How League of Legends Esports plans to keep players safe from Covid-19 at Worlds 2020
By Noah Smith
Washington - League of Legends Esports World Championship is a logistical adventure in the best of years, with its bringing together of teams from 12 regional leagues based around the world. 2020 is not the best of years.
This year's event, which begins September 25 and will conclude with the final match on October 31, is being held in Shanghai. China's most populous city has seen a trickle of confirmed Covid-19 cases in recent days according to Chinese state-owned media outlets, though data about positive Covid tests and Covid-related deaths have been subject to scepticism, along with other state-provided data out of China.
The overarching situation would have figured to make an in-person event for players a near-impossibility. Riot Games, which publishes League of Legends and runs its competitive league, has dealt with its share of challenges over the past nine championship events, but this year will be a totally new frontier, as it has been for other major sports leagues and tournaments such as the NBA, NHL and MLB. China, like many countries, currently has a hodgepodge of pandemic-related travel policies in place as it gradually eases entry restrictions for some foreign nationals. U.S. citizens are still prevented from applying for tourist visas.
Like some traditional sports leagues and events, Riot has set up a bubble in an effort to help players, coaches and staff avoid catching covid-19. Here are some key questions, and answers via Riot's public relations team, about the first major esports championship bubble:
Q: Will players be covid tested? If so, how often?
A: Yes, weekly. Players will also be given daily temperature checks.
Q: How long are teams being quarantined for?
A: Fourteen days at a hotel. The bubble policies also call for physical distancing and a strict disinfection regimen, according to Jarret Siegel, Riot's head of events for esports.
Q: After quarantine, will different teams be able to see each other in person?
A: Yes, but players who chose to do so will be required to wear masks and keep at a distance from one another.
Q: What are the physical locations of the bubble?
A: Early stages will be held at Shanghai Media Tech Studio, with no live audiences. The finals will be played at the brand new Pudong Football Stadium. Riot chose to curtail the number of venues, and confine the event to a single city, unlike previous years, so as to reduce travel and create a more contained bubble. All transportation from the hotel to the venues will be coordinated by Riot.
Q: How is food safety being handled?
A: The standards in place are a mix of local health authority guidelines and recommendations from risk management consultants Riot is working with. Players will only be allowed to eat in set areas and must maintain physical distance in the canteen area. Partitions are in place between seating areas, utensils will be individually wrapped, and all food serving and eating areas will be subject to "rigorous" and frequent disinfection, according to Siegel.
Q: Will fans have any opportunities for in-person interactions with players?
A: Unclear. Siegel said Riot will make a call "at a later date in accordance with local guidelines . . ."
Q: What will happen if a player tests positive? Will the team's match be delayed? Forfeited?
A: Also unclear. Siegel said they will evaluate the situation based on health and safety, as well as the match schedule.
Q: Did Riot look at the NBA or NHL bubbles as a model?
A: Not exactly. Tom Martell, global director of operations for esports said Worlds is, "more akin to what you saw in New York City with the U.S. Open tennis event. We have players and teams coming to one locale from all over the globe."
Q: Were any families allowed to travel with players to the bubble?
Q: What is the current plan for allowing fans into Pudong stadium?
A: Riot hopes to allow fans, but it's not guaranteed.
"We have plans for a limited audience for finals, we will see where we are when we get there. I think we're going to be fine and we'll have a small audience in the stadium but we'll see, its gotta be safe," said John Needham, global head of esports at Riot. Siegel said they will look to the CDC, WHO and local authorities for guidance before making a final decision.
Q: Did players have to sign covid waivers, exempting Riot of culpability should a player contract covid, in order to participate?
A: Players sign international tournament participation forms every year, according to Martell, but players were not required to sign covid-19 specific waivers.
The Washington Post