Update – 30/07/2020: LEC has terminated the partnership with NEOM after facing backlash from broadcast talent, employees, partner teams, and fans alike. “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 Riot Games on the matter.
Riot Games’ premier European competition LEC has announced NEOM as a main partner for its summer split.
The deal is with Saudi Arabia, which is looking to shape its in-development NEOM city as an esports hub.
NEOM will help “future-proof” LEC’s stage, sponsoring the ‘Oracle Lens’ during live broadcasts which helps players predict future moves of a team. The partnership will commence from Week 7 of the competition’s summer split.
LEC is also partnered with Secretlab, KitKat, Alienware, Kia Motors, Shell, and Foot Locker. Earlier this month, the competition announced European financial provider Erste Group Bank as a main partner.
Danish event organiser BLAST partnered with NEOM earlier this week, advising on the creation of an esports academy in the city and the expansion of esports within the wider Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Jan Paterson, Managing Director of NEOM Sport, commented on the ambitions of NEOM in a release for the deal with BLAST: “NEOM aims to become a global hub for sport that unites communities, enables active, balanced lifestyles and accelerates innovation. Esports is growing at a rapid pace and NEOM is perfectly positioned to become the regional esports hub. We are excited about the experience and benefits NEOM can bring to the industry.
“We will have an advanced technological base and venues designed specifically for esports. In addition, we aim to inspire the development of young Saudi and international talent through a fully immersive esports academy.”
Esports Insider says: NEOM is ambitious to say the least, and esports is evidently part of the vision driving its development. LEC’s broadcast talent members aren’t too happy with the announcement, nor are plenty of fans, so we’ll keep an eye on how this partnership is activated and, subsequently, received. Partnerships are obviously a big deal in esports, but alienating your fan base in the process of securing them doesn’t seem like a smart idea.