By Jack Lennard
(Editor’s Note: Due to perceived time constraints, this column was originally published outside of our usual editorial process. We apologize for the errors the original version contained, and we have updated the column to reflect QP’s editorial standards.)
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.
Note from the Quidditch Post: All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Quidditch Post as a whole.
I’m going to start this column away from quidditch. We’ll begin with a completely different sport – ultimate.
Quidditch and ultimate have gone hand in hand for some time now. Both are emerging sports, both target similar audiences (with a focus on college students), and, interestingly, both have faced legal difficulties with regards to naming (quidditch, for obvious reasons, and ultimate because the word ‘frisbee’ is a registered trademark of Wham-O Inc., forcing a change from the original name of ‘ultimate frisbee’). For years, those of us with an eye on the future of quidditch have studied ultimate as a model for how an emerging sport can spread and gain legitimacy, with the benefits of several decades of historical development to research and learn from.
But in this particular instance, I want to talk about crowdfunding. Crowdfunding, on sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, has long been a means to raise cash for teams to afford travel, equipment, or accommodation for major tournaments. It’s February now, so the first few campaigns for events such as US Quidditch Cup 11 and World Cup 2018 have already been launched.
Recently, however, the owner of Savage Apparel, kit partner to the Quidditch Premier League and Major League Quidditch, started his own league for the sport of ultimate. Based on the model and successes of the two quidditch leagues he has partnered with, Todd Curran launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the first season of the United Ultimate League. The campaign is running until the end of February.
It got me thinking about the first conversation I had with Todd, right when the Quidditch Premier League had just launched and we were laying the foundations of our partnership. He asked me whether I had considered a significant crowdfunding campaign to provide early funds for the organisation. I brushed off the question, said we had decided against it, and we made do with my own investment for the first season. But the question remains – why are official quidditch organisations (leagues, National Governing Bodies, and so on) reluctant to resort to crowdfunding?
We all need money – in fact, one of my earliest columns was on the subject of how important it is to recognise the role funding plays in making our sport happen. Furthermore, official organisations ought to have both the resources to offer attractive backer perks and the credibility to attract investment from the community in a way that a team going it alone can lack.
Yet we have seen remarkably little on this front from such organisations, not least on my own part when starting the Quidditch Premier League. And I believe the reason can be boiled down to one word: Uganda.
In this column, I’m going to go back over what has to count as one of the greatest scandals our community has ever been exposed to, and argue that those who are still at the highest level of governance in our sport have been complicit in what could almost be considered the theft of community money.
Let’s go back over the basics. In the run-up to the 2016 IQA World Cup, it was decided that the IQA would run a crowdfunding campaign to support Uganda’s proposed attendance at the event. The campaign was a huge success; it raised 672% of its initial target, a total of €10,242. That does not include the promise in the campaign description that a maximum of €1500 would be matched by the IQA.
In the description, it is promised that ‘every penny will go directly towards helping them get to the tournament’. However, when the campaign closed, a different story began to emerge. It became clear that the IQA had known about potential issues with Ugandan players obtaining visas from the beginning of this campaign, and had not disclosed this hurdle to backers. The following chaos was typical of the IQA – the World Cup Organising Team led by Tournament Director Matthew Guenzel decided that half of the money would be set aside for quidditch in Uganda, and half would go into a World Cup emergency fund. Later that day, then-Trustee Chris Daw announced that the Board of Trustees had reversed the earlier decision, stating that a refund would be available and that all money retained would go to a “Special Projects Fund,” a fund with an unclear purpose.
As of September 2016, it was unclear how much of the Fund remained after refunds were claimed, though Guenzel suggested it was in the region of €8000 (again, not including the extra €1500 the IQA originally pledged to the effort). In the 2017 IQA Annual Report, Nicholas Oughtibridge, who is now Chair of the Board of Trustees, acknowledged that: ‘The handling of funds raised to get Team Uganda to World Cup was poor, and the absence of a credible plan to spend the money raised remains a problem.’
Later in the report, it is stated that ‘money from the Team Uganda fundraiser, which will be used to establish the development fund will be separate from the IQA’s assets as it is set for charitable purposes’. However, it appears that this money has merely been lumped into the business account that the IQA holds the rest of its assets in (stated in the report as being over €34,000).
The annual report doubles down on the intent to use the Fund as a source of cash for NGBs to apply for via the Membership Department, though again acknowledges that there is no process for this to happen. This was at the start of 2017; a year later, there is still no firm plan on what to do with the money raised.
I want to be very clear now. The IQA overruled its own volunteers to take the money raised for Uganda for itself. It then said that it would be used in a fund to support NGBs (which, frankly, is true to the original spirit of the campaign). However, we are now moving closer to the 2018 World Cup, and the IQA has still not decided how to allow NGBs to request that money. The IQA has claimed that the money is ring-fenced for this purpose, but given that all it has is a privately held bank account (a timely reminder that, as far as has been publicly stated, the IQA is still not a legally incorporated entity, and as such has only the accountability we demand of it), we have no way of knowing whether this is true, or whether the money will ever be used for its initial purpose.
