Riot Games reportedly suspended the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) indefinitely as a result of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea, making LCK the latest in the long list of esports events affected by the illness.
One of the strongest leagues in the League of Legends scene, LCK, as well as its second-tier of competition, Challengers Korea (CK), will reportedly shut down after the first round of Week 5 matches, which will conclude on Friday, March 6. Additionally, it was revealed that the Sunday Night LCK - the league's weekly talk show will also be suspended until further notice.
The league officials spoke about the coronavirus outbreak and shed some light about why they decided for this step and explained LCK will look to re-launch the only after COVID-19 epidemic dies down domestically.
"Due to the on-growing Corona19 epidemic, in order to ensure the safety of the members of the league, we have decided to have the LCK and Challengers Korea go on an indefinite hiatus," read the statement from Riot Korea.
"Currently, we do not have a set return date, and will keep a close eye on the epidemic to choose the appropriate date of return"
The decision to put LCK to a halt, comes as a result of the rapidly growing number of COVID-19 cases in South Korea, the number of which rose to almost 5,000 as of Tuesday, March 3. The spread of the disease also ushered The Center of Disease Control to issue a level three travel health notice for the country. With that, South Korea became one of the four countries in the world - besides China, Iran and Italy to receive the travel warning, which states that travel should be avoided unless if it's necessary.
To date, 28 people have already died in South Korea due to the coronavirus, and although that number is still behind the likes of China with over 3,000 deaths, and both Iran and Italy who have over 50 deaths apiece, South Korea is still one of the most critical countries in terms of number of confirmed cases and deaths.
In a bid to prevent further spread of the disease and to keep their players and other members of the league safe, the LCK has been played without an audience since the end of January, however, it seems like the league officials decided to take one step further with this decision.
LCK, however, is not the only esports league that has been affected by the epidemic. Overwatch League has already cancelled all Chinese and Korean homestand series, while the Chinese premier League of Legends league - LPL, has been suspended indefinitely since its first competitive week.
On a more positive note, LPL is said to return on Monday, March 9. After a comprehensive review of the situation, LPL announced it will resume its league, although the LPL will run online until the league can safely return to its venues. Their decision to resume the league with an online play comes as a direct response to the Chinese national general administration of the sports department, which requested that all sporting events to be postponed while ushering esports leagues to use an online format for the rest of the split.
What does that mean for the Chinese and Korean LoL league is anyone's guess, but it's safe to assume it will severely hinder their preparation for the Mid-Season Invitational, which has already been delayed by Riot. What's more, the outbreak could also have detrimental effects on Chinese and Korean teams' preparation for the World Championship, which will be a massive blow to the esports scene, given that China and Korea are regarded as two of the strongest regions in LoL competitive scene.
The 2020 World Championship is intended to be played in Shanghai, China, and although the event is still over six months away, there are raising concerns what will be the course of action should COVID-19 outbreak not be contained by then. The municipal government of Shanghai, however, stated that they are committed to hosting Worlds later in the year and that the preparations for the culminating event of the season are underway.