“Ninety-five percent of the work that we do is done behind closed doors. Some of our biggest accomplishments were stuff that we can't talk about, unfortunately. I can talk a little about it, I just can't give specifics.”

That was one of the first things Taylor "tailored" Broomall said about his position as the Americas Valorant Players Association's (AVPA) program manager. A large part of the job is held under secrecy due to the many intricacies and moving parts the AVPA is involved with. And that sentence set the tone for the entire conversation.

Every case the AVPA handled publicly — NSG's 2023 debts, The Guard The Guard Inactive JonahP Jonah Pulice trent Trent Cairns neT Michael Bernet valyn Jacob Batio tex Ian Botsch 's fiasco, XSET XSET Inactive 's ongoing debts to its players, Evil Geniuses Evil Geniuses North America Rank #14 Derrek Derrek Ha NaturE Nicholas Garrison supamen Phat Le Apoth Vincent Le jawgemo Alexander Mor ' contract jail, and some others — has many caveats that can't be fully explained because they involve privileged information, unsolved issues, and a general need to maintain a working relationship with Riot, the organizations, and the players.

Most of those cases suffered from miscommunication, Tailored argued. As an example, last year, despite being recently released, the AVPA confirmed alongside Riot that Deadlock was slated to be used in the 2023 LCQ and Game Changers II in North America. Riot reversed that decision several hours later without consulting the AVPA, leading to a confusing back-and-forth between what was public and private information.

“It goes to show that even at these large tech companies, miscommunication is the killer of every org, every team, every company. And one of the pieces of advocacy we try to maintain is the most transparent and smoothest line of communication we can.”

But Deadlock was just a symptom of a larger miscommunication problem. The association saw the same issues with The Guard and Evil Geniuses. Riot made a decision about The Guard without discussing it with the players and, to Tailored, EG and Peak6 were making decisions without communicating “with each other in a healthy way.”

Deadlock teaser image The mismanagement of Deadlock's debut was the first of many problems the AVPA followed last year. (Image via Riot Games)

During the time companies were blowing their esports portfolios up, the AVPA was there at every step of the way alongside the players, managers, and coaches, to make sure solutions were found and that everyone was made whole.

Last year, the AVPA helped recover over half a million dollars in missing prize money or revenue share. Most of that came from working alongside Riot to settle outstanding debts from, for example, Nerd Street Gamers, who had complications arise after third-party financing issues.

“Props to them for trying to make it right, but it was too slow,” Tailored said. “It's unfortunate, because I think the staff at NSG did a great job with their events. But these people are working for a living, they have to get paid. Riot took a while, but they helped us find a solution that would make the players whole again.”

NSG Philadelphia Gaming Facility Riot and the AVPA made sure NSG did good on its debts. (Photo by NSG)

In more complicated cases like The Guard's, the AVPA's role was that of identifying the key problems and working alongside all the involved parties to fix them.

While the community was busy frothing over the drama surrounding The Guard, Tailored sat in meetings. He went back-and-forth with Riot, EG, and the players in dozens of phone calls that ultimately gave the AVPA and everyone what they wanted: let the players find another organization to participate in the VCT.

Tailored spoke on the complexity of the situation, with a reminder that “these TPA [Team Participation Agreements] are business partnerships.”

“Not only do they need to vet the public side of the org on how good they are, they need to vet their finances, their staff, etc. It's a big process and Riot's legal department is very much in control of that aspect. The final decision comes down to the esports team and [competitive operations], but legal has a big say in what goes on.”

The AVPA program manager also said that he doesn't blame Riot for the time they took to finalize the deal, as “there's 100 different people at Riot that need to look at the info, sign off on it and all communicate with each other.”

And while he does, conversely, blame Riot for the lack of communication throughout this process, Tailored also looks at the bright side of things and how they are now kept apprised of new information with much more intent than before, as “situations like this are actually where [they] can gain a lot of favor in building those communication pipelines.”

The Guard at Ascension 2023 They were this close to not making the VCT. But the AVPA helped save them. (Photo by Bruno Alvares/Riot Brazil)

In regards to more recent situations like XSET's and EG's, Tailored was even more tight-lipped than in the other cases discussed.

Nothing could really be said about XSET as there is an ongoing legal battle, and “the court system is really slow in the US.” XSET does, however, still owe the players this money and their case is solid, he defends, meaning an update should come in the near future.

“Not to be crass, but XSET sucks. They fucked these players over,” Tailored said. “It's not some savvy business move. This was stupid business. The way they tried to get out of paying... it wasn't even creative.”

Some more could be said about EG blowing up their championship-winning roster. During that time and in short, the AVPA's job was to be a "patient advocate" for the players and, alongside Riot, outlasting EG's patience in locking the players down.

