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Riot fine League of Legends pro Bjergsen $2000 for poaching another team's players

Young Soren Bjerg, a teenager with pale skin and red brown hair, stands against a gray background with a TSM logo behind him.

Remember that whole fiasco between progaming teams Ninjas in Pyjamas and Lemondogs as they attempted to trade an LCS spot between them, only to have Riot quash it with a rules change?

Today, Riot added a new twist as they fined Ninjas in Pyjamas’ former mid laner, Soren Bjerg, $2000 for his role in the affair. They found that he was guilty of poaching members of the Lemondogs team, which is odd because it’s usually teams and not players who do the poaching. So how did Bjergsen find himself in the middle of all this? Hint: eSports aren’t always wildly professional.

In a post on the League of Legends forum, Riot’s eSport Manager Nick Allen laid out the facts of the case, which may make some sense of the odd offseason upheaval in EU LCS that led up to this month’s chaos.

At the end of the 2013 season, North America’s Team SoloMid desperately needed some new talent. They were clearly outclassed by the competition outside of NA, and so they contacted Ninjas in Pyjamas about hiring Bjergsen, NiP’s star mid lane player. NiP let the American team start negotiations with Bjergsen.

But when Bjergsen agreed to transfer to TSM, Ninjas in Pyjamas said he had to find a replacement for one of the gaps in their roster. As a result, Bjergsen and NiP unwittingly set in motion the events that would see both NiP and Lemondogs bounced from LCS. Bjergsen talked to a player he knew at Lemondogs, who was interested in joining Ninjas in Pyjamas. Riot also found that Bjergsen "offered this player a significant sum of money". It's not clear whether they mean he simply told this player what his offer would be, or if Bjergsen was offering him money out of his own pocket just to take the new contract with NiP. The latter option sounds far shadier. Either way, the Lemondogs roster soon fell apart as three players transferred to NiP.

The roster switches proved disastrous for both teams, but what got Bjergsen fined is a part of LCS regulations that says: “No Team Member or Affiliate of a team may solicit, lure, or make an offer of employment to any Team Member who is signed to any LCS team, nor encourage any such Team Member to breach or otherwise terminate a contract with said LCS team.”

Now, Bjergsen clearly violated these rules by helping poach another team’s player. But what’s amazing is that he was asked to do this by his management at Ninjas in Pyjamas, and that his deal with TSM was made to hinge on it. Bjergsen should not have agreed to do it, but Bjergsen is also 17. That an experienced eSports organization like Ninjas in Pyjamas would ask this of a player on the eve of a trade is nothing short of breathtaking.

Of course, it probably didn’t seem like a big deal to anyone at the time. Esports remain a small world and most teams and organizations have lots of informal ties and connections. Bjergsen wanted to leave his old team on good terms, and they needed help finding someone to complete their roster. So they handled it informally among themselves. Now Riot have put everyone on notice: standards for professionalism are a little higher than that in the LCS.

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And people say eSports aren't like real sport.

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