This weekend, two of the biggest Western investors in League of Legends saw their teams get relegated from their region’s premier leagues. In North America, NRG Esports, a relatively new team owned by co-owners of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings with investors including Shaquille O’Neal and Alex Rodriguez, was sent down to the Challenger Series after being swept by Echo Fox. In Europe, FC Schalke 04, formerly known as Elements before it was purchased by the German soccer team before the start of the split, lost to Challenger team Misfits 3-1.
Seeing two recent big-money investors get their teams relegated was obviously the cause of some concern for those with a stake in the health of competitive League. The difference in quality, viewership and potential financial gain for a Challenger team is far less than one in the LCS. Would those investors simply cut their losses and exit the League scene?
One of the two organizations has firmly given its answer, and its a good one for League fans everywhere. FC Schalke 04 will not be selling its Challenger Series spot and will instead focus on making improvements to the organization to get back to the LCS (translation via splitpush.net).
“This weekend’s results will not affect our involvement with League of Legends and esports,” S04 Arena Management chairman Moritz Beckers-Schwarz said after the match in an interview with sport1. “We are pursuing a path which we will keep following next year. The relegation this weekend will only lead to a professionalization of our esports department. There is no alternative way, and it follows the goal of a direct promotion back to the LCS by the end of the 2017 Spring Split.”
NRG has not yet made an announcement, but the team’s Twitter account seems confident in the organization’s return.