Riot games was under fire over a League of Legends European Championship (LEC), a top tier e-sports tournament, sponsorship deal with Saudi MegaCity Neom.
Earlier, it was announced by the developers that they had concluded a sponsorship deal with its main sponsors as Neom, Kit Kat and KIA.
But this announcement concerning the League of Legends tournament didn’t go too well with the fans as well as staff. Riot’s decision met with instant criticism because of the controversial Saudi government.
The widespread allegations against Saudi human rights abuses were the main cause that led to mass criticism and unrest among the community. The Saudi Megacity ‘Neom’ is regarded as the one that would be championing the development of esports across the world.
One of the reasons that fans noted was the timing of the deal, LEC’s avatar contains a pride flag while on the contrary homosexuality is discouraged and illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Many broadcasters and officials took to Twitter to voice their concerns and protest the decision made by Riot.
And what do you know, this instant criticism and pressure made Riot to backtrack in less than a day and the developers admitted that they moved too quickly.
Alberto Guerrero, Riot’s director of e-sports for the EMEA region, was of the view that they moved a bit too fast to expand their esports ecosystem and cement partnership with Neom which caused rifts in the very community that they seek to expand.
Apparently, the Saudi government is using e-sports sponsorships to shine Neom’s futuristic image, besides this failed sponsorship deal, Neom has also announced a partnership with CS: GO competitive tournament, Blast.
It is not yet clear if Valve will follow the suit or not but Riot’s reversal will surely make other developers think twice before making any sponsorship deals with Saudi City Neom.
Reinout is a games investor and strategic business consultant specializing in the games industry. Reinout established his credentials through his own successful investments, start-ups, consulting and (advisory) board positions that led through time to strong bonds with key stakeholders in this fast paced industry. He is known for his outstanding results in the gaming industry. He has worked with many game studios around the globe and is therefore well known in the international gaming industry.
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