May 22, 2022

Is the French League of “League of Legends”, meeting in real life in Nice, the strongest in Europe?

Fans who cross France and wait hours before a match, champions who are stopped in front of the entrance to sign a jersey or take a photo, ultras with a drum and a stand reserved for them. No, it’s not football we’re talking about but e-sport and the French championship of League of Legends, more commonly known as LoL. The French LoL League (LFL) took over the Acropolis Convention Center in Nice on Wednesday and Thursday for the first time this season, bringing together 2,000 supporters and ten physical teams for two consecutive evenings.

The tribune of the supporters giving voice, Wednesday in Nice. – E. Martin / ANP / 20 Minutes

If we make the connection between LoL and football, it is because the producers themselves of the league, which was created in 2019, compare themselves to Ligue 1. Transfers of international players that cost 1 million dollars, press conferences with the players after the matches, an audience that can accumulate between 150,000 and 200,000 spectators per evening on OTP, a dedicated channel on Twitch. Everything looks like it.

“The French League is the strongest, in terms of performance and audience”

“In fact, we are rather the equivalent of the Spanish Liga or the English Premier League”, smiles Bertrand Amar, director of e-sport activities at Webedia, co-producer of the LFL with the game publisher, Riot Games. “The French League is the strongest in Europe, in terms of performance and audience as well,” he says. The Spanish League, which is considered the second most followed in the game, makes up half of our stats. “While what exactly is our Liga de LoL ?

“The French League is the most competitive of the European leagues, in turn assures Yoann Bouchard, director of leagues and tournaments at Webedia. Above is the LEC, the European championship of League of Legends, but which is a closed circuit, like the NBA. But of the last six editions of the European Masters (equivalent to the Champions League with 14 countries represented), three have been won by LFL teams. It then plays on attractiveness. We have people of all nationalities who want to join French teams. For a player, the best way to shine is to be part of an LFL team. »

Means put in place from the year the championship was created

In summary, since 2019, resources have been put into the championship, which “has installed a virtuous ecosystem for teams that have a real fan engagement rate. [comme Karmine Corp]. It creates enthusiasm, with high visibility and a prestigious circle to evolve,” adds Yoann Bouchard. And if it attracts spectators, it brings in sponsors, and therefore money.

Julien, a 22-year-old from Montpellier, has been playing for nine years and has seen the evolution of the discipline. It’s the first time he’s seen a live game. He has just met Mathieu for the first time, a friend with whom he has been playing for a long time. For them, this type of event makes it possible to “really realize the extent” of LoL in France. “Over the past three years, it’s really grown in importance with very successful teams. The goal is to progress together so the competition is benevolent. Any other European league can envy the LFL for its level but also for its supporters”, analyzes the fan.

“The same feeling as during the Football World Cup”

Allowing the community to attend matches in this way is also a “French touch”. Usually, matches are scheduled but only for the finals. Slogans, applause, standing spectators, in short, an atmosphere of madness accompanied by the smell of sweat after more than six hours in the establishment to see the six matches.

Julien from Montpellier and Matthieu from Lyon have been playing friends for several years and met for the first time on Wednesday in Nice.
Julien from Montpellier and Matthieu from Lyon have been playing friends for several years and met for the first time on Wednesday in Nice. – E. Martin / ANP / 20 Minutes

” It gives me shivers. It’s the same feeling as during the Football World Cup in 2018, “summarizes, between the cries of the public, Matthieu, when the five players from Karmine Corp arrive on stage. This 21-year-old Lyonnais came to Nice for the occasion, to support his favorite team, which was clearly favored by the Acropolis on Wednesday. Between the staging of light, sound and the show he is witnessing for the first time, “it is completely worth the 40 euros spent per day”, he estimates.

“It’s a motivational boost to hear the supporters”

“It’s not the same thing to shout in your apartment alone than with all these people gathered for the same passion, adds Julien. It’s amazing to be here. And again, we are only 2,000. Imagine with 100 times more people, or the number of viewers connected to watch a game at the same time. Facing the KCorp, it’s GameWard. A sort of “clasico” where the former player of one team joined the other. This is Philippe (21 years old), known as Akabane, jungler (a key position in LoL). In a few years, he went from behind his computer screen, in his teenage room at his parents’ house, to playing on a stage in front of thousands of people, with commentators.

Akabane is the only French player on his GameWard team.
Akabane is the only French player on his GameWard team. – E. Martin / ANP / 20 Minutes

“It’s also very impressive for the players,” he confirms. It’s a motivational boost to hear the supporters. Plus, I know there’s my family in the audience so that means something to me. He realizes his dream: to make his passion his job. As a pro, monthly salaries can range from 2,000 to 8,000 euros. His goal is to integrate the LEC, and thus hope to reach the World Championship.

“The French do not have the same consistency as the Poles”

In the meantime, “it’s an honor to be in the LFL”. He really realizes this because he previously played in the German League. “There are two or three really strong structures there. In France, all of the ten teams are of a very high level,” says the only French player on his team.

His coach, Nicolas Perez, who has already operated in an African championship “which has nothing to do”, recognizes that the LFL attracts many foreigners. Of the sixty players present until Thursday in Nice, only fifteen are French. “The nuggets pierce quickly and stand out, says the coach. Several talents have been spotted for international championships. The French have simply not yet found the same consistency as the Poles, for example, who have the personality and the culture of the game. But that will come, perhaps even more credibility is needed. »

No new real event defined in France after Nice

For that, we can count on Webedia. Since 2022, LFL matches have also been broadcast in English, from an antenna in Toronto. The group is also betting on the Division 2 of LoL France. From now on, these structures will be invited to play in the first part of physical match evenings and thus “allow everyone, players and fans, to taste these thrills, and this sharing”, explains Bertrand Amar.

According to him, “France is at the forefront in the field of e-sport, at all levels, even in broadcasting with its own channel, OTP”. “The objective now is to be able to organize this kind of event every week in a different city, but nothing is yet defined after this first meeting in Nice”, he concludes.