As climbdowns go, it is one of the biggest in the history of esports and also one of the quickest. After years of growing a fanbase, the LEC caused consternation amongst many members of that community with yesterday’s announcement that controversial Saudi Arabia-based company NEOM would be a main partner for the remainder of the LEC Summer 2020 tournament.
In what proved to be a spectacularly misjudged announcement, the LEC announced that their new sponsor partner as “a new community that will be the home and workplace for more than a million citizens from around the world who want to be part of building a new model for sustainable living”.
They also added that NEOM will be “championing the development of esports across the world.”
On the face of it, it seemed like a somewhat innocuous announcement of a new partner for the LEC, but a number of factors didn’t sit right with many members of the LEC community.
In May 2020, The Guardian newspaper revealed that despite claims that their expansive new community was being built on unpopulated land, it was actually home to 20,000 members of the Huwaitat tribe, who are being forcibly evicted from the land for the development to go ahead.
Indeed on the 13 April, one member of the tribe, Abdul Rahim al-Huwaiti, was killed after he resisted official calls to move from his land. That combined with the close links to the Saudi governments somewhat Luddite views in terms of gender, race, and LGBT equality,