By Jack Lennard
Twice a month in You Don’t Know Jack, I’ll be writing out some thoughts in a regular column here on the Quidditch Post. I’ll be using my experience in administration and management to break down some of the bigger trends and issues in quidditch, looking at the wider, global scale of how the sport is developing.
About the author: Jack Lennard is the founder and Director of the Quidditch Premier League. He has previously been the COO of the Quidditch Post, and currently works in public relations. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Quidditch Post as a whole.
‘If money go before, all ways do lie open’ – William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act II, Scene 2.
There’s been a big change since quidditch was founded in the community. When you look at those early days of your NGB, whether that’s the US, UK, or Australia, what about it do you think has been the biggest cultural shift between then and now? No, it isn’t that Harry Potter fandom has been pushed to the sidelines or a lack of bristled brooms being used. It is, in fact, not something you can see at all. It is that people now are far more willing to part with their cash for this sport than they have been in the past.
The facts don’t lie. Membership rates have gone up globally, merchandise options have become more appealing and more expensive, and T-shirts with names and numbers written on with paint are no longer adequate kits for the majority of teams. While this used to cause furrowed brows, wringing hands, and angry comments on Facebook, now, players don’t bat too much of an eyelid (though it should be noted that quidditch still costs far less than pretty much any other sport to be seriously involved in). I’m going to be looking at why this change has taken place (spoiler: it’s really obvious), and then considering what opportunities this offers (that bit is less obvious).
There was a time when the idea of paying for the sport was seen as almost taboo. And I get that — after all, money is an icky subject among friends. And that’s what we all were, right? The quidditch community was a friendship network, and the transactional nature of giving money for access to the sport was seen as something that went against that spirit. Now, some younger readers may not recall this, but certainly in what we’ll call the “devolved” members of the original IQA (read: anyone not in the USA) there was outrage when their new, “official” NGBs (such as QuidditchUK) had the temerity to ask for a mere £3 a year for individual membership. All they had known before was a very distant manifestation of authority, and now those f***ing capitalists were on their goddamn doorstep?!
But anyone who saw which way the wind was blowing knew that it was absurd to think things could go any other way. Quidditch was growing more professional, and could grow more professional still, and that improvement costs more than cuddly Facebook comments. So it became about value first, with the idea of profit neglected as a concept. Break even, that was the motto, and ensure that the organisation is giving back what you pay for. Pay £10 more? Get nicer pitches. Pay £20 more? Get more matches. It’s not rocket science. But, in its own way, it was a quiet revolution, and it changed our sport. And this shift has had consequences.
Firstly, people aren’t blind to the fact that people who play quidditch tend to spend a lot of their paychecks on quidditch. It’s a passion they are willing to invest in. And that’s causing more of a micro-economy to pop up than ever before. We’ve seen a growing amount of companies that serve the quidditch community specifically; several have appeared in the UK alone, as well as many more across Europe, and that trend extends globally as people see the opportunities. There’s no longer a contradiction between friendship and enterprise; that person next to you on the starting lineup can be your best friend, but they can also be a potential customer.
Secondly, with great power comes the great responsibility to not be a bloody idiot. And by an idiot, I mean corrupt, I mean opaque, and I mean people who think this is a jackpot. Yes, there’s substantial potential in quidditch financially; I wouldn’t be running a company in the sport myself if I didn’t think that. But there’s also a lingering problem, which is that most people in the sport are new to running a business and new to managing financials. And that is why we have an IQA that can’t collect its own membership fees because several of its composite NGBs think it’s corrupt, or at the very least lacks any capacity to collect money transparently and responsibly, all while it sits on a hoard from World Cup 2016, which, by right, should be somewhere in Uganda right now. That’s why the first thing the Quidditch Premier League did was incorporate as a private limited company in the UK, so our basic accounts can be viewed for free online (and the deadline for filing them is soon, so buckle up), and we’re regulated by both Companies House and HMRC. This is no joke. The community is trusting you, starting your own business within the sport, with their hard-earned cash, which is a pretty big deal. This isn’t something you can half-ass. So don’t, because you will bring down this house of cards for the rest of us.
Thirdly, money can unlock doors that nothing else can. Money doesn’t solve all your problems, but it sure makes things a hell of a lot easier to do so. With more money, we can solve bigger problems. But that ceiling is being reached. You want more game time? Nicer kits? Okay, but would you be willing to pay even more than you currently do to get that? Thought not. And that’s why the biggest opportunity this shift has provided is the drive to bring external partners into quidditch to fund our sport. Once we run out of the ability to get slicker, better, and more professional on the backs of whatever membership fees and other revenue streams the community stumps up, we’re going to need to start looking elsewhere. And that, in my opinion, is the greatest opportunity of all. Because that’s what the next step in the future of our sport is. A move away from community-funded to more diverse, more externally-based revenue streams. Which is going to be bloody hard to accomplish, especially when you factor in the abject lack of spectators most quidditch events can attract. But there is hope — our media presence as a sport is astoundingly consistent, our unique selling point of inclusivity is truly a differentiating (and in-demand) one, and the target audience is young and diverse.
This means we can offer backers significant exposure. A good social media account will add reach, statistics, and audience demographic data that will only enhance partnership proposals, while media presence shows the ability to reach beyond our core audiences. Furthermore, our inclusivity banner is an attractive proposition for brands that may not currently be as popular among youth or liberal audiences. Quidditch offers that sector on a plate, and then asks if they’d like seconds; once organisations start leveraging that more effectively, I expect to see a leap in partnerships for both organisations and teams. Finally, it goes without saying that there is the potential for profit. Currently, most organisations, run exclusively on volunteer labour, break even or make a minimal amount of profit that gets reinvested in the organisation itself. Eventually, however, I think people will see the potential of serious investment in the sport, and the profitability that could come from an international venture. Not only would there be the traditional revenue streams (merchandise, tickets, and so on), but the highly digitally-based nature of our sport lends itself to new and exciting opportunities on smarter, newer platforms.
Make no mistake, we’re gearing up for a new wave of ideas to build cash flow into the sport. Think you’ve seen this community be innovative so far? Get ready for real entrepreneurship. The future is bright, green, and maybe, just maybe, you won’t have to pay for it yourself.