Editor’s Note: The Quidditch Post is excited to introduce a brand new segment: the QP roundtable #qprt. Once every two weeks the host, our very own former QP CEO, and IQA Trustee, Andy Marmer, invites a couple of guests to discuss the future of the sport. This week’s panelists are:
Mel Müller, Editor–in–Chief of QP, Team Switzerland player, captain and coach of Pilatus Patronus – Quidditch Lucerne, anti-harassment commissioner of the Swiss Quidditch Association (SQV).
James Burnett, QP writer, co-coach of Liverpuddly Cannons,manager of West Midlands Revolution, Head Referee, Team UK Scout, former Team UK player, former VP of QUK.
Abby Whiteley: former Bristol bears and Radcliffe Chimeras player, former Radcliffe Chimeras captain, former Quidditch Post UK Editor.
Jack McGovern: founder of the QuidKid, former writer for USQ Editorial Team, Media Outreach Coordinator for MLQ.
Andy Marmer (US) Welcome to the Quidditch Post roundtable #qprt. Our first ever topic: What will quidditch look like in ten years? We’re going to split this into two topics: first, on-pitch, and second, off-pitch. What do you think the biggest change in gameplay will be? This can be a rule, a strategy, or a style. What will the actual sport look like in ten years? No repeats, so the first person to respond gets their choice of anything. We’ll discuss each person’s response a bit before moving on to the next.
James Burnett (UK) I think there will be a lot of stylistic or micro-level changes, but the biggest variation we’re going to see is longer games, probably with finite durations (although I’m not sure I like that latter part) and potentially a fixed halftime.
Andy How long? Are we talking football–style 45–minute halves where teams basically play one game per day, or something less than that?
James I’m not convinced it’ll stretch to 45 minutes; football requires much less intensity than quidditch does play–to–play, so I don’t think that’s realistic. It would be more like two halves of 15-25. I think that’s enough logistically that one game can be a fixture, and it allows a meaningful time during games to adapt to opposing strategies and make tactical adjustments with enough time for them to turn the course of a game. This is something lacking at the moment because five minutes in, a game can be lost.
Abby Whiteley (UK) Where do you think that change will come from? Especially the half–time aspect — I’d be interested to know why you think that’s the direction it’ll take.
Mel Müller (CH)I think the athletic side will definitely be more developed, which is why I agree with James. Having set halftimes will allow advertisement time for live streams, etc., and that will increase revenue. There could possibly be a set halftime before SOP. I do not believe we will lose that facet [SOP] entirely. Although the focus has been and will be less and less on the origins, it is still a part that makes the sport very unique, so around 15-25 minutes makes sense in that respect.
James Along the lines of what Mel has said, yes, Abby. I think the longer duration will be a result of the developing tactical dimensions to the game and the recognition that there is a ceiling on how much strategy and leadership can affect a game when it’s so short. As when and if you have a longer game, I think a half-time is an established concept that will feed in naturally because it opens up benefits for spectators, players, and organisers.
Abby That’s a really good point; I had never considered that! I do wonder if that would induce change in tournament structure because that would alter the number of games it would be feasible to have in a day, no? Wouldn’t that have an impact on pool and bracket size?
James Definitely. It’s contingent on a developing infrastructure for the sport that has at least partly integrated competitive formats that are sustainable over >1 weekend of play. I think it fits naturally for the ascendancy of league (in the conventional sporting sense rather than the MLQ/QPL sense) over tournament formats.
Mel I suppose that would have an impact on bracket size, yes, Abby, but then again, if the athletic aspect is pushed further, not every match will be interesting for screen time. We will still have smaller matches, but as James is saying, leagues like QPL will very likely be the most interesting development to outsiders.
Abby Do you think we’d see a drop in end-of-season tournaments like most countries’ nationals structure then, if we moved towards a league in the regular season? Or would they be kept just as a flagship event?
James I could envisage a system not unlike MLS, the US’s football league, who have a league structure from which the top teams play a small knockout tournament to decide the MLS Champion each season. We’d probably expect that tournament to be over a weekend, but maybe with sixteen or even eight teams.