“We feel that Riot probably could have taken more immediate steps to handle it, but they would have been extreme,” Tailored said. While he didn't reveal which solutions were ever on the table, the program manager said that, personally, he “would have slept perfectly okay at night” if EG were removed from the partnership altogether.

“I don't blame Riot for taking their time and being more patient with it, because, again, EG is a business partner. Peak6 is a business partner to Riot, they can't just go out and expect no legal retribution,” he said. “They need to be careful with this stuff. I totally understand where Riot's coming from. Riot was empathetic with the players and they tried to help work on the solution to get it solved.”

EG 2023 Champions roster Only jawgemo and potter remain after last year's issues. (Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games)

While most of the front-page drama happens in the VCT, the AVPA operates on all levels of the competitive Valorant ecosystem. Their success in making sure NSG did good on their 2023 debts was one of the ways the AVPA showed it looks out for more than the top 10 teams in the world.

Another way they do so is fighting for a better calendar and competitive system in the lower leagues. In an attempt to fix last year's general consensus that the 2023 schedule was cramped and the offseason long — there was no real competition between September 2023 and February 2024 — Riot offered some changes to tier 2.

Not much changed for tier 1, it was still the same schedule, but tier 2 would now play Ascension in September (as opposed to June/July). A third Challengers Split was also added to the final three months of the year. It will serve as the kickoff to the 2025 season, whose calendar is yet to be revealed.

Two weeks after that, the AVPA held an AMA where Tailored said he expected 2024 to be a much better year for the VCT in that regard. Eight months on?

“No, I wouldn't say that it feels any better this year than it did last year,” he said.

Tailored tried to justify Riot's scheduling issues by framing them as an infrastructure problem: the League of Legends World Championship takes place in the fall, meaning Champions must be held before that as the same team runs both events. Once Champions is scheduled for August, everything must take place before it, effectively forcing Riot to run the VCT in the span of eight months.

The third Challengers split was one of Riot's band-aid fixes to tier 2, the association believes, as the latter hold that “investing, even over-investing in tier 2, is never going to hurt you in the long run. Especially if you can afford it as a AAA developer.”

Their belief is sustained by the history of fighting games and Counter-Strike, where there are next to no barriers between tiers of competition. Tailored argues that the long-lasting health and success of the fighting game and CS communities boils down to these grassroots systems.

For the VCT to thrive from the top down, the AVPA argues the calendar should be stretched out. Maybe Riot can hold Champions and Worlds sometime later in the year to avoid stacking the calendar. Maybe they can alternate play between Valorant and League of Legends. That would allow Riot to fix many of the underlying issues instead of a band-aid third split, which Tailored said may actually be detrimental.

“It's nice to see them get more play, but it's just going to add complications for players trying to find teams after Champions has ended. I don't know where that idea came from.”

Gentle Mates celebrate their VCT promotion Tier 2 doesn't need a third split, it needs a smaller offseason. (Photo by Hara Amorós/Riot Games)

In the midst of worrying about players, the AVPA has to make sure it stays afloat. This year, the association was concerned about making headway on two fronts.

First, the agent certification program. This program will allow the AVPA to run a background check on and certify agents to create more protection for players. As a part of this program, the AVPA reached an agreement with Riot that will force organizations to provide in their contracts a list of certified lawyers and agents, which will also be public, that players should reach out to before signing.

Second, the group rights program. Group licensing deals are how PAs are traditionally funded. Players sign these agreements and give “very limited name, image, and likeness rights to the PA to sell in collective categories.”

This will allow the PA to sell things like trading cards, bobbleheads, Funko POPs, posters, Fatheads, and other assorted merchandise. That revenue is then divided up between the AVPA's internal programs, and the remaining share is handed out evenly to players as a bonus.

VCT Americas merch Merchandise is the future of the AVPA's financing. (Photo by Mary Watson/Riot Games)

In major PAs, like the NBA's NBPA, group licensing can represent nearly $100 million in revenue to be handed out to players. As part of their groups rights program, Tailored revealed that the AVPA already has a deal set in stone with a major trading card company in the USA that will print cards from 2025 beyond in a multi-year deal that will see them get money upfront and sales revenue.

“We're getting the VCT players signed on first, and then the Challengers players are coming through with a very similar deal, and Game Changers after that. This is going on in League of Legends too,” Tailored said.

Following other player associations' models, pivoting to trading cards and enabling themselves to sell other merchandise is how the AVPA plans to keep themselves afloat for the next few years. It's how they'll keep standing by players, fighting for their rights, and making sure the competitive ecosystem in the Americas is fair for all those involved as they have done so far.

And even without group licensing, they're already seeing an upturn. The future looks good for the AVPA and its mission.

“We do have a positive cash flow,” Tailored said. “We will be profitable next year and we'll be able to give some amount of funds to each player under the pie. And that includes Game Changers, Challengers and VCT.”