Should Riot Games Remove the LoL Import Rule Restriction in Every Region?

League of Legends esports is one of the most viewed video game competition series in gaming history. As the competition’s popularity only grows in most countries, its reputation is slowly deteriorating due to a lot of its rule and restrictions that many people who watch it closely don’t agree with. One of the most contested topics is the LoL import rule and the discussion of whether or not to remove it completely.

The Significance of the LoL Import Rule

Like most physical sports, there is a sense of national pride when a team from your country or region is competing in an international competition. Even in domestic tournaments, there are “hometown heroes” that make the tournaments extremely fun to watch and draw a lot of viewers from key demographic areas. Riot Games understands the significance of this sense of pride to increase the tournament’s popularity and gain more viewer counts both domestically and internationally.

Malrang laughing with his LEC team - LoL Import rule
Should they remove the import restrictions?

Unfortunately, that also means that teams need to consist of players who are citizens of their own country or region’s tournament league for this sense of pride to exist. As a precaution, Riot Games has set a rule to preserve this factor by implementing the LoL import rule which prevents teams from having more than 2 players that are not citizens of the region they are representing.

The rule is strictly implemented in all countries, especially in South Korea where their own regulations prevent any non-Korean citizen from being important to any team. The two regions with the loosest implementation of this rule are North America’s LCS and Japan’s LJL. These two countries have the highest percentage of imported players, mainly due to the poor quality of domestic talent and support that both countries have for League of Legends esports.

Vitality Bo and the rest of his team playing LoL - LoL Import rule
What can be done?

Most regions have retained a low presence of imports in their competitions but the North American LCS has become a battleground of opinions for the entire world. Since the region has the worst performance among the major regions despite being the region with the highest-paid players, people are talking about lifting the import rule altogether to give the region a better chance at improving the quality of competition. Of course, that means sacrificing the chances of local players at securing a spot in any team.

Lifting the LoL Import Rule

Lifting the LoL import rule is an extremely dangerous move if done in any region at all. North America has been pushing the agenda since it believes that its culture and foundations are built upon the existence of various nationalities creating a single country so the problem of national pride won’t hurt its viewership. In fact, sports like Basketball and the NBA use the fact that it includes so many nationalities to bolster their viewership internationally.

The main problem with this rule is that if it is lifted in one country, it must be lifted in all competing regions. Unlike traditional sports, League of Legends esports is undoubtedly dominated by South Korea and its players making their contracts extremely popular in the import market. This threatens an international competition that has one nationality having extremely high participation numbers despite representing other countries.

Team Liquid in cold clothing going to the World Championships - LoL Import rule
Is it going to improve?

Even if you are a Korean citizen, it would be extremely boring to watch an “international” competition with essentially only one country competing against itself. Even if it raised the overall level of competition, making for more interesting matches, it would simply be horrible for viewership to lift the import rule in all regions. This would especially be the case in the Wildcard Regions where the level of competition is disastrously bad.

It must always be the case that the majority of players in one team are from the country representing it, not only to raise viewership but also to give a chance for local talent to compete. The problem with the level of competition is not due to one nationality being “better” due to some genetic advantage. Instead, other regions need to raise their standards, player support, and domestic competition to improve the state of their performance.

Is There an Alternative Solution?

Lifting the LoL import rule is definitely NOT the right move but there are other ways for regions to improve while developing local talent. The biggest solution right now is to introduce more international tournaments to give other teams more exposure to playing against foreign talent. The main reason lower-tier tournaments are losing is because the quality of tournaments is terrible compared to other regions.

Team Liquid huddled together - LoL Import rule
Make competitions more accessible!

In other esports, they implement having multiple “Majors” every year with many teams from different regions competing. That’s why the competition in those other esports events is a lot more even between countries as compared to League of Legends esports where there is a massive difference between China, Korea, and the rest of the world. This method will upgrade the quality of the games throughout the world and even benefit the stronger ones.

League of Legends Esports in the Future

The League of Legends esports scene has a lot of problems in and out of its competitions. However, removing the import rule isn’t even a band-aid solution that should be put on the table. It is an important part of what makes League of Legends entertaining because the competition won’t survive on what the players and organizations want for themselves and that’s a harsh reality of the industry.

Ruler kissing the MSI trophy - LoL Import rule
The future is interesting!

In the future, there will be even more conversations about restructuring the esports scene for the benefit of both the participants and the fans. As long as the changes don’t impact the experience of one of the parties, it will be a welcome change that people will eventually accept since it’s not great to stick to a single formula for too long. The only thing that the community wants to see from the League of Legends esports scene is for the quality of games to improve so that there will be more interesting matches.

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