Mel Comparing quidditch to other sports, it’s unlikely end-of-season tournaments like national championships will be dropped entirely. However, they will have more of a regional importance.
Abby Yeah, I think especially for public interest and general tradition it would be very controversial for end-of-season tournaments to be lost altogether. It’s much more interesting for outlets to report on national winners rather than league results, and I think it’s something people within the community value, too. Also, to circle back to what you said, Mel, about the snitch — I agree the snitch will probably stay around, but I have seen a lot of talk about its value being altered to avoid overtime, or reduced significantly. I would be surprised if the snitch was still worth 30 points in 10 years; I think that has a fixed lifespan.
Andy Is that your pick for biggest change, Abby?
Abby Yes, I’d put the snitch value as biggest on-pitch change.
James I’ve always liked the suggestion that is floated occasionally of the catch resulting in no points, just ending the game.
Andy A no–points snitch would be interesting and I think very much prolong the game itself. It would mean essentially that only one team in any competitive match is incentivized to catch the snitch, which would mean a huge increase in defensive seeking.
Jack McGovern (US) I actually think (and hope!) the length of games and the value of the snitch will stay the same. There is something incredibly exciting about short games (within the range of 20-30 minutes) that end with a 30-point snitch catch. We might see the snitch floor pushed back a little more, but I think around 25 minutes is probably sufficient to separate good teams from bad teams. I think there will be timeouts and I could even imagine a short halftime, but I think the more familiar structure of quidditch games is sustainable.
James I think that’s an interesting thread to pick up actually, Jack. At the moment, 20 minutes or so is enough (or sometimes too long) to seperate the good from the bad. But the more the sport gets established and teams develop and coaching improves, the less that will be the case.
Andy Do you not feel that we’ve gotten to that inflection point yet? I feel like in the US at least there has become a bit of a ceiling with diminishing marginal differences between top teams. Isn’t there a limit to how good teams can be?
James I certainly think it’s further along in the US; there’s a sense that any of the top USQ Cup quarterfinalists could win the title and it’s much more like the semifinalists at British Quidditch Cup (BQC).
Jack True, especially at the highest levels like MLQ/QPL/World Cup. I guess I am thinking more about national and regional tournaments. In the United States, we just had our first national championship with separate collegiate and community team divisions. The parity among the teams and the feeling the title was up for grabs made for a fantastic weekend of competition, which harkened back for me to the earlier days of the sport. I don’t want to lose that completely.
Andy Yes, those ultra–competitive early days when everyone knew Middlebury would win.
Jack Haha, yes, Andy’s the real old-timer here. I am thinking most about the 2012-13 season, which ended with the first University of Texas championship.
James But in that case, aren’t longer games to see the smaller margins between them and allow for greater influence of tactics and response to opposing moves playing out a good thing?
Andy Jack, you seem to envision gameplay pretty closely resembling present–day gameplay. As, maybe, the only one of us who will be involved 10 years from now — or at least the one with age on their side the most — do you see many changes coming?
Jack I definitely think there is a place for longer games in MLQ, QPL, and World Cup. I just don’t think it will become ubiquitous across the sport. I think the higher levels will continue to push the boundaries of tactics and strategy and, inevitably, some of that will get adopted by the next tiers. But yes, I don’t see such dramatic advancement of tactics and strategy in the next 10 years.
James Do you think the continuation of significant differences in rules regionally or by level (such as different game lengths) is healthy or sustainable for the sport?
Andy Can you elaborate, James, on what you’re talking about?
James Perhaps I misunderstood if Jack was talking more generally, but I think he was suggesting some of the changes we were discussing such as longer games might take root at the World Cup level but not at grassroots. I think that’s kind of an inherent issue already with the four or so different active rulebooks, and I’m not convinced it’s a good thing or sustainable while keeping the same sport.
