League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) has announced sweeping changes in order to bolster the esports ecosystem in Korea. Among those changes are an increase in prize money, a change in playoff format, establishing the Challengers League, and raising minimum salaries for players and coaches. Along with these announced changes, the LCK has brought on Secretlab and HP Omen as sponsors. Head of the LCK Sean Oh announced these changes to the LCK on Monday evening.
According to Oh, the LCK will increase the league’s prize pool money available to teams in 2021. Where last season the LCK awarded $276K USD (₩300M won) in total prize money per split, 2021 will see a prize pool of $368K (₩400M). Also, the prize money for the first-place team has been doubled from $92K (₩100M) to $183K (₩200M). The runner-up of each split will receive $92K (₩100M).
The LCK has significantly changed its playoff format for 2021 in order to give more teams an opportunity for “more teams to advance to the finals and accumulate experience, which is expected to boost their competitiveness in international competitions.” Last year, the No. 1 team from the regular season was given a bye into the finals. Now, the first through sixth-place teams will battle it out in a six-team best-of-five match tournament bracket to determine the split championship. This means that the top two teams from the regular season will instead get a first-round bye, entering the playoffs in the semifinal round.
As far as the regular season is concerned, the league will see two, best-of-three matches per day. The first round will have matches being played five days of the week (Wednesday-Sunday), and when it’s time for the second round, those matches will be played four days a week (Thursday-Sunday). The first match of the day begins at 5 p.m. KST.
New to 2021, “a new beginning” has been implemented for the official second-tier league, the LCK Challengers League. LCK CL’s regular season is to be played as a double round-robin tournament, with five games per day played on Mondays and Tuesdays. The playoffs will be played in the same six-seed bracket format as the LCK with a total prize pool of $74K (₩80M).
One of the more exciting changes will be a considerable boost to the salaries of players and coaches in the LCK. The minimum player salary has tripled from last year going from $18K (₩20M) to $55K (₩60M) with coaches now being guaranteed a minimum salary of $37K (₩60M) According to Oh and the release this move was made to “increase job stability in the industry.”
Other rule changes for 2021 surround roster moves for league teams. According to the new 2021 ruleset, LCK and LCK CL teams may now exchange players between rosters. Call-ups and send-downs are now allowed three times during the split: at the beginning of the first and second rounds, and before the playoffs.
Meanwhile, in 2021 the league has secured Secretlab and HP Omen as official sponsors along with Woori Bank, McDonald’s, and Logitech.
The 2021 LCK Spring Split starts on Jan. 13 with a Gen.G vs. KT Rolster matchup.
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