ROX Tigers have posted a statement on TwitLonger denying reports that their roster plans to disband after the 2016 World Championship.
"We fully intend to keep this team together. Rumors are just rumors," the statement reads.
ESPN's Jacob Wolf reported Oct. 16 that, according to unnamed sources close to the team, ROX's players have agreed to go their separate ways after the conclusion of Worlds. ROX's statement claims that ESPN's report is "absolutely false."
"We explained to ESPN that contracts are up in November for all Korean teams, meaning that players have the option to leave the team and we cannot make a statement on every player’s future decision," the statement says. "This is true for almost every team."
The Tigers have not had a title sponsor since KooTV shut its doors last year. Despite their successes this year — placing second in the LCK 2016 Spring Playoffs, winning the Summer Playoffs and making it to the Top 4 of Worlds —the team have not brought on a replacement title sponsor, in part because of the limited pool of major sponsors investing in esports in South Korea. ESPN's report claims the team intended to disband in 2015 due to financial difficulties, but chose to remain on for one more season.
According to ROX's statement, they currently have sponsorship support from Chinese streaming company HUYA and YY.com, and are currently in talks with new sponsors to support their effort in 2017. "We are by no means a large or established organization, but we are actively working for the future of this team and hope this 'news' will not derail our efforts," the statement says.
Based on their performance this year, ROX players like Yun "Peanut" Wang-ho and Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho are in high demand internationally, and are likely to receive lucrative offers from North American and Chinese teams with heavy investment backing when their contracts expire on Nov. 30. Without additional sponsorship, ROX may struggle to retain its full roster after Worlds.
However, the organization says that it fully intends to try. "We have complete faith in our players. We believe in what this team has built and accomplished over the past two years, it’s really something special," the statement says.
ROX's players have already received multiple offers, but the team has not replied to any, the statement says. The transfer window for the 2017 season is currently closed, and teams will not be able to enter into Riot-sanctioned negotiations until after Worlds.
"Let's be clear: there are no active/ongoing player negotiations," the statement says. "We are disappointed that ESPN chose to go ahead and publish the piece when it establishes nothing newsworthy and is purely speculative, especially given the timing and the ignorance of our team by the reporter. We question who the 'sources close to its players and the organization' might be since our representatives, manager, and players are all surprised to hear of this supposed agreement to disband following Worlds."
The report from ESPN closely followed the ROX Tigers' 3-1 victory over EDward Gaming in the Worlds 2016 quarterfinals on Saturday. ROX are set to face SK Telecom T1 in the semifinals on Oct. 21, and though they have yet to defeat their Korean rivals in series, it's expected to be a very close match.
Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking
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Jeff Fraser is a supervising editor for theScore esports.