there's still eight) would be preferable to a huge disadvantage for Gambit,” wrote one user in the comments section of Riot’s post. “Because, again, this was not in Gambit's control and there is no real reason to screw over them rather than another team.”
“Either reschedule the games or let them play remotely... anything else and you just made competitive league into a bad joke,” wrote another.
I wonder if the EU LCS contract includes the phrase "You might randomly need to get visas last minute or essentially forfeit some games!"— erik lonnquist (@ggDoA) June 20, 2014
Gambit Gaming still has a chance to come out of this all right. Last Split, they had to use substitutes in Week 6, pulling heavily from Challenger team Ninjas in Pyjamas, and they managed to come away with a 1-1 record for the week. But Riot Games has made a positive outcome a whole lot harder for them this week, and possibly put their season in jeopardy.
In that context, Riot Games being "sorry" surely can't mean much.