After widespread upset over a sponsorship deal between the League of Legends European Championship league (LEC) and Neom, Riot has announced that the partnership is being ended.
“As a company and as a league, we know that it’s important to recognize when we make mistakes and quickly work to correct them. After further reflection, while we remain steadfastly committed to all of our players and fans worldwide including those living in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, the LEC has ended its partnership with Neom, effective immediately,” reads a statement from Alberto Guerrero, Riot’s EMEA director of esports.
“In an effort to expand our esports ecosystem, we moved too quickly to cement this partnership and caused rifts in the very community we seek to grow. While we missed our own expectations in this instance, we’re committed to reexamining our internal structures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Neom is a planned community being developed in Saudi Arabia, and announcements were made for a League of Legends and Counter-Strike tournament to have Neom as a main partner. Fans, LEC casters, and even Riot employees were quick to criticise partnering with a regime that is staunchly oppressive while flying a diversity flag. Forbes lists Saudi Arabia as one of the most dangerous places for LGBTQ travellers, where even support of gay rights is criminalised.