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“We don’t support that fiesta” - Riot is caught out by messaging mistake around minor regions, but their apology reveals deeper issues

What seems to have been intended as a tongue in cheek jibe at minor regions that was never meant to go live, instead became the spark for public outcry regarding Worlds Play-ins and Pick ‘Ems. But this poorly phrased jab by Riot speaks to endemic issues around Worlds Play-ins and the value Riot puts on them. Here’s why you should care.
Disclaimer: the author is a proponent and unofficial broadcast talent for the LJL, a minor region.

It started, like many inflammatory comments, with what was intended to be a joke. On the official LoL Esports website for the 2021 World Championship Pick ‘Ems competition, an attempt at tongue in cheek humour was made regarding when Pick ‘Ems would begin. “Come back October 10 [sic],” the website snarked, because “Play-ins are happening and we don’t support that fiesta.” It has since been removed from the site.

In a surprise to very few, this has gone down exceptionally badly with the wider League of Legends community. Everyone from Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere and Clayton “Captain Flowers” Raines to the likes of Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg were less than impressed.

“Disrespectful” was the by-word for many - including Sjokz and Flowers - with Sjokz going on to point out that those “fiesta” teams were the ones that knocked current LEC champions MAD Lions out of Worlds last year, while Flowers voiced his disbelief that it was the official site that had worded the statement in such a way. Others, like Competitive & Education Development Lead for Evil Geniuses Kelsey Moser, said they had to double-check this “wasn’t a meme before RTing holy sh*t,” while current PCS caster Devin “PiraTechnics Younge lamented “what a way to tell the play-ins teams you don’t care about them.”

Perhaps inevitably it’s already being mocked by the greater LoL collective via memes and Twitch spam. Everything from Bjergsen’s latest stream title at the time of writing to the comment section of the LoL subreddit is rife with references and mockery of Riot’s gaffe in messaging.

Luke Cudney, Director of Esports Product Management for Riot Games has since released an official apology via the LoL Esports Twitter account. They blamed this miscommunication on a placeholder that was never intended to go live, saying it was “meant as an ironic joke due to our frustration in not being able to support Play-Ins.”

But the issue lies beyond purely a poor choice in phrasing by Riot - unintentional or not. The fact of the matter is Play-ins will not be covered by Pick ‘Ems, and it was referred to (even if it was in farce) as if it was some kind of trailer or pre-show to Worlds. As though it wasn’t part of Worlds, and instead some lesser event not worthy of proper coverage.

And this is the crux of the issue: even in their apology Riot admit their own frustration with the value the production has available for Play-ins, that we have to wait for the “real show” to begin. And that should be galling for minor region fans, teams, and players. 

“We don’t support that fiesta”
The LJL’s DFM pushed reigning World Champs DK to the edge and took a game off C9 at MSI… with a coach subbing in at support! The calibre of Play-ins teams is not to be underestimated. (Picture: LJL).

For many teams this is the highest point their organisation has ever reached. For many players, this is the make or break point of their careers. For fans outside of the major regions, this is a chance to see their best and brightest shine. To have the stage they stand on be diminished by lack of care, time, or resources is a tragedy, regardless of unfortunate circumstances and in-jokes borne of frustration. If the team behind Pick’ Ems is frustrated, so too should the fans be.

Of course, the apology matters. The context matters. But the fact remains that it points to Play-ins being held as lower value in the eyes of Riot - even if that frustrates Riot themselves. Let’s hope the frustration is limited just to Pick ‘Ems.