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.
And so I’m back. From outer space. Well, from a month’s hiatus.
I’ve never really understood why people write positive and optimistic articles around the New Year. That’s not the time we all need a boost. When we really need a boost is around now, the end of January, once the year has given you the first few kicks in the urethra. That’s the time we want to have a barnstorming screed on how wonderful things could be.
With that in mind, and after a recent visit to New York, I’ve been thinking a lot about the global nature of quidditch.
It’s probably one of the things I say most in press interviews, after praising the gender inclusivity aspect of the sport and (usually calmly) reminding journalists that, no, we do not fly. “Quidditch is a global sport.” In fact, one of the tried and tested lines is the old notion that, wherever you come from or wherever you are going, if you play quidditch then you have a network of people in many cities already there for you, eager for you to join in with trainings or simply chat. We’re a friendly bunch, us quidditch players, and the sport, in the 13 years since it was created, has spread to corners of the earth that might have seemed beyond the wildest imaginings of those college students in Vermont back in 2005.
But quidditch has always had an eye on the international aspect — long before the founding of the new IQA in 2014 and the reformation of USQ as a National Governing Body, there was a sense that international play enhanced the sport’s burgeoning reputation as a popular choice among young people. The 2012 IQA Summer Games, held in Oxford to coincide with the 2012 London Olympics, saw national teams play each other for the first time, and, despite a few name changes along the way, this summer will see the fourth such biannual tournament take place.
I think you’d be hard-pushed to argue against the beneficial nature of such (often ambitious) projects — the simple allure of responding to critics by saying “actually, the sport is played in countries all over the world” is a powerful one, and the more people we get playing the sport, the more of a foundation we lay for our future.
Of course, this ambition has been challenged over the years — while the old World Cups (now the USQ National Championships) were really only nominally open to club teams from other countries, they still saw teams travel overseas to compete. Since 2014, we still haven’t seen a world club competition emerge to take that mantle — but it should be stressed that the absence of such a competition is more than understandable. With increasingly well-organised and attractive national and continental annual club competitions (such as European Quidditch Cup, Copa del Sur, and Asian Quidditch Cup), the incentives for top-level club teams to travel across the world is frankly minimal. That doesn’t even begin to touch on the logistical hurdles, such as qualification for and timing of such an event.
Less understandable, however, is the stalling progress of international cooperation on less ambitious projects. European Games, the competition for European national teams that takes place in the years between World Cups, has gone from strength to strength, echoed by the increasingly diverse NGB presence at EQCs that have driven organisers to create a second, “development” tournament to allow newer NGBs to send teams.
Clear in that decision is the understanding that it is fundamentally beneficial to developing NGBs to allow them to compete on an international level. Teams learn more, players pick up new skills, and retention of volunteers and players alike becomes far easier once the international community is brought into the picture.
Yet tensions over borders are not limited to the world of geopolitical strategy or Trumpian wall promises — quidditch has seen its own fractures over such issues. The move to restrict North American clubs to either the US or Canada was met with outcry from teams such as UBC, while less restrictive policies allowing international friendlies followed tentatively and were welcomed by the community.
And this lack of international bonhomie is not limited to the US-Canada border. For years, the idea of non-specific continental teams being welcomed at international events such as World Cup has been bandied around — yet, these have been repeatedly shot down by the developed international community. Why? Yes, some NGBs may develop on their own, without a continental team — for example, after a Team Asia was repeatedly denied the opportunity to compete, some countries, such as Vietnam, hope to attend World Cup 2018. But instead of two or three Asian NGBs competing at World Cup 2018, we could have been looking at significantly more, had players been given a chance to compete as part of a broader team earlier.
Perhaps it is a lack of perspective — after all, short–term strict integrity to policies can often trump long–term strategy, and often does. But some NGBs are beginning to see the bigger picture; QuidditchUK and Quidditch Ireland have a very accommodating special arrangement between their two NGBs that allows for cross-border play to help develop the sport in Ireland, while the recently announced Neighbourhood Cup, jointly organised by the Belgian Quidditch Federation, Quidditch Nederland, and Deutscher Quidditchbund, notes that the tournament will specifically focus on developing new and developing teams in all three countries.
European Games is still the only continental championship for national teams, despite a South American version being more than workable, with the possibility of an Asian/Oceanic version becoming stronger by the day. Even a North American Games, while theoretically only having Quidditch Canada, Quidditch Mexico, and USQ, could be made a more enticing possibility by having each USQ region attend as a separate team.
These events are (relatively) easy wins for both NGBs and the IQA (and the latter so desperately needs one). They have minimal teams to organise logistics for and they offer a proven return on investment, both in terms of external engagement and in terms of internal development. They paint our international governing body, the IQA, in a generally positive light, because a tournament has to be pretty disastrous for it to have a negative effect on community opinion. But, perhaps more importantly, they move us closer to that ideal of international parity spread across a vast array of regions that cooperate for the good of the sport on a global level.
Once you cut through the bickering of the IQA Congress, the inadequacies of the IQA Board of Trustees, and the bureaucracy of NGBs, it’s clear that we are all on the same side here — we all share that ambition, lofty as it may be. The IQA has taken a few years to get going, but finally, after a retreat to individual NGBs, there is a glimmer that putting effort into those international events may once again be the future of the sport. The view of our national leaders, for three years so dominated by their own affairs, is now at a time where it can turn outwards once more.
While in New York, a stone tablet caught my eye, bearing the hope that “the liberty won on these shores might be the heritage of the world.” We are, at our hearts, a global sport, and that global community is one we should, and, finally, can embrace on the pitch. I hope this article can act as an optimistic call for us to take that opportunity. More than anything else, this global sport is our future, one that we’ve been working towards for over a decade.
It is high time that we claim our heritage.
Some extra nuggets of news for you…
The IQA has elected new members to its Board of Trustees. Though the election happened earlier this month, the IQA have decided not to announce the winners (and losers) just yet. I’ll respect that decision, and keep them anonymous, but expect a thorough examination of who Congress elected to the Board over the next month or two.
Major League Quidditch has adopted the “Super Series” format for 2018, which will feature three teams playing at one location over a weekend. The format is tried and tested — the Quidditch Premier League executive team can attest that it does indeed make things an awful lot easier for volunteers.
Finally, a big sigh of relief as the Quidditch Post was able to keep its doors open this month, after finding a new C-Suite to run the organisation. A big thank you goes out to the old team of Andy Marmer, Lindsay Garten, and Austin Wallace for being so dedicated for so long.
Correction: A previous version of this article captioned the photo as “Ireland and Slovakia” instead of “Ireland and Slovenia”