Who’s in Charge at TSM?
Team SoloMid (TSM) is one of the most famous organizations in League of Legends (LoL) esports. With six domestic victories, TSM holds the record for the most titles in the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS).
TSM has not won a title since the 2017 Summer split. Up until the start of 2018, TSM had never missed an LCS final and been to every World Championship. Starting from the 2018 Spring split, TSM has made the finals once in five attempts and has missed both the 2018 and 2019 World Championships.
This significant dip in tournament accomplishments has led to questions regarding TSM’s future in League of Legends. If TSM wishes to recapture their former glory, then their leader will need to revitalize the organization after a shaky past two years.
The question is: who is TSM’s leader?
The Head Coach Chosen by Players
Normally in sports, the head coach or general manager is the leader for the team. They play an essential role in scouting talent, leading strategic discussions, and making decisions.
In TSM, the players seem to have much more control. The current head coach for TSM is Parth “Parth” Naidu. Parth was the head coach for TSM in 2016 and 2017 before transitioning to the position of general manager. On June 12, the LCS Summer 2020 starting date, TSM announced he would return to the head coach position.
TSM stated that the change was at the request of star players Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Yiliang Peter “Doublelift” Peng.
It is not unusual for star players to demand a greater say in team operations. The specific circumstances of both Bjergsen and Doublelift in relation to the TSM organization, not just the team, raises more concerns on how much (or little) influence Parth will have over this squad.
Wonder who is going to come coach TSM?
One player is a partial owner, another player is dating your boss, and your boss' boss used to date your boss and has a history of taking over as coach.
— MonteCristo (@MonteCristo) April 21, 2020
Bjergsen: One Part Player, One Part Owner
In October 2019, the Washington Post reported that Bjergsen would not only re-sign with TSM but also become a part-owner. The star mid laner has played for TSM since November 2013, one of the longest tenures of any League of Legends player with one team.
This position means that Bjergsen has a vested interest in seeing TSM prosper more than other players. It also means that Bjergsen has potentially unhealthy power dynamics with others on the team.
For the other players and coaches, Bjergsen is not only the star player and face for the TSM LoL team but now also their literal owner. Regardless of if Bjergsen outright uses this advantage, it implicitly skews all discussions and decisions in his favor.
This could lead to an uncomfortable work environment for the players and staff, but it could be advantageous for TSM. It can be argued that Bjergsen’s position could better influence the team long-term due to his investment as both owner and player.
In TSM, though, Bjergsen isn’t the only one with disproportionate influence as both a player and in management.
In a statement provided to @ESPN, #LCS commissioner @IAmGrza clarified the leagues stance on equity. Starting in the 2020 season, players with three or more years of service will be eligible to own part of their team. pic.twitter.com/Fr1VjgwGts
— Jacob Wolf (@JacobWolf) October 14, 2019
Doublelift: One Part Player, One Part Owner’s Boyfriend
Doublelift returned to TSM on April 26 for the upcoming Summer split after a disappointing performance on Team Liquid for the 2020 Spring split. He previously played for TSM in the 2016 and 2017 seasons alongside Bjergsen and Parth.
It would have simply been a star player rejoining an old team to recapture lost glory, except for one fact: Doublelift was in a public romantic relationship with TSM President Aileena “Leena” Xu.
This announcement resulted in an extended controversial discussion by both pundits and fans on social media regarding the potential conflicts of interest.
Leena has not divested herself of involvement with TSM’s LoL team. Doublelift stated that he and Leena are in a relationship at the time of his joining. As it stands, no one within TSM has taken actions to prevent possible conflicts caused by these uneven power dynamics.
It is difficult to find a beneficial situation in which two people have loyalties to each other as romantic partners as well as loyalties to the organization as a player or president.
This pretty much sums up my last night. pic.twitter.com/MGWbWbEEqq
— Travis Gafford (@TravisGafford) December 7, 2019
Who’s in Charge at TSM?
Between Parth, Bjergsen, Doublelift, and Leena, four different people have influential positions over TSM’s LoL team.
TSM founder, owner, and CEO Andy “Reginald” Dinh also stated that he had “made the decision to sign [Doublelift]” to make a fifth person with direct involvement over TSM LoL’s direction.
The saying goes that “too many cooks spoil the broth.” In TSM, one cook was hired by two others, one cook owns the restaurant, two cooks are dating, and the restaurant’s founder occasionally comes into the kitchen to mess with the broth himself.
Whatever short-term gains, this systemic lack of a clear vision can only hurt TSM in the long run.