The first part of this article is a discussion on the difference between US and UK quidditch with Erina Chavez. The second part is an article on how quidditch public relations works in the UK. Shoutout to Jack Lennard, Laura Jamieson, Mel Piper, Simon Bidwell, Emma Bramwell, Becky Parrock and Dan Trick for their amazing assistance, help and guidance.
Erina Chavez is a current student at New York University pursuing a career in web and graphic design. Her hobbies include competing on the New York Pigeons quidditch team, building and designing websites, and playing guitar. Next thing on her bucket list? Adopt a cat named rice ball.
As some of you know, I help manage the public relations for both QuidditchUK and the Quidditch Premier League, working hard help raise quidditch’s profile as a serious and competitive sport in the country.
Sometimes, it means I feel like this at the end of the day:
There has been progress. When I started, 100% of the coverage you see was through our outreach as a team. Now it is much lower; organisations actively approach local teams to help them run stories now, and more and more people are aware of quidditch as a sport. Thank god.
With that said, here is my process for how it all works.
Is it a good enough story?
Not all events are noteworthy, and not all stories are treated equally. A quidditch event has to deal with the refugee crisis, brexit, and Kim Kardashian’s everyday actions; with the flow of very important and very interesting stories flowing through the media, the quidditch event needs to be in just the right angle to get attention.
The British Quidditch Cup and Quidditch World Cup are easier sells; they are massive national and international tournaments which highlight the best of players. More local events may do well for local media as an event of quirky interest, but otherwise it would not be as strong.
So what do you actually send journalists?
I send them this. And for those who do not want to click, it looks like the below:
This is part of a press release. In a way it is like a home, where you can find everything you need to write an article on a particular event or news story. It includes the basic information around the event, a quote from someone elaborating on its significance, links to images for article use, people who could discuss the sport.
Perhaps most importantly, it has a Notes to the Editors section. This is where, in detail, quidditch and its rules are shown. By reading the whole document, a journalist should walk away with a good understanding of how quidditch is played in the world.
At the top of my emails, if I am targeting a specific slot, I add an argument of sorts as to why viewers / readers may enjoy the story. Add a personal touch; it helps.
For more national stories, I tend to call the major publishing houses at 8AM and hope for the best. If it is a particularly big story, I place it under embargo.
As such, any mistake you find in an article is linked to either the journalist rushing to finish the story off before moving to the next one, or assuming aspects of the sport while writing. This is why you still see people who say the snitch is worth 150 points; they assume it is so as, sometimes, they write as a stream of consciousness based on what they already know.
Why do some stories not do as well?
For a start, a quidditch tournament is not the most important story in the world. it is quirky, yes, but brexit talks will always take priority.
Second is the amount of emails journalists receive, between 200 and 1000. If any story is written, then in my mind it is either because the email was carefully written for the individual person, or a direct call was given to convince them to run it. And when a story comes out – and the story is high quality – then it is a mini miracle of nature.
In any case, calls work.
How long until quidditch is perceived seriously?
I calculate a generation or two. With football fans, kids raised by parents are taught the rules, see the culture, and pass on their thoughts and feelings. It takes years for something to normalise, and quidditch is so young that its hard to be legitimised without repetition, constant messages, and a generation of people seeing quidditch diverge from the books.
This might seem a long time; and it is. But that doesn’t stop quidditch growing and coming to more countries; it’s just the way the public would see us would be slower to shift.
My favourite ever quidditch photo, from Australia’s win in the World Cup. By Nic Hirst.
Common questions and points
Sometimes things mess up, and sometimes not the best article gets put up. In a world of free press, a journalist is 100% okay to interpret the material as they please and write as they like. And I am okay with this. Imagine a world where every major company dictates what can be written in the press; it would be North Korea levels of censorship. As such while I will endeavour to do my best to discuss the topic with journalists, I respect their final opinions when writing.
With that said, here are some common complaints:
Why are only men shown in photographs? It is the decision of the journalist what images to use. We supply them gender-inclusive images of high-profile play, and they have access to Getty Images and the Press Association for further supplementary material. Any images they finally choose is up to them; and sometimes, that would include a singular gender. As a team, we gently push them towards gender inclusive images.
Why do journalists not understand quidditch when they come to practice? I am happy this happens less and less now; but when a journo appears in Harry Potter gear, I still raise my eyebrows on how they can possibly think it would be ok. To illustrate, I give them:
- A press release detailing how we are a serious sport
- A phone call to emphasise that we are a serious sporting organisation
- And sometimes, even a factsheet on the core details of our community
If a journalist comes in quidditch clothing or messes around on a broomstick for laughs, then they either skim-red the material I sent them, or they are giving their own Harry Potter spin to the story.
I hate caping.
So what exactly is the difference between the USA and UK?
Since quidditch began in 2005, it has grown to be an internationally recognized sport. Teams all over the world are united by a common love for the exciting games, competitiveness, and, of course, Harry Potter. Yet, despite the many factors that bring the entire quidditch community together, each country does have their own unique aspects. I got to experience this first hand when I left New York City to spend a semester studying abroad in London. Only ever having played quidditch in the USA, and spending much of that time learning about the communities and governing bodies there, I was excited to see how UK quidditch would differ.
Speaking from my personal experiences, I actually found there to be more similarities than differences. Whether on the player, community, or administration level, many aspects of being a quidditch player in the UK were similar to being one in the USA. You still have your captains, beater partners, decorated brooms, national tournaments, online Facebook groups, etc.. Even in administration, Quidditch UK and the Quidditch Premier League is very much equivalent to US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch, respectively. Where the true differences exist are, unsurprisingly, in scale. With a population that is about 1/5 of the USA’s, it isn’t surprising that the UK has about 110 fewer registered teams. Compared to USQ, QUK also has 6 fewer regions for dividing teams, and 7 fewer annual tournaments. That said, if we were looking at teams-to-population ratios, the UK is more densely populated by quidditch teams than in the USA.
Each country has their own pride in their quidditch communities, and no doubt for good reason. However, it’s important to remember the many similarities that players share across oceans, and how our communities have depended on each other. After all, the USA was the first to bring muggle quidditch to the world, but it couldn’t have been done if a little British wizard didn’t popularize the sport. [To hear a more in-depth analysis of the different perceptions between UK and USA quidditch, please check out our podcast!]
Tom Ffiske and Erina Chavez