I recommend word-searching the below search terms to find the part you would personally find interesting, if need be:

  1. British Quidditch Cup
  2. Quidditch Premier League Preparations and Fixtures
  3. European Games
  4. Quidditch Premier League Championship
  5. International Quidditch Association – IQA World Cup
  6. Conclusion

One of the most difficult things to do in the world is defend the new. Sometimes it can be very difficult to fully accept something unfamiliar or strange, but with enough repetition and a stalwart attitude, the world can bend ever so slightly to your favour, even just a little. It takes time and effort to change perceptions; and while perceptions has visibly changed in 2017 – we have a way to go.

Last year, I wrote about the development of quidditch and made some insights on the sport, and it’s a different feeling from last year. I outlined actions to pursue through 2017, including gender equality in photography, calling at 8am for pitching, clarity of messaging, and halting harassing singular teams – all of which came through in 2017.

But this year, things are different, what used to be easier – selling a story in the press – has become harder. Quidditch used to be brilliant for the media; now it is banal. Reuters, the Guardian, and the Radio Times has each separately said that quidditch has been ‘done’ for the news. The sport was new and interesting – but now it is niche, with the local media more interested in their local teams than the national papers in their national team (we will get to that with EG).

I’m going to summarise what happened in 2017 from my own perspective – as a communications professional who is working with some very talented and passionate quidditch volunteers to develop the sport. Through this article, I want to make one thing perfectly clear – things need to change, or we will become stagnant as a community. 

British Quidditch Cup

The activities for the British Quidditch Cup mimic much the same as last year’s; standard press office activity while working with ITV again. The event ran well, and as per usual the PR machine chugged along. One goal for 2018 is to see if I can contact Oxford’s tourism board to advertise it as a tourist attraction for additional spectators.

Photo credit: StaceynDavid Thripp

What changed this time was the sudden email from HUTC, a production company who specialises in selling alternative sports footage to their sports clients. I had a phone conversation with the manager, and he says that sports were too focused on the mainstream activities- football, rugby, cricket – and not enough on the developing ones which require just as much skill and training. Out of this passion for highlighting alternative sports, HUTC was born, and he filmed everything from egg gold to underwater chess.

To me, HUTC is a valuable ally. Yes, they focus on alternative sports, but it’s not to belittle them; it’s to strengthen them, to show them at their best. With their connections directly to sports media, their advice and support is necessary.

Beyond that however, BQC and Development Cup also showed the influx of new teams we had this year. Mel Piper, President of QuidditchUK, comments on the development of the sport:

Quidditch has taken great leaps this year within the UK. The 16/17 season saw the first time teams had to qualify for the national tournament, and also saw the creation of our second tier tournament, focusing much more on developing the lower tier and new teams in the sport. On an elite competition level, TeamUK won the European Games and created the first research and development department for our international team. In summary, reaching over 50 teams and over 900 players is an incredible achievement and I can’t wait to see what the next twelve months bring

Overall, all good for BQC.

Quidditch Premier League Preparations and Fixtures

The QPL explosively began in 2016. The tricky part was to make sure everyone maintained their interest and gather support.

Photo credit: Howard Orridge

I will say this right now – the QPL is full of the most passionate, dedicated, and talented people I’ve had the pleasure to work with in my time at quidditch. Lizzie Walton for design and professionalism; the support of Ali Flanagan and Laura Jamieson on PR activities; Betsy for administrating the events; Ashara for compiling statistics; Mubariz for sorting logistics; Kieran Bishton for driving everywhere in the goddamn country; and of course Jack for working until the knuckles bled. My role was to tell everyone how wonderful they all are, and it was a pleasure to do so.

As a side note also, going to the first QPL fixture in London, and seeing it start to come together after months of preparations, is the runner up to my fondest quidditch memory of 2017.

As expected, local media enjoyed the local fixtures, and we had the most success when we let people know about the fixture a week before the event. What was disappointing to see what the lack of onlookers coming to watch – the more public the park, the more people who casually watched. Bringing people to watch quidditch was one of the biggest barriers of this year, and one which has taken a season of games to work out. As far as I can see, Facebook advertising and posting on Facebook groups works well, and also posting on the local events pages of the city’s pages. If I had limitless time and resources, I would have all the above, alongside posters and the like in community halls. Either way, it needs some dedication and experimentation going into 2018.

