ROX Tigers looked ferocious as they took down EDward Gaming on Saturday night to book passage to the League of Legends World Championship semifinals, but within hours the team was forced to switch focus away from those preparations to deny a report that they plan to split up after the tournament.
The drama began yesterday when ESPN Esports published a story stating ROX Tigers would disband after Worlds, citing "sources close to its players and the organisation". Reporter Jacob Wolf said the team originally planned to split up after Worlds 2015 when it lost its headline sponsor KOO but decided to play out one more season, and that the team will wait until contracts expire at the end of November to seek new opportunities.
This brought forth a lengthy rebuttal from ROX Tigers, which described the report as "absolutely false" and took various swings at the author, pointing out factual errors in a manner presumably intended to undermine the rest of his story.
That will probably work in the short term, but it's interesting to note that ROX's response acknowledges that the organisation can't offer guarantees or account for its players' future decision-making. In fact, the statement confirmed they had received offers for their players.
The strongest thing ROX could offer to dispel the rumor was that "our representatives, manager, and players are all surprised to hear of this supposed agreement to disband following Worlds". Which is probably what you would say to your employer if they found out you were planning to quit?
Anyway, one thing everyone can probably agree on is that this isn't useful timing for ROX Tigers as they focus on how to take down world champions SK Telecom T1 this coming Friday in a repeat of the Worlds 2015 grand final.
"We ask that fans continue to cheer for our team as they compete in Worlds," the ROX Tigers statement concluded. "This is what they have worked all year for. The speculation not only distracts from our preparation for the semifinals in New York City this Friday but also casts a shadow over one of the team’s most important moments.
"We are excited about our plans for next year and hope you will be too."
For his part, ESPN's Jacob Wolf said he stuck by his story.
I whole heartedly believe in my sources and even today have been notified about offers their players have received. On to November.— Jacob Wolf (@JacobNWolf) October 17, 2016
We'll see what happens in November.