League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) is reportedly set to return from hiatus by the end of the month with an online format, in order to provide a safe environment for their players and others involved in the competition.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak that started in China and quickly reached the Korean Peninsula, both LCK and Challengers Korea (CK) were played without studio audiences from the start of February. Several other precautions were put in place, such as a limited number of media allowed at the venue, while everyone in the LCK studio had to wear masks and regularly use hand sanitiser.
That situation lasted until March 6, when Riot Korea indefinitely suspended its leagues so as not to threaten the health of their players and others involved. Both the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) and the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) followed suit and suspended their leagues last week, while the LoL Mid-Season Invitational was delayed by two months.
The Chinese League of Legends Pro League (LPL) cancelled all of its matches from the end of January up to the start of March, when the league returned with an online format. Riot Korea discussed a similar solution for LCK and CK, as it appears hosting games at the LCK studio is not an ideal fit.
“Due to the on-growing Corona19 epidemic, in order to ensure the safety of the members of the league, we have decided to have the LCK and Challengers Korea go on an indefinite hiatus,” said Riot at the start of the month.
“Currently, we do not have a set return date and will keep a close eye on the epidemic to choose the appropriate date of return.”
New reports claim that Korean LoL leagues could return to our screens in a couple of weeks with an online format, thus mimicking the steps LPL took with their competition. The LCK cannot afford to find themselves in a similar situation as the LPL, where extended game weeks are in place so the league can catch up with the LEC and the LCS.
As of March 17, South Korea has just over 8,300 cases of the coronavirus. That is low compared to most countries, especially the likes of China (81,000+), Italy (28,000+) and Iran (16,000+). South Korea has suffered only 81 fatalities due to COVID-19 and has seen its rate of infection slow down significantly since the start of the month, in most part due to the high priority the country has put on preventive measurements such as testing its residents.
Although Riot Korea has yet to officially confirm an online format, both the LEC and LCS recently announced remote play will be in place for their leagues starting this Friday and Saturday respectively. Meanwhile, the LCS Academy league will resume on Thursday, March 19.
“Due to the ongoing developments of the coronavirus pandemic, we have decided to play the remainder of the 2020 LEC Spring Split 100% remotely online, with matches resuming Friday, March 20th,” read LEC’s announcement.
While traditional sports are at a standstill, the esports scene as a whole is transitioning to online play. It remains to be seen how the pandemic will affect major events such as the League of Legends World Championship and The International 10, which might also be played online for the first time in esports history.