One of Australia's best League of Legends teams has found themselves in a bit of a pickle. Yesterday afternoon, Riot announced that four of the five starting players for Chiefs Esports Club have been banned for two games and the team fined for using unofficial League accounts during a bootcamp in China.
According to the ruling posted by Riot, the four Chiefs players - Samuel “Spookz” Broadley, Simon “Swiffer” Papamarkos, Quin “Raes” Korebrits, Bryce “Egym” Paule - were found to have played solo queue matches on the Korean LoL server using "accounts they did not own".
The accounts were acquired while Chiefs was bootcamping in China in October, in preparation for an IEM Challenger event. The ruling says that Chiefs had filed applications with Riot to obtain accounts they could play on while they were overseas, but "they did so within a small margin of time before travel" and they "were left without official accounts for the first part of their bootcamp".
Rather than spend time overseas not practising League, the Chiefs organisation found other accounts for their team to play with. "Given our reluctance to waste an opportunity we are so rarely provided, the team, through an idea initiated by management, decided to search for an alternative solution whilst we waited for our Riot accounts to come through," Chiefs explained in a statement.
Nonetheless, Chiefs has been fined $1000, and the team's owner and operator, Frank Li, has been fined $3000. The more critical part of the ruling, though, is the two game ban that effectively ends any chance Chiefs has of finishing at the top of the Oceanic Pro League for this season. Here's the current standings:
It's mathematically possible - but highly unlikely - that Chiefs could fall all the way to sixth, which would leave them out of the playoffs and unable to compete for the right to represent Australia, and the Oceanic region, in the Mid-Season Invitational later this year.
At the end of regular season play, the first place team - likely to be Legacy Esports - automatically qualifies for the grand final. The remaining five teams square off against each other in a single-elimination, best-of-five bracket, with fourth and fifth seed playing first, and the winner then squaring off against the next highest ranked seed, all the way until the grand final:
Chiefs will probably be fine nonetheless: along with Legacy, they're head and shoulders above most of the OPL, having only the one match to Legacy Esports and only losing two maps in total to the rest of the field. Their whole team will be available for playoffs as well, so they should have no troubles picking up where they left off.
On one hand, Riot's ruling seems surprising for its lack of leniency. Chiefs noted that the late notice on their application for accounts was due to receiving short notice on the event itself. Given that Riot was given advance notice that Chiefs would be overseas at the time - and fully aware that teams in Oceania do not have immense amounts of resources to drop on international bootcamps in the first place - it seems odd that Riot would respond in such a harsh way.
For international teams, the fine would be inconsequential - but for an Australian team, $4000 is a significant amount of money, money that could keep players in a team house for another month, money that could be used on cheap return flights to China or South Korea for a bootcamp down the road.
But other teams have copped harsher treatment from the hand of Riot. A few years ago, North American team CLG sent their starting team to South Korea for a bootcamp while the 2014 Summer Split was still ongoing. With a roster of substitutes left to play their regular matches, the starting lineup concentrated on practising for the playoffs and tournaments ahead.
During the bootcamp, the CLG starters borrowed accounts that would allow them to be able to play on the Korean solo queue ladder. Given that Korean accounts are tied to Korean social security numbers, and that Riot takes a dim view of account sharing, and the prospect of accounts being boosted, the players were fined $US1250 a piece by Riot's American office for their trouble. On top of that, Riot Korea banned the players from KeSPA-promoted tournaments and the OnGameNet league for two years.