Riot Games swiftly drops Saudi Arabian sponsorship of LEC
Riot Games, the video games developer, has performed a quick about-turn on a partnership it struck this week with Neom, a proposed futuristic Saudi Arabian city, to be the main sponsor of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC).
After strong criticism online - from employees and gamers alike - of the decision to partner with Neom, the developer has now announced the deal is off, and the two parties will not be associated going forward.
The criticism had been primarily aimed at Saudi Arabia's human rights record, as well as the fact that the area where the city is to be built was previously occupied by the Huwaitat tribe, which was forcibly removed.
Alberto Guerrero, Riot Games’ director of esports for Europe, Middle East and Africa, has now said in a statement: “As a company and as a league, we know that it’s important to recognise when we make mistakes and quickly work to correct them.
“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.”
No financial details about the deal were revealed, but media sources suggested that it would have been a lucrative partnership for Riot Games.
Neom also signed a strategic parrtnership with Blast, the global esports tournament organiser, earlier this week.
Elsewhere in esports, the inaugural edition of the PUBG Mobile World League has signed up Qualcomm, the US telecoms firm, as its title sponsor.
Qualcomm is the first sponsor to get on board with the new competition, which includes 40 teams in total, split equally between East and West divisions.
The tournament, which began on 11 July and will run until 9 August, has a total prize money pool of $850,000.
Qualcomm is no stranger to sports sponsorship, and is especially active in motorsport, having been a founding partner of electric motor racing’s Formula E Championship.