Abby I wouldn’t say that serious disparity between game length in different ability levels of teams would be a good thing, on the basis that it would become self-perpetuating. Teams at the upper end of the weaker teams (say, in this example, the teams playing on a shorter game time) would have adapted to that structure and played it to their advantage, and having to entirely adjust their gameplay if they managed to break into a higher tier, along with contending with very different and much tougher opponents, would almost set them up to fail. That said, if more casual quidditch games and tournaments were to maintain a different length of gameplay, or other adjustments to rules, I wouldn’t see that as innately destabilising. Casual sports leagues quite often shorten game time to adapt to the different time commitments and level of athleticism, and I think that would be a fair adaptation for more casual play.
Andy Well, you do see different rules across different levels in sports. In American football, at the professional level a player is considered tackled when their knee hits the ground and they are contacted, and at the collegiate level, no contact is needed. This is just one example.
Jack I’m thinking more about tactics and strategy within mostly the same rulebook. But that’s interesting. It’s probably too early to tell, but no, I don’t think different rulebooks for different NGBs are good for the long-term health of the sport. I think MLQ and QPL (and any future leagues!) are special cases where we should play around with rulebook changes for the very highest levels of the sport.
Andy Since this is getting quite long, I’m going to throw my own idea out there, which is switching gears slightly. I wonder if we won’t see some sort of change to the physical contact rules. I’ll cop out and admit that I don’t know what that is exactly, but I do think it will be quite a large change. If anyone remembers the initial contact rules, we’ve already seen a pretty wholesale evolution.
James They’re the most finely-poised part of the rules and certainly stand to change a lot, but I don’t have much confidence to speak to how that’ll look in 2028. I expect the one-arm-two-arm debate will still be ongoing though, irrespective of whether the change happens at any point.
Mel It is quite inevitable for rules to change on a higher level of athleticism, for the simple reason of injury prevention, for example, which is just another argument pro halftimes.
Andy I think the most obvious question is whether tackling will even be allowed. I can envision a world where it’s outlawed completely, somewhat similar to lacrosse. The entire game would change to one more reliant on passing and beaters, and I think that could make for some exciting changes.
James I hadn’t considered that, Andy. My instinctive reaction is really disliking the idea, but that’s not necessarily a rational one, nor a comment on its likelihood.
Andy I don’t know that it’s especially probable, but I would find it interesting. My initial reaction is that it would actually not change the game as much as people might think.
Abby My initial consideration was about chaser defence and how it would give the beaters even more power in defensive situations, but thinking about it more I wonder how it would affect the beater game. To what extent are full tackles a central aspect of a beater’s skill set, especially in terms of eliminating defensive beaters or regaining control? What would a beater have to do in order to have the same effect without tackling available?
James I think if we come back to the old stalwart of spectator value, big hits and last-ditch physical defences are one of the biggest simple appealing parts of the game. You’d see elite beater pairs lose bludger control far less.
Jack Agreed. I think that’s definitely possible, Andy! Lacrosse is an incredibly physical sport, but there’s no tackling. I love watching great tackling like any other quidditch fan, but I wonder whether we are already moving in that direction. There are some big questions with the beating game, but I think it’s something to explore for the long term.
Mel I don’t think it will be outlawed, not before the sport has reached ultimate recognition on an athletic level, and I am doubtful as to when that will happen before we see a rather large change concerning the design of brooms. I don’t claim to know what that change will be like, but the difficulty of tackling with a broom adds something to the sport. Call it spectator value, as James did.
Abby I agree with Mel; I think there would be too little support for a change of that kind from current or future players, so that kind of change would be prompted by involvement with professional sports institutions.
James And I think we can probably all agree investment or backing on that scale from “Big Sports”, so to speak, is probably a lot longer away than ten years, if it’s on the horizon at all?
Jack I forget if we already covered this, but I think there will be hard caps on game time (between 40 and 50 minutes), even within the next five years. Snitches and snitch-on-pitch beating are getting much better, and I think both players and spectators are getting sick of hour-long games. It’s not fun to play and after a while, it’s not even fun to watch.
James I like and dislike hard game caps. They’re good for putting teams (and referees, nobody ever thinks of the poor sods who have to referee those one–hour blowouts) out of their misery and there’s no spectator value in a blowout, prolonged or otherwise, but one of the best things about quidditch is the capacity to always fight back from a game. In most other team ball sports, there is an element of running down the clock so a winning position becomes a win. Quidditch by definition doesn’t have that, and I’d hate to see quidditch’s version of running to the corner flag arise.
