Unlike other eSports, League of Legends has a consistent tournament setting. Games like Counter Strike have tournaments scattered around the world that teams travel to compete in. League has the LCS, where teams stay in one spot and compete each week. In order to work consistently in countries other than where they are from, these players need to ascertain work visas to play. Unfortunately, obtaining these can be difficult for some players, with some countries having special rules and regulations.
A work visa is a permit a person needs in order to work in another country. Riot has cracked down on legitimacy, so it has been very strict about players having visas before playing. Players like Yellowstar and Svenskeren managed to get their visas finished before the season started. Others weren’t so lucky. Echo Fox had to take a loss the second week of the NA LCS because all of their visa paper work had not been submitted on time. A few splits ago Bjergsen had to go back to Denmark to get his five year visa so that he could keep playing for TSM. For one week Reginald stepped in his place, even getting player of that week.
EU is an entirely different beast than NA. There are so many different countries, and not all of them get along. Russian players seem to get the short end of the stick. Recently Diamondprox, a veteran with over three years of experience in the EU LCS, can’t play on Unicorns of Love anymore. He can’t get a permanent work visa to play at the EU LCS studio, located in Berlin. Germany does not see playing in the LCS as a worthy enough job to get a work visa for.
Unicorns of Love wrote on their Facebook page: “The status of pro-gamer is hard to identify for governments, between “artist”, “performer”, “sportsman”, “technician”… and the German law has currently no answer for a Russian esport player.”
Edward is an Armenian player who was playing for Roccat, and now also can’t play in the EU LCS. For years this really wasn’t an issue. To add another layer of craziness, H2K’s mid laner Ryu is also having visa problems and isn’t going to be playing this week. Players from countries on shaky terms with Germany simply used temporary visas, with nobody really batting an eye lash. Before the LCS, the Russian team Moscow 5, which was considered to be the best in the world, would only travel for tournaments. That’s no longer an option for players since in order to play in the LCS you have to be close to Berlin.
This is a really troubling trend that if isn’t solved soon may have a negative impact on eSports growth. Teams shouldn’t be limited by politics when picking up players. Skill and team environment should impact a roster, not relations with foreign nations.