League of Legends’ LEC cancels NEOM partnership over controversy

Update: The LEC has announced that it has concluded its NEOM partnership, calling the plans a “mistake” that had “caused rifts in the very community we seek to grow.”

“As a company and as a league, we know that it’s important to recognize when we make mistakes and quickly work to correct them,” reads a statement from EMEA’s Director of Esports Alberto Guerrero. “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. In an effort to expand our esports ecosystem, we moved too quickly to cement this partnership and caused rifts in the very community we seek to grow. While we missed our own expectations in this instance, we’re committed to reexamining our internal structures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Original Story: A controversial League of Legends Saudi Arabia investment has been announced and both fans and industry professionals are none too happy about it. Saudi Arabian company Neom is investing in the League of Legends European Championship (or LEC) and it’s bringing up a lot of questions.

The announcement was made on the official LEC Twitter, simply stating that Neom is going to be a main partner for the Summer 2020 season.

“NEOM is a new community that will be the home and workplace for more than a million citizens from around the world who want to be part of building a new model for sustainable living, working, and prospering in Saudi Arabia,” read the official announcement. “[And] will be championing the development of esports across the world.”

What that article leaves out is the worrying history of Neom. As The Guardian reports, this futuristic new city is being built on tribal land in the northern area of the country. The Huwaitat tribe alleges that the Saudi government is displacing them from the area and has unclear details on where their new home will be. Neom is intended to be a futuristic city 33 times the size of NYC with plans to house millions of residents at an ultimate construction cost of $500 billion.

Understandably, this Saudi Arabian investmen to the LEC has more than a few people upset at the proposition as noted on ResetEra and elsewhere.

As noted in some of the above tweets, the move is viewed as particularly hypocritical considering that Riot Games has a rainbow logo on their Twitter indicating support for the LGBTQ+ community. Saudi Arabia has a long history of violating LGBTQ+ rights.

Others, however, have pointed out that while the League of Legends Saudia Arabia investment is troubling, China has its own fair share of human rights transgressions.

As gaming continues to grow as a business, we’re sure to see more companies invest with complex and concerning issues behind them. The gaming industry needs money to fuel its growth and future development, but some investments might come at too high a price.