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.
A while back, I talked about how NGBs had a new opportunity to break away from the mould of what I called the “USQ model” and forge their own path to growth. In this refreshingly uncontroversial installment of You Don’t Know Jack, I’m going to be taking a microscope to one of the best examples of rapid growth in the sport worldwide: Germany’s NGB, Deutscher Quidditchbund (DQB).
The sport made its way to Germany back in late 2012, but didn’t have a truly organised structure until 2014, when DQB benefitted from the greater autonomy afforded to European nations after the reformation of the old IQA into USQ, and the creation of a new international governing body. The NGB began like many others – a few teams here and there, slowly reaching out and playing fixtures, and moving gradually towards a more coherent structure and centralised body. Germany’s size helped its growth; it naturally has more people, more population centres, and therefore more potential catchment areas for new teams than smaller countries such as Belgium, which has struggled to develop beyond its initial size. By the time the 2016 World Cup was hosted in Frankfurt, DQB had around 24 teams, with some 350 players to its name.
Yet, just a year and a half later, the size of DQB has pretty much doubled. There are now around 40 teams across the country, and a player base of over 800. This places DQB as one of the largest NGBs in the world, with multiple representatives in the IQA Congress (additional representatives are granted on the basis of membership size), and a true powerhouse of the sport.
How did this happen? Well, hosting the 2016 World Cup certainly helped. While the years after World Cup 2016 have shown incredible growth, the origin of this surge can be traced back half a year earlier, to November 2015, when Germany was announced as the winning bid to host the event. At that point, the NGB only had 14 teams, and saw a significant surge between that initial announcement and the tournament itself. So while it’s tempting to see only the jump in teams following World Cup 2016 (from 24 to around 40), it’s important to note just how key the period before hosting the actual event was.
Which draws us to another element of DQB’s success. While World Cup 2016 was clearly a major influence on DQB’s growth, that sort of sudden interest doesn’t just happen passively. I spoke to Juliane Schillinger, DQB’s Head of Public Relations, and she highlighted the aggressive way the young NGB capitalised on the opportunity that had been placed on their doorstep.
Firstly, the NGB made sure to assert their presence in all press coverage of the event. Whether it was a comment from the NGB’s president, Nina Heise, or ensuring that the national team’s captain or players were featured in national and even international articles, the focus was consistently drawn back to the host NGB. Does this speak to the strength at the time of DQB’s PR operations, something that wouldn’t come to the forefront with a different NGB? Perhaps, and perhaps this is an opportunity that Italy will struggle to seize in 2018. But I suspect that the advantage still lies with the host NGB, almost regardless of which one. After all, no communications strategist sitting on the other side of the world can counter the strengths of a local understanding of the press landscape, the ability to easily communicate with national and regional outlets in a native tongue, and the excitement of a national point of prestige that comes with hosting World Cup.
This success has trickled down to DQB-hosted events, such as their national cup. With Sportdeutschland.TV, the online streaming service of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, reaching 20,000 worldwide through their livestream of the 2016 World Cup, they were keen to return for future events, which has given DQB one of the strongest livestreaming infrastructures outside North America. This has kept the attention focused on them long after the 2016 World Cup ended, and gave them the sustainable resources to grow for the future. For example, DQB runs one of the largest NGB-organised league structures in the world, with 30 teams taking part across six regional divisions.
Yet DQB’s success lies beyond just these communications and tournament-based accomplishments. The annual DQB Quidditch Academy brings together club leaders from across the country for a weekend to learn from one another and to keep the increasingly broad array of teams and figureheads on the same page. This gives DQB a foundation of excellence in their volunteer base, as well as giving the ordinary quidditch player in the country a deeper understanding of the governance of the sport. And, as I’ve said before, a community that’s educated on the challenges and opportunities facing their NGB is a huge boost to those governing that community.
