Hours After Announcing It, Riot Dumps Saudi Arabian Sponsorship

riot games saudi arabia
Image: Riot

It was only this morning that Riot Games was copping flak from all sides for accepting a sponsorship from NEOM, a techno-city funded by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. But before the deal could even get going, the Valorant and League of Legends developer has announced that the deal is dead.

In a statement posted on the official League esports page, Riot’s EMEA director of esports, Alberto Guerrero, said the deal would be ended “effective immediately” after “further reflection”:

“As a company and as a league, we know that it’s important to recognise when we make mistakes and quickly work to correct them. After further reflection, while we remain steadfastly committed to all of our players and fans worldwide including those living in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, the LEC has ended its partnership with NEOM, effective immediately.

The whole saga raises so many questions it’s hard to know where to start. Firstly, you have to wonder whether anyone within Riot raised concerns about partnering with someone believed to be responsible, directly or otherwise, for the cold-blooded murder of an independent journalist. And even if you wanted to ignore the death of Jamal Khashoggi aside, it’s hard to see how Riot’s pro-LBGT stance would even be remotely compatible with a country that outlaws same-sex relationships, has executed and crucified citizens for their sexuality, and continues to imprison citizens just for calling for equal rights. And that’s not even getting into how the construction of NEOM’s $US500 billion megacity has led to forced evictions and alleged genocide of a Huwaiti tribe.

Riot’s own contractors and high-profile icons within the League community aired their own complaints over the sponsorship. Belgian commentator Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere, the current host of League‘s European championship, effectively called out Riot for not giving the public faces of League a heads up, while another League caster noted that Riot’s new sponsors would “kill me for existing”.

Unsurprisingly, the criticism was swift and scathing.

While we missed our own expectations in this instance, we’re committed to reexamining our internal structures to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” the end of Riot’s statement reads.

While Riot’s sponsorship deal with the Saudi Arabian mega-city is dead, the deal between NEOM and Danish Counter-Strike organisers BLAST is still live. The company hasn’t published a statement or acknowledged any of the concerns yet.

“Esports is at the centre of NEOM’s exciting plans for Sport, we’re delighted to be able to assist them in shaping this long-term goal. This is a record deal for BLAST and testament to our recent growth and standing in the industry right now,” BLAST CEO Robbie Douek said of the deal.


  • My opinion is neither here nor there, but I find it amusing that one poster is apparently unironically claiming to be ‘silenced’ in a twitter post. I think that posting for the masses to see if somewhat the opposite of being silenced. Now if they were placed under detention, or had all means of communication removed from them, then that would be closer to what I’d call being ‘silenced’.

    • She said she ‘feels silenced’. If someone says they ‘feel like they’ve been kicked in the gut’, would you tell them they’re exagerrating and a real kick in the gut is much worse? Expressing feelings is painting a word canvas, and it’s OK to use hyperbole is acceptable to convey an emotion. She is just expressing her feelings, no need to get all ‘umm, actually’

  • Cops flak for trying to partner with Saudi Arabia but not for being a Chinese company doing the same shit.

    The partnership would have been a match made in heaven.

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