T1 and their fans can’t meet halfway anymore – LCK fandom gone too far
It clearly appears to be a case of being once bitten and twice shy. Korea’s T1 wants fans to stay away from practice facilities, and respect the privacy of their team and others.
For the longest time, T1 have been aware of the sensibilities of fans, giving them unprecedented access, and undertaking activities involving their biggest stakeholders, even engaging fans online and offline through several means. But since trolling and online abuse transcended to another level, they’ve put their foot down with an unwritten message: enough is enough.
From bullying Faker and getting sued, to utterly toxic behavior off-stage, T1 fans are a different beast entirely.
T1 can’t find peace with unruly fans
Although the organization has cited an increase in COVID cases in South Korea for this diktat, we aren’t entirely sure. The heart of the issue is the unruly behaviour of fans, and the lengths they have gone to. Unpleasantness that was bursting at the seams was only waiting to boil over into something dramatic. Finally, it all came to head when fans dispatched a truck to LoL park, the LCK venue in Seoul, with a sign that read: “Incompetent Head Coach.”
The not-so-subtle message was linked directly to fans wanting coach Kim “moment” Ji-Hwan out. His relative inexperience seems to have irked them no end. His “poor record” at MSI 2022 was cited as one of several reasons. For the record, T1 finished runners-up at the tournament and were only beaten on the day by a sensational Royal Never Give Up team that defied the odds and played beyond their proficiency levels.
Truth be told, there was perhaps no shame in losing to a team that elevated its game to unprecedented levels. Even if the T1 players were gracious in defeat, the fans were having none of it, unfortunately. It didn’t just end there. They also demanded for more transparency from the coaching staff. They wanted head coach hoi “Polt” Seong-Hun’s plans for the team ahead of Worlds 2022.
Now, you’d think a coach is answerable to the team owner, sponsors and stakeholders. Here, you had a situation where each of these entities were absolutely fine with decisions and happy to take the results on their chin, yet the pressure on the coaches seemed immense because of a certain set of fans. They weren’t just unhappy, they were irate. They also accused the team of withholding information and communicating poorly.
This was the 4th time T1 fans hired a truck to send a message to the organization.
Requests keep on coming
Even if T1 tried to accommodate the requests to communicate better, it got to a point where demands turned ugly and stifling. Was the team going to always live under the pressure of what the fans think or want, or try and focus on things they’d planned for? It’s a delicate line that the fans had clearly crossed.
When they blamed the coaching strategy for their loss to Kwangdong Freecs; which broke their all-time record-breaking run that stretched from the start of the spring split season until June, fans lobbied hard to try and get the coach removed, because he had “failed to strategise and deliver feedback to players.”
This was in response to their first loss in months, even as opponents kept marveling at T1’s roster and their ruthlessness in delivering wins for fun. They now wanted players to have fewer responsibilities in the pick and ban phase.
Equally concerning for the team was the fans’ behaviour at the end of the 2020 season where they missed out on Worlds. When fans parked a truck in front of their HQ to speak of the team’s “no future” because they “shut out devoted fans”, T1 knew problems were brewing. Two years on, what appeared to have been a small headache has grown into a giant-sized monster of a problem, leading to their current diktat of banning fans around HQ, team environment, practice facilities and homes.
Fandom is a result of success and healthy habits they’ve exhibited as a team, as much as the trophies they’ve won. For now, it may seem as if this tussle between fans and T1 is set to take another decisive turn, and no one’s going to be better off for it. The sport, it appears, may continue to be shown in poor light and nobody gains from such unsavory episodes.
How should T1 tackle their overly proactive fandom problem?