Mel Well, almost always.
James Well, no, literally always. Even a team down 300-0 is still theoretically able to win the game.
Mel You do run a risk of injury after a certain time. You could let it go on, but you’d need more breaks.
James A team down 6-0 with 89 minutes on the clock in football literally cannot.
Andy They can if injury time is really long.
James 90+1 with three on the injury time board then. I think the point stands.
Andy Mel, any major changes we haven’t covered?
Mel Andy, I think what we haven’t covered is the rather enticing question of the name. Do you think the name will change in the next ten years? I had a dream the other night, where everyone just started calling it “Q,” in a very IQA fashion.
James A name change is an inevitability, but I don’t see it changing much other than a name, in our case. I think we’re incentivised to forestall it as long as we can purely so we’re at a point where we rely as little as possible on the gimmick and interest from HP fans, but really the sport as we on the inside know it could be called anything and it wouldn’t meaningfully change.
Jack Agreed. We should forestall a name change as long as possible. The name “quidditch” still drives the growth of the sport, from recruiting players to contacting media and working with cities and facilities.
Andy Other major off-pitch changes? I mean, I think we all probably agree increased growth is likely, but will quidditch be able to maintain its unique and by and large welcoming and accommodating culture through this process? In all the discussion we had about changes to the rules and a more competitive environment, nobody thought the gender rule was at risk via intentional abuse or otherwise?
James It is at risk, but I choose to maintain faith that at least until winning quidditch games or titles has a financial incentive, we can rely on the honour system. I would be shocked if some people weren’t already abusing it, but there’s a simple cost/benefit analysis here: the harm they do or the advantage they gain isn’t worth the harm it would cause the people who’d be scrutinised and have their privacy invaded by any more discerning measures.
Abby I agree with James on that point. While it remains an option, it should be available as an honour system without the scrutiny that would inevitably be incurred by a more “professional” approach.
Andy So you don’t see a world where the abuse becomes so rampant that a change becomes necessary, either because of lying or exclusion of AFAB players?
Abby I would imagine it would segue eventually to a sex rule, which is not something I would necessarily want to see, because I think the gender rule is a really valuable aspect of the sport, socially. I think the external pressures from financial sponsors or professional bodies would be too great for it to survive in its current iteration.
James It’s not that I don’t see it, it’s more that I don’t want to invite it. Nor to see it as inevitable.
I don’t see that abuse happening from purely internal factors, but perhaps that’s optimism rather than likelihood. There are widespread problems with the exclusion of AFAB players at the moment and, although I’m obviously not best-placed to speak to them, they fundamentally seem to be rooted in the athletic development of those players and the way they’re utilized on the pitch and incorporated into the way teams set up: cultural problems that demand a solution outside of the gender rule.
I’m a bit of a broken record in this respect, but I think regarding the role AFAB players have in the game, the gender rule can only ever be the root of the problem if we accept the premise that being AFAB is an inherent and fundamental disadvantage, which I absolutely do not.
Mel Neither do I. The gender rule is honestly also what makes the sport attractive to younger generations. Feminism will not push through enough in the next 10 years to make gender irrelevant, especially in sports, and I believe it is a crucial aspect of quidditch to maintain the gender rule.
Abby Whatever people like to claim, the reality is that there are vanishingly few top drawer teams who play more than the bare minimum of women with any regularity, so it wouldn’t take a huge proportion of abuse amongst those teams for women to become incredibly marginal, but I don’t think the gender rule is the sole, or even the main, problem there. As James said, it’s part of the culture of the sport and of women in sport more widely, and I wouldn’t want to see the gender rule to be the first casualty in a misguided attempt to rectify much wider problems.
AndyThis seems as good a place as any for us to end. Thank you all for the thought-provoking conversation. We’ve thought about the future and in one of our next topics we will consider summer quidditch. We are also taking guest panelists. If you’d like to be part of the conversation or have an idea you’d like us to discuss, comment on Facebook, tweet us @quidditchpost or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.