On April 2, 2022, League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) held its own Spring Split Finals at the Korea International Exhibition Center. T1, with 18 wins and 0 loss coming into the playoff rush, won over Gen.G with a clean score of 3:1 in the best of five series.
Despite everyone in the organization and fans all over the world being thrilled, bad news came in just one day after the trophy was lifted.
On April 3, T1 made an announcement on Twitter, saying that multiple players on the team were tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the announcement, four out of the five players, including Woo-Jie “Zeus” Choi, Hyeon-Joon “Oner” Moon, Sang-hyeok “Faker” Lee, Min-Seok “Keria” Yu, were tested positive for COVID-19 after participating in the finals.
All of the LCK regular-season games and playoff season games were conducted remotely ever since COVID-19 broke out in 2019. Players had been competing in the vacant arena or in their own facilities for three years already. The 2022 LCK Spring Split Finals was the first time to welcome the audience to be physically in the venue since late 2019.
Right after the news was released, people started to talk about whether it’s responsible or not to have fans back to be a part of the esports tournament.
South Korea currently sits 10th on the board of the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world with 14.6 million cases. The past seven-day average of COVID-19 confirmed cases in South Korea reaches as many as 250,000.
Unlike the traditional sports industry, esports organizations’ revenues don’t heavily rely on game ticket sales. On the other hand, sponsorships, endorsements, merchandise sales, and prize rewards from major tournaments account for the majority of a team’s income.
Given all the circumstances, it might be a little bit unwise for the LCK authorities to reopen the venue and allow fans. The LCK needs to figure out how to minimize the potential spread of coronavirus while keeping the audience in the venue, especially when there is something even bigger coming up around the corner.
Riot Games has decided to organize Mid-season Invitationals(MSI), the major League of Legends international tournament, in Busan, South Korea this year. The tournament will likely be held between late April and early May. There will be 12 champion teams from each region gathering in Busan and competing for the title of the king of the kings.
However, given the current safety measures taken by the LCK, doubts are that some regions may not even be willing to participate due to the risk. According to DotEsports, the LPL, one of the other power regions, might not be able to attend the tournament if they can’t participate remotely.