QP Roundtable: QPL, MLQ, Summer Quidditch And More

Editor’s Note: The Quidditch Post is excited to introduce a brand new segment: the QP roundtable #qprt. Once every few weeks the host, our very own former QP CEO, and IQA Trustee, Andy Marmer, invites a couple of guests to discuss the sport from a variety of different angles. This week’s panelists are:

Mel Müller: EditorinChief 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 QP UK Editor.

Jack McGovern: founder of the QuidKid, former writer for USQ Editorial Team, Media Outreach Coordinator for MLQ.

Pauline Raes: QPL European Director, Belgian League Coordinator and Secretary, IQA Head of Gameplay, IQA World Cup 2018 officials coordinator, former IQA RDT manager.

QPL Europe

Andy Marmer (US): Hi, everyone. Welcome to the second Quidditch Post Roundtable (#qprt). With the recent announcement that QPL is expanding to continental Europe, today’s topic is summer quidditch. In the past few years, we’ve seen a movement from fantasy quidditch as sort of a universal concept of summer quidditch to city teams in the US and regional teams in the UK, and now Europe. Before we get into that, though, let’s talk a bit about the QPL Europe expansion.

Pauline Raes (BE): So, the mainland division will have five teams in four countries. Players will be signing up for at least three teams but can sign up for all five if they want to. All teams they sign up for are treated as equal sign ups so they cannot give preferences. Tryouts will be at a central location with all managers present to scout the players who signed up for their teams. Afterwards, there will be a drafting system for the managers to make their teams, so you will be on a team with players from all countries. If we dont have this system, wed basically be creating the national teams of these countries and theres no point in that.

The positive thing about the European expansion is that the format of assembling teams is a test run to review and maybe use in the UK too in the future. As for the mainland division, it would be creating national teams if we dont do it a bit differently.

Should there be a threepeat of the top QPL teams at that time, having the drafting system the mainland division uses might make that an interesting change for the UK divisions.

Jack McGovern (US): Thats really interesting and I wonder if that model is relevant for MLQ in the future. Its certainly easier across shorter distances in Europe, but it could maybe work in Texas or New England here. Also, are the teams geographicallybased after being drafted? Because I think that is important for summer leagues.

Abby Whiteley (UK): Although there is some significant disparity between UK regional teams, Im not sure this is the solution I would necessarily want to see, largely because people would be less inclined to attend trainings which werent as convenient (people in the UK generally being less willing to travel if it can be avoided).

Pauline: So, teams have a location assigned (Paris, Lille, Brussels, Cologne, and Amsterdam). However, most activities will be in a central area to make travel demands lower for all players (so someone from the south of France doesnt have to travel to Amsterdam because theyre drafted to that team).

What I think is that this could be interesting to be combined to the regional split in QPL (and MLQ?), so all teams from the bigger region can draft from the same group of players.

James Burnett (UK): I agree with Abby on that front the fact that theres an Edinburgh fixture in the UK Northern QPL division this year has meant Ive had a massive uphill struggle in terms of getting players to sign up and stay involved and interested. I dont like the idea of exacerbating that exciting as a draft seems in the abstract.

Andy: This is an obvious solution if parity is a problem, but it almost makes the teams completely fungible. I’m not sure how negative the marketing impact will be of not having the teams physically in the cities, but I also think if the teams change from year to year, everything gets devalued.

Pauline: I can agree with that. I can see travel distances being an issue.

Jack: Yeah, I think some of the regions in the US (especially the West) are just too big to expect travel to a central location. Maybe my knowledge of European geography is off, but that seems like a lot of travel for European players too!

In my experience, geographic team associations are almost essential for marketing. So I think it is smart that the European teams have an assigned location, but the wild card is the willingness of players to travel.

Pauline: I actually looked that up, the furthest distance between two QPL Europe cities is a five-hour drive. If all events are somewhere in between, the travel demand for players will not be that high.

Summer Quidditch

Andy: So QPL Europe is one model obviously, but is there an ideal format for summer quidditch generally?