A big goal of 2018 is to get the local QPL teams seen as local heroes of their respective communities. I don’t need to tell you how daunting this can be, but it makes sense to try. Having the Eastern Mermaids seen as local heroes, or the East Midlands Archers as a team to support, will help to grow quidditch from the local level upwards, as well as grant additional support to our teams. The question is how to do this, which may rest on working with local universities and groups as well as approaching very specific local influencers. In any case, plans are underway.

European Games

I have already extensively written what happened here, but to summarise – it was the first of two times this year which showed me that we need to get smarter with our communications in the UK.

Photo credit: Howard Orridge

After the final catch was made, a press release was created and sent to people who may be interested in the title. You can find what was sent here. I was unable to call people in Oslo, though I was able to receive calls that evening. I arrived in the UK at 2:30am Monday morning.

Yes, this means I missed the final catch and the UK winning the European Games. I had to leave during the match to catch my plane home. You have no idea how painful this is.

At 8am the same day I came into the office to do some calls – as journalists typically receive hundreds of emails and miss a few over the weekend, calling was vital. Warm leads were generated with the BBC and Press Association, though they seem to have fizzled out when the reporters consulted with the editors. A few radio stations picked up the story, but in the end no news articles had been generated.

No-one reported on Team UK’s victory at the European Games. On a personal level, I was frustrated that Team UK’s success was not covered widely. It should have.

On the other hand, I am seeing this as the start of a transitional shift. Team UK’s first place at the European Games was not picked up by the news, despite calling them and discussing the story. That is fascinating, and as I listed above, it means the way the UK media responds to quidditch has now shifted from a novelty to potential banality. We’re now to a similar of Korfball and Ultimate Frisbee in this sense; it’s time to step up our game.

Quidditch Premier League Championship

Which brings me to my favorite event in my quidditch career – why was this so much more successful than European Games?

Photo credit: Jessica Cornelius

I feel it is because it is shiny and new. It is the first season of the QPL, having their first championship, playing quidditch in a stadium for the first time. I also found that UK stories are much easier to sell than international quidditch stories, and stories on a bank holiday tend to cut through the much more easily, but the fact of the matter is that the QPL was designed around being a super slick and easy sell.

For this reason, Ali Flanagan and Laura Jamieson (alongside the rest of the organisational team) used the leverage to its maximum capacity and brought a lot of interest in the competition. It was on the BBC, ITV, more radio stations than I can count, and appeared internationally as well. It even had a mention from a certain special someone:

This was the highlight of my year. Seeing it all come together, in a stadium, seeing everyone compete in a stadium, and seeing the reaction afterwards – yes, this was probably one of the best days of 2017 for me personally.

Jack Lennard, Director of the League, comments on the success alongside the development of the sport:

Quidditch in the last year has changed significantly. Internally, there’s been major shifts in the college and community team dynamic, mostly in the USA. Externally, we’re seeing more professional bodies emerge. The hopeless attempts at competence exemplified by the IQA simply aren’t good enough for the wider audiences we aim to attract anymore. Quidditch players themselves know this, and are beginning to demand more from their representatives. It is therefore no surprise that organisations such as the Quidditch Premier League, which has established itself with a brutal efficiency when it comes to public relations and branding, have quickly eclipsed more traditional organisations in the minds of players and spectators.

I do not expect the high level of interest to come again. Lightning doesn’t strike twice, and the unique blend of factors will not appear again. There is only a few times where a news organisation will cover a story. However, the experience organising the first QPL championship has given me experience organising stadium events which I intend to use for the next location, such as working with the local tourism authority long before the tournament and bringing in local communities and schools (during term time). Again, plans incoming, but I will remember the first QPL championship very fondly.

International Quidditch Association – IQA World Cup 

This is how I want the IQA to work with national governing bodies (NGBs):

In reality, it isn’t. I wanted to have a hand in changing that.

I hopped into the IQA this year to have a dabble with international quidditch. This was partly fuelled by ambition, interest, and ultimately a look-see into how the IQA works. What I found was that the department heads were all lovely, hard-working and great to be with. That said, there are some issues that we are all aware of and working to solve.

I will not delve into the inner workings of the IQA here – it is not the place, and I don’t think there will ever be a time until I resign.

What I found was that the judging process for the IQA World Cup had some issues which can be easily solved for next time, such as making the opaque judgement process more transparent, making it clearer what the IQA is looking for, and ultimately make signing up venues easier. Most importantly, I want to send intent to bid packages earlier for more preparation time.

When announcing Florence as the host city in 2018, we co-ordinated the announcement so it would go out all at once through the World with the NGBs. The story had some success in Italy (40 pieces of coverage), but internationally less so. (Which