Alongside that firm hand on internal affairs is an increasingly outward-facing NGB. DQB has taken part in cross-border events such as Neighbourhood Cup and international friendlies, and as I said in my column a month ago, this approach is not only good for the NGBs involved, but good for the development of the sport overall. This international prominence has led to Germany hosting a second major event in two years – the 2018 European Quidditch Cup will be held in Pfaffenhoffen, just outside Munich, thanks to a successful bid from DQB member teams Three River Dragons Passau and Münchner Wolpertinger Quidditch. With four teams attending, DQB will be one of the most represented NGBs at the event, reflecting their prominence in the continent. The only major event that DQB has yet to host is European Games, though one has to imagine that it will only be a matter of time.
Which leads us to two questions, to conclude this case study. Firstly, what’s next for DQB? Well, their national tournament, the German Cup, will be held in Frankfurt this June, and the NGB expects up to 35 teams to attend. Those with governance experience will immediately spot that number as becoming dangerously close to becoming unmanageable – while USQ are famed for their 60-team (or more) events, the consensus that is developing across Europe is that 32 teams is the maximum for a national tournament. So the obvious next steps will be to grow their newer and less developed teams in number so that they can emulate QuidditchUK’s Development Cup, thus allowing them to offer a competitive end to the season to even the less formidable teams within the NGB. DQB already runs Eispokal (Ice Cup) as a secondary event to their more elite EQC qualifiers (which are limited to 16 teams), both early in the season, and while introducing a fourth major tournament to their year is a daunting task, it is an efficient way to develop incentives for the next 20 or so teams to join the NGB.
Beyond that, one would imagine that a bid for the 2019 European Games seems likely. In my opinion, Quidditch Europe are already keen to establish more autonomy from the IQA, and with DQB emerging as organisational leaders within the continent this could be a golden opportunity to demonstrate where the future of the sport in Europe (and perhaps even the world) lies. Looking at past events, DQB has laid the foundations for a strong youth programme. Notably, kidditch teams are listed on their website, and it would be surprising if DQB didn’t seek to extend their lead in this area by expanding the amount of teams and resources offered to them. After all, if you can get children playing the sport then you’ve created a sustainable NGB for decades to come.
The second question is perhaps more ambiguous: What can other NGBs learn from DQB’s success? Predictably, it boils down to the same old advice – focus on communications, make sure your NGB takes opportunities to host events when they present themselves, and foster an environment where the role of the governor is understood and accepted, even welcomed, by the governed. That’s not complicated. What is complicated is doing all those things at once. Over the last season, there’s been an increasingly pressing question of what the role of an NGB should be – are they focusing too much on running events, or on policy, or on international maneuvers, and dropping the ball on the basics? Perhaps there is an argument to be made there, and it’s likely something I’ll be looking at in more detail in the future.
But if the success of DQB shows anything, it is that NGBs can, and should, be ambitious with their goals. It shows that a comprehensive understanding of how all those factors interweave makes for a stronger NGB overall, rather than just one that does one or two things particularly well. And it shows that those NGBs who are put on a global stage – such as Italy will be this summer – have an opportunity that they simply must not let pass them by.
Some extra nuggets of news for you…
It’s been leaked that the IQA will be raising the 2018 World Cup player fees to 60 euros per person (up from 20 euros per person in 2016) and team fees to 400 euros per team (up from 250 euros per team in 2016). The international community has reacted with outrage. In response, the IQA have published an FAQ about the fees, and held open office hours to address concerns – you can read my notes on those here.
These notes contain a lot of interesting and important information, such as the fact that the IQA has quietly incorporated as a private limited company in the UK, but one element of confusion was cleared up – the IQA will be enforcing a stay-and-play policy for teams attending the 2018 World Cup. You can check out the rates offered to players by their partner, the Human Company, here.
In happier news, however, DQB’s Head of Public Relations, Juliane Schillinger, and the former President of Quidditch Australia, Nic Hirst, have launched a workshop series to help NGBs struggling to raise funds in the face of the astronomic World Cup fees in 2018. They promise to discuss plans over a Skype call, provide written feedback on fundraising plans, and help build confidence. Shoot over an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to learn more. Now, that’s what I call leadership.
Editor’s Note: A correction was made, Nic Hirst is indeed the former President of Quidditch Australia, the current President is Merryn Christian.