Riot Games has today announced changes to the Valorant esports ecosystem in EMEA for 2022, including the introduction of new Valorant Regional Leagues (VRLs).
This means there will be an official VRL for the UK, Ireland and Nordics region – known as Polaris – next year, run by UK-based tournament provider and esports solutions agency, Promod Esports, which was set up in 2019 by former ESL UK COO Rob Black.
Promod has worked on a number of UK tournaments in the past, including NSE, ESL Premiership and Rainbow Six UKIN broadcasts.
The new Valorant VRLs will sit alongside the Game Changers tournaments for women, and below the usual Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) circuit of Challengers, Masters and Champions (which just concluded for 2021, with UK Valorant talent shining and Acend winning).
Then, sitting below the VRLs will new Valorant Regional Circuits (VRC), a series of local amateur/grassroots tournaments accessible to everybody, regardless of skill level or gender.
More Valorant esports competitions will be broadcast in the EMEA region in 2022, including the following:
- VCT Qualifiers
- VCT Regular Season Stages 1 and 2
- VCT Masters Stages 1 and 2
- VCT Promotion Tournament
- The EMEA Last Chance Qualifier
- VCT Champions 2022
- Three EMEA Game Changers Tournaments
- All eight Valorant Regional Leagues
- The VRL Finals
As a minimum, Riot will be broadcasting all VCT events in eight languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, Polish and Arabic.
In this article we’ll have a closer look at each Valorant EMEA tournament series and how it will work in 2022.
Valorant Regional Leagues (VRLs)
In 2022 Riot will be launching eight new EMEA VRLs in:
- Spain, Portugal and Italy – operated by LVP
- France and Benelux – operated by Freaks 4U Gaming
- UK, Ireland & Nordics – operated by Promod Esports
- Poland, Eastern Europe and Israel – operated by Frenzy
- CIS – operated by Gig Me
- MENA – operated by Calyx Gaming
- Turkey – operated by ESA Esports
- DACH – operated by Freaks 4U Gaming
Each league will run for two stages across the year, with a regular season and playoffs crowning a champion in each league.
A certain number of the participating teams will be decided through VRL open qualifiers, at least once per season. The format of these open qualifiers may vary depending on the region.
At the end of stage one, the winner of each VRL will qualify for the VCT Promotion Tournament. In stage two, each VRL winner will then qualify for the VRL EMEA finals. Riot says the number of VRL qualifiers and available spots may vary based on the results of the aforementioned VCT promotion tournament.
There needs to be at least two players on each team from their respective region.
The 2022 VRL season will kick off with qualifiers on January 24th 2022, with the first split beginning the week of February 14th.
Daniel Ringland, head of Valorant esports for EMEA, commented: “Valorant esports has grown massively, and it’s still growing. 2021 was great, but the work has just begun.
“In 2022 we’ve decided to start with eight VRLs, selecting them based on viewership, potential for growth and the number of up and coming players. Expect local stories, local teams, local players and the opportunity to cheer for your country.”
Esports News UK asked Daniel in a press conference about tournament partners and learning from League of Legends European Regional Leagues (ERLs).
He said: “With VRLs, I think it’s fair to say we’ve learned a lot from the ERL system [in League of Legends]. We’ve definitely borrowed a lot from what we think they’ve done really well. We’ll do some things differently as well of course, because we have the benefit of hindsight to make some changes. They will be partner-operated.”
In terms of whether there may be LAN events, Riot sent Esports News UK the following comment: “We are committed to hosting international LAN events that will showcase the skill of the best teams under the most optimal conditions possible. In EMEA specifically, we’re continuing to monitor the global pandemic and will follow the advice and regulations from the local authorities when it comes to hosting in-person events. When we have a further update on in-person events in 2022, we’ll be sure to share this with you.”
Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) changes for 2022
Riot’s VCT circuit will be returning for 2022, with Challengers and The four EMEA teams that participated in Valorant Champions 2021 will be invited back to VCT Stage 1 in 2022.
A further eight spots will be up for grabs through two open and closed qualifiers (starting January 10th 2022) in each territory: four spots in EU, two from Turkey and two from CIS. Teams from MENA will be able to compete in any of these qualifiers.
Teams will be able to qualify for VCT Stage 2 through the VCT promotion tournament, where the winners of the eight VRLs in Stage 1 will compete to face off against the bottom two VCT teams, with two VCT spots on the line.
Valorant Game Changers EMEA women’s tournaments in 2022
The Valorant Game Changers initiative for women players was announced earlier this year, and saw UK organisation Tenstar Nova become back-to-back VCT Game Changers EMEA champions.
Riot is now planning three VCT Game Changers EMEA series in 2022, kicking off in January and the other two taking place in May and September. Teams who succeed in these events will qualify for a place in the global Game Changers event planned for November.
Riot is also introducing a Game Changers EMEA Academy, a place for new teams and friends to compete in a safe space in up to six tournaments throughout the year.
Vera Wienken, senior brand manager and VCT Game Changers lead for EMEA, said: “Game Changers was founded earlier this year to empower women within our community with opportunities and exposure, as there’s a lack of support for women going pro.
“This is your time, this is your platform. Use Game Changers to build your own brand, stake your claim and be vocal about your achievements, because the world is listening. Bring the fire.”
Upcomer’s George Geddes asked in the press conference why the EMEA Game Changers doesn’t include marginalised genders, when it does in North America.
Vera said it was to do with a different verification process in EMEA to protect players’ privacy across a wide variety of countries, but that Riot will continue to monitor and adapt this process in the future.
Valorant Regional Circuits (VRCs)
VRCs will be a series of new competitions for grassroots Valorant talent of all skill levels.
Players will earn circuit points for their team by competing in individual tournaments throughout the season. At the end of the season, the teams with the most points will then battle it out in an effort to become the circuit champions.
Over the course of next year, players will see these Regional Circuits popping up across EMEA, with Riot’s hope that, in time, players all over EMEA will have a VRC to compete in.
Jon Tilbury, competitive experience manager for EMEA at Riot Games, said: “VRCs are designed as an inclusive and accessible way for players to jump into organised competition at a local level, no matter their skill or aspiration.
“We can’t wait for these regional circuits to launch and help forge the next generation of talent.”
The future of Valorant esports in 2023 and beyond – could we see franchised leagues?
Daniel Ringland, head of Valorant esports for EMEA, said that Riot is also thinking about 2023 and beyond for Valorant esports. He said that franchising – like the system we have in the League of Legends LEC – “is possible” in Valorant esports too.
Daniel said: “Planning and thinking about 2023 and beyond has well and truly started. We want to make sure we’re sitting back, taking our time and […] looking at the many different options.
“Riot has obviously learnt a lot in League of Legends, but we don’t necessarily want to follow down that path. 2023 is still a work in progress and we’ll be sharing more as we go along.
“[Franchising] is possible. Let’s put everything on the table and look at what’s best for our sport in the future.”
Dom is an award-winning writer who graduated from Bournemouth University with a 2:1 degree in Multi-Media Journalism in 2007.
As a long-time gamer having first picked up the NES controller in the late ’80s, he has written for a range of publications including GamesTM, Nintendo Official Magazine, industry publication MCV as well as Riot Games and others. He worked as head of content for the British Esports Association up until February 2021, when he stepped back to work full-time on Esports News UK and as an esports consultant helping brands and businesses better understand the industry.