When the IQA initially offered refunds, it was made clear that anything left would be used for a purpose in the spirit of the campaign’s initial intention. That’s why myself, and many others, forwent refunds; we wholeheartedly believe that sharing the financial burden of the sport across a range of NGBs is fundamentally good for quidditch. But in the absence of any updates, however vague, we can only conclude that this too was a shameful lie from the very people we have entrusted our sport’s development to.
In short; we have every reason to believe that the IQA leadership have misappropriated the funds raised in an abhorrent abuse of their power. This is nothing less than theft; a betrayal not only of the Ugandan NGB, but of every community member who had hoped to see a more diverse World Cup and a responsible governing body.
So why have few governing bodies embraced crowdfunding campaigns since then? It’s simply because the IQA have tarnished the credibility of the fundraising method. No right-minded quidditch player would see such a campaign and not immediately be reminded of the disgraceful actions of their international governing body.
IQA Congress President Brian Gallaway (left) and Chair of the Board of Trustees Nicholas Oughtibridge (right). Photo credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography
Perhaps the worst thing about this situation is how fixable it is. The IQA can wring their hands all they want about a lack of volunteers, a lack of community goodwill, a lack of columns like this giving them the benefit of the doubt. But there has been no indication that the IQA will use this money to help Uganda get visas for this year’s event. Yes, that old hurdle, remember? The excuse the IQA used to confiscate the money from Uganda in the first place? A load of rubbish.
You can read the requirements for obtaining a Schengen Visa as a Ugandan citizen here. Each visa costs €60. Now, of course, there are other hurdles such as proof of booked flights, and those generally cost money. If only the IQA had a source of funds that could subsidise some of those costs…
That’s the truly sad thing about this mess. That the IQA can never raise those funds again. They can never rely on the community to back a campaign like that in the future. Hell, even a Ugandan-run campaign would be tainted by the IQA’s screw-up. Our sport’s international governing body has been found shitting in their nest, our nest, and the nests of the players who have mistakenly put their faith in them.
We are now almost two years on from the origin of this travesty, and still no nearer a conclusion. Those involved with the IQA, at all levels, must use the upcoming World Cup to demand action from those who hold the funds; whether that is to use it on a specific project to develop the sport in Uganda, to fund Ugandan attendance at the 2018 World Cup, or to simply get the money into the hands of financially struggling NGBs around the world.
I asked the IQA’s Board of Trustees and staff for comment. Trustee Andy Marmer sent this response:
‘At present, we are working with representatives from Uganda and our World Cup partners in Italy to explore the feasibility of bringing Uganda to World Cup. As you know, this was always the intention of the money raised in 2016 and while we are remorseful we could not make it happen that year, we are working diligently to make it happen in 2018. As you are no doubt aware, there are challenges with an undertaking this ambitious and we cannot make any promises about the feasibility. In past years, the IQA has not always been as successful as we would like with regards to Uganda. We have not yet made any public statements about Uganda as we do not want to get people’s hopes up about a situation that lies largely out of our control. Should it be possible for Uganda to attend World Cup 2018, we will use the resources within our power to make it happen. If however, we are unable to make Uganda’s attendance at World Cup happen, we have explored alternative uses of the money raised and will make an announcement to that effect at an appropriate time. The primary focus of this money has and will continue to be promoting the growth of quidditch at a local level and we look forward to helping NGBs promote the growth of our sport.’
This flowery statement is at risk of concealing the fact that the IQA’s response holds absolutely no new information. The IQA has been promising Uganda, and, if not Uganda, other deserving nations, the funds for almost two years. We are well past ‘the dog ate my homework’. The IQA must act urgently, announce their plans quickly, and, if not, then there is little option but to assume that the IQA is either corrupt or unable to lead this sport. Either way, no smooth statement will clean up this mess, just as their platitudes in 2016 and 2017 were meaningless. It is not a case of ‘getting people’s hopes up’. Whilst it would be wonderful to see Uganda at the 2018 World Cup, one thing all of us can guarantee is that the money will be better spent given to developing NGBs than sitting in the IQA’s bank account.
This is the last chance to salvage this dark saga in quidditch’s history. We cannot let the IQA get away with the theft of our very decency. You do not get to beg for volunteers and forgiveness while taking from the pockets of those who want this community to thrive. As for those who do nothing, who say nothing, or who (and there will be some in the comments of this article, I’m sure) actually defend the way the IQA has acted?
They are complicit in this sad affair.
(Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect that the IQA still retains this money, not specifically Brian Gallaway, to remove the offhand descriptions of the event as theft, and to clarify what was called the stance of the IQA as a past instance.)
Some extra nuggets of news for you…
If the IQA has a past instance of standing behind accused rapists, at least South Korea is willing to take a stance against sexual assault and harassment. The South Korean National Governing Body issued a firm ruling recently that makes it publicly clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated.
Hateful 8 (the tournament for the top four Northern and Southern teams in the UK) had its second edition last week. While the Quidditch Post will undoubtedly recap the tournament in more detail, there was one incident that stood out – an assistant referee headbutted a player after the player made a lewd remark. Truly a Zinedine Zidane moment.
Finally, the IQA have announced their new trustees. What they don’t say is that they rejected a Ugandan candidate. Apparently they are more than happy to take money from Uganda, but they don’t want their volunteers…