James: So Ill start off with a slightly controversial angle Im not totally convinced summer quidditch is ideal at all. Which isnt to say that summer is a bad time for quidditch it probably is ideal weather. But the current congestion of quidditch calendars means that summer is often the only off-season players get. I dont think most players are self-aware enough with respect to their own bodies and we arent yet far enough in to see the physical impact of top players getting almost no downtime year upon year.

Abby: I mean, off-seasons are usually made with athletes with much greater physical demands in mind. Do we think that quidditch players really need an off-season, especially considering they would still get September?

Mel Müller (CH): To be fair, a lot of national tournaments are in early fall, as well as recruitment season. So summer quidditch may be an off-season on one hand, but also a preparation season. Off-season is pre-season.

Abby: Although I think your point about self-awareness does stand, I think that speaks to a greater issue in terms of pastoral care, especially coaches and captains, rather than an inherent problem in the calendar.

Mel: In that respect, I agree very strongly with Abby.

Pauline: Offseason quidditch (summer quidditch, as soon as current high season in an NGB ends) also (as I know it from UK and the planned mainland expansion) has a lower demand in practices and time investment from players which, in my opinion, does give them time to get a proper recuperation period.

Abby: I agree with that, Pauline.

Mel: Thats the same in Switzerland as well.

James: Agreed on the bigger issue, Abby, although I think thats a topic for another #qprt. But yes, given the high propensity for niggling injuries to debilitate top quidditch players and the fact that the intensity of our training compared to the professional physical care we get (which is none) as quidditch players is high at the top levels, I honestly think an off-season is really important.

Abby: I wouldnt really call training, at best, just on weekends and in most cases not all weekends intense in athletic terms, but I wont derail with another separate issue.

Jack McGovern (US): So I am big believer in the potential of semi-pro summer leagues like MLQ and QPL to bring quidditch to a larger audience. I think the work that both leagues have done already is amazing, with MLQ hosting games every summer in 16 cities and QPL playing their first championship in a professional stadium. Its no mistake that the QPL Championship finally earned recognition for quidditch from J.K. Rowling. I think the loss of an off-season is something players have to figure out personally, but there are always mini-breaks throughout the year and many sports like soccer/football already lack an extended off-season.

Andy: Building off what Jack said, as far as the offseason question goes, don’t most players get a few months off during the winter and another few months off between the end of the “regular season” tournament (USQ/EQC) and the start of MLQ and QPL? Is having off from April to September really necessary vs. November to January and April to June?

Jack: Exactly, Andy. With the other mini-breaks throughout the season, summer is an opportunity that we cannot afford to ignore.

James: I think its important that we think about the training people do individually, though? Most people taking QPL, national championships, EQC, etc. seriously also train individually in the run-up to those things that takes its toll even if theyre not actually training.

James: I certainly dont mean the off-season is optimally summer it absolutely isnt; summer is perfect quidditch weather, at least in the UK.

Jack: At least in the United States, media organizations are also looking for fun stories during an otherwise quiet news season. Summer is also the perfect time for World Cup and continental championships that align with international events like the Summer Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, and the Euros.

Mel: I dont know exactly how winter offseasons are handled in other countries, but we train throughout the year, so Im not entirely sure.

Pauline: This highly depends on how the season looks in each NGB.  I can best speak for Belgium as I live here. Most of our teams are seasonal league teams and thus compete against each other between October and April with a break in January as most students have exams. That means that in that timespan, there is a game played almost every weekend, and all teams play at least once per month. So here, players dont really get a winter break.

Mel: I agree with James. Most people do train individually aside regular quidditch practices.

Abby: But again, individual gym training unless you are in the gym six hours a day isnt anywhere close to the kind of intense athletic work that requires months of recuperation. Although injury recuperation is important, I dont think it stands as an argument against a system which I think is incredibly positive for the sport overall.

James: The support systems in terms of planning, trainers, physiotherapists, etc. that professional athletes have is also worlds apart, though. We have to face the reality of what quidditch players work with, without any of that infrastructure on hand and its realistically the case that as the season goes on, players are limited by niggles picked up earlier in the season. I dont think theres a credible case that eight weeks or so of downtime to let those heal wouldnt be beneficial.

Jack: Thats true, James, but the level of play is also much higher at the professional level of other sports. I am not discounting the toll on players bodies, but the summer is not the time to cut back on gameplay.

James: The fact that professional athletes, with their greater resources and conditioning, wouldnt need it for the kind of intensity quidditch players undergo isnt really relevant from where Im standing.

Abby: Call me a cynic, but I simply do not believe that even the majority of international players follow programmes which would necessitate that level of professional care, or that those who do don’t have the sense to take time off when they need it (especially September is already entirely open, certainly in the UK, with the sole exception of one or two bonus tournaments).

I feel the lack of infrastructure only becomes relevant when you concede that the amount of training they are doing would necessitate that amount of professional care and attention, and two hours per day in the gym (which most people, certainly anyone beneath an international level, arent coming anywhere near) is not going to demand that.

Mel: Another reality is that a lot of players are simply not around during the summer. Quidditch is still a very academic sport, and a lot of players will be writing papers, etc. during the summer, and a lot of people have exams then as well.

Jack: Exams and papers during the summer?! That sounds terrible!

Mel: Thats Europe for you.

Pauline: I agree with Jack. The current level of play is not at a professional level with a lot of opportunities to grow. I think summer programs are allowing this to happen. They attract new players and news outlets, and it is the time where a lot of players dont have to worry about papers and exams (if they put in proper time and effort during the year).

Abby: I agree with Pauline and Jack; I think the opportunities are incredible, and far outweigh any negatives.

James: Strongly disagree, and I think theres a definite blindness to the reality of the way quidditch players accumulate injuries, but happy to concede its good to move on. I do very much agree that grandstand summer events are attracting publicity for the sport in a new and exciting way.

Mel: Same page as James on both points.

Pauline: I agree with James on the fact that the way players deal with injuries in quidditch might not be the best and there should be more support and information about this for NGBs, teams, and players so they can properly take care of themselves. However, players can get injured at anytime during the season so I dont think summer programs are negative for this.

Summer Leagues vs. “Regular” Seasons

Andy: Switching gears slightly, what I find especially interesting about MLQ, and to a lesser extent QPL, is that they were really developed as a gapfiller in the USQ and QUK season. Most of the teams in those leagues were based around schools and followed university calendars. Now, USQ has an entirely independent community division and the UK has already seen huge rises in community teams. Continental Europe is already dominated by community teams. Do we need separate leagues at all? If I’m a USQ community team, wouldn’t I get a huge advantage from training all summer and not having my players play MLQ? We could have some open practices for recruitment, develop chemistry, and personalize training regimes. Have these leagues already outgrown their usefulness?

Jack: No, because MLQ and QPL teams are not the same as community teams! One of the best things about both leagues is the chance for the best college players to compete alongside older players and learn strategy. If college players start getting squeezed out of summer leagues, I would support some type of quotas for younger players.

Mel: To be fair, there could also be workshops surrounding leagues for younger players.

Andy: Right. But if I’m a player for Lone Star Quidditch Club (LSQC) and I’ve won an MLQ title, but never a USQ title, it’d be really hard to convince me that I’m better off playing for the Austin Outlaws in the summer rather than training all summer with LSQC to try to win USQ Cup 12.

Jack: Im not sure, Andy. I think, because MLQ and QPL are usually more selective, there is a greater opportunity for learning from other players and improving with summer leagues.

Pauline: A player can grow a lot by working with another coach and other players. I also think playing on MLQ/QPL can develop you in such a way that winning USQ Cup in the next season could be possible as it is a learning experience too. Though I can agree that you wont be working on the in-team chemistry with your year-round team.

James: I actually think it swings both ways, Andy some people will think they want to devote their summer to winning USQ Cup. Others will want to double down on something they see as more winnable. Having said that, my experience as a QPL manager so far has been that it is definitely a lower priority for my players than British Quidditch Cup (BQC), and where applicable, EQC and World Cup. Theyre still keen and want to do well, but it does have a more relaxed feel for them on the whole.

Andy: That raises an interesting question, James. Are these accomplishments valued equally? Maybe I have the wrong mindset, but I agree that these summer leagues just aren’t as valued. If I could increase my chance to win a USQ or QUK or EQC title, I’d go for that over a QPL or MLQ title.

James: Im not sure QPL is seen as valuable but less so than BQC, but Ive got the sense maybe MLQ is a bit more prestigious?

Abby: I would agree with the consensus that summer leagues arent valued as highly, but Im not sure they need to be. They fulfil different roles in the season and to individual players, and a greater diversity of playing opportunities with different stakes only seems like it could be a positive thing.

James: I also wonder whether the fact that last year, and this year, the fluidity nonsense with people gaming residency rules leading to the title being almost a foregone conclusion might have had skewed the prestige? If three or four teams could genuinely win QPL, it might be more valued.

Abby: Yes, I think thats a fair point James, and one for the administration to consider. The increased prestige in the US is doubtless linked to the greater competitiveness at the top end.

James: I dont think anything domestic will ever eclipse EQC but then that is entirely the basis for QPLs expansion into Europe. For me, it feels a bit premature, but I can see why theyre making the step.

Jack: Yeah, I think both MLQ and QPL definitely need to work towards greater parity to stay valued by players and stay relevant.

Fantasy Tournaments

Andy: So we’ve largely talked about these leagues but we really haven’t discussed fantasy. When MLQ was first discussed, there was this huge backlash that it would kill fantasy. And it definitely has killed off the big national fantasy tournaments. We have a number of old hands here. Is that bad?

James: Not convinced it has killed them on this side of the Atlantic. LXG and Valentines Cup, the big two, are still going strong. As is Mercian Cup, which most of my players, when polled, told me theyd go to ahead of a West Midlands Revolution training, if the dates clashed. Although I suspect theyd have put a fixture first.

Mel: I actually think fantasy tournaments might make a comeback now that EQC is divided. Valentines wasnt as big this year as it has been in the past.

James: I agree, Mel I wrote quite a detailed article on it, in fact. But the dates of Valentines mean I think thats overwhelmingly down to factors not related to QPL.

Mel: The question arose if the division of EQC could lessen the strength and ties in the community and I believe that if fantasy tournaments get a higher value through that, they will become more popular.

Abby: From the perspective of the players talented enough or lucky enough to get the most out of MLQ, I think its only a positive thing and certainly the summer leagues bring more prestige and media opportunities to the sport, so its not a bad thing in that respect either. How negative you consider the loss of fantasy tournaments really depends on where you think the value of fantasies lies.

Pauline: I actually think its not bad if some fantasy tournaments are dying out. There are so many of them this summer that I cant even name them.

James: Agreed, Pauline theyre a demand/supply commodity. I think as long as nobody misses them, their decline wouldnt be a problem nor the opposite if the desire is there.

Jack: It has probably killed the largest summer fantasy tournaments in the US, but it seems like there are still plenty of smaller tournaments. I think thats about right. For the best players, why risk injury for a fantasy tournament title? But for less developed regions and less experienced players, fantasy tournaments still provide a great service to the quidditch community.

Abby: I agree, Jack. And as the competitiveness of summer leagues increases, I would expect to see a proliferation of summer fantasy tournaments to fulfil the playing needs of players who didnt make the cut. I think they would naturally balance out in that respect.

Pauline: If a fantasy tournament is very well organised (like LXG), I do not think that will die out that quickly either. It is one of my favourite tournaments just because of the atmosphere and relaxed feeling of the tournament.

Future of MLQ and QPL

Andy: So, last question. There was always this notion that MLQ or QPL could replace USQ and QUK. We talked about how nobody really sees USQ or QUK supplanting MLQ or QPL, but what about the opposite? Do we see a world where those leagues run full seasons?

James: Possibly, Andy, but not for a long time.

Mel: Agreed, James.

Pauline: Agreeing with James, I dont think thats something that will stay on for a long time in the near future. Our sport is not ready for that yet.

James: I feel like there is always going to be a slow trending towards leagues rather than tournaments as the main part of the season as we covered last time on #qprt and if that does happen, I feel like we may see QUK and QPL (or USQ and MLQ, although that strikes me as less likely) collaborating in the way the English Football Association and the Premier League do (to use a model Im semi-familiar with), rather than competing. But from back when I was in QUK, I always saw QPL as a quasi-autonomous body under the QUK umbrella, with QUK providing less direct gameplay services, as a potential endgame which might be good for all parties.

Andy: I think that’s probably similar to how USQ views MLQ. After all, Dallas is on the USQ board, but at the same time, with more money flowing into the sport, in some ways we’re asking people with the most to gain to check their ambition.

Jack: No, I dont think so (and I hope not), because college quidditch will always be the most important factor for the growth of the sport in the US. With the college/community split, I dont think MLQ has any interest in expansion into the USQ season anymore.

James: In the UK, as long as QUK events hold the keys to EQC, they hold all the power over players in my experience. Unless QPLs European expansion takes off to the point where it eclipses EQC, or somehow QPL feeds into EQC, I think itll be hard for them to compete in a way which eclipses QUK. But yes, Andy, I do agree that financially the pendulum is swinging towards the summer leagues in a way the conventional NGBs will struggle to compete with if they do step on one anothers toes.

Jack: If USQ had not separated college and community teams, I think there would have been an opening for MLQ to take greater leadership in North America and extend its season. Thankfully, I dont think that is necessary anymore.

Pauline: A lot of mainland Europe does not have college teams; with all community teams, having a distinction between the two leagues will be very important. EQC will still be in the hands of the NGBs and I do not think that will be changing, so players will not want to play for QPL during the main season as this will take away their chances to compete for an EQC spot.

Mel: I just see an immense opportunity for spectator value in QPL and MLQ at the moment, to be honest. It feels like this is the way we could best advertise our sport to the world and once it is more established, USQ Cup, etc. will gain more interest from the outside as well.

Andy: I think that’s the key. There’s a very good symbiotic relationship right now and it really has benefited the sport. But where we go in five years will be interesting.

James: There really is I had only positive experiences of talking with QPL during my time with QUK.

Jack: Yes, Andy. I definitely agree that it is a symbiotic relationship that continues to drive the growth of the sport and lift all boats. I think that will extend into the next five years.

Andy: So I think the consensus here has been that summer quidditch really is thriving and, with some exceptions, is good for the sport. Any closing thoughts that we haven’t covered?

Jack: The biggest question mark for MLQ and QPL is how to maintain greater parity. If Boston, Austin, West Midlands, and London are still winning every championship in five years, players across the country will begin to lose interest.

Abby: I think that, certainly in the case of QPL, it is a monumental achievement over the past 18 months or so, and the organisation and professionalism of it needs to be commended. I know thats implicit because we have discussed it possibly encroaching even on QUK, but in my opinion, it cant be emphasised enough.

James: I agree with that QPL is good for QUK and vice-versa at the moment, and Ill be very interested to see how the European model takes off. Its very broad in its reach, while being quite light-touch, and that might be an odd fit. But its also the easiest way to delve into a huge market.

Jack: And I think European expansion is a great way for QPL to bring about that greater parity.

Andy: It’s said a lot but credit to Dallas, Ethan, and Jack and the teams they’ve assembled. It would be really fun to see a combined MLQ and QPL championship one year.

Mel: I think the incentives to watch the national championships of a different country have not been as high as they could be at the moment, whereas I can very well see a well-marketed league like QPL raising an interest in not only the quidditch community, but also the outsider spectator. Its the way QPL has been advertised so far, its something of a success that the rest of Europe has to manage yet. Of course EQC is getting closer to it, especially with Germany’s fantastic job on it in the recent past, but I believe more can be done in that respect.

Abby: I think you make a very good point about marketing, Mel, and thats another respect in which these leagues have been incredibly well-handled.

QPL’s incredible debut for its European League | Photo Credit: The Quidditch Premier League

Jack: Yes, that would be incredible, Andy! But to go full circle on this roundtable, that would definitely add to the summer schedule and present even greater costs for the best players.

Our next topic will be World Cup 2018. We are 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 quidditchpost@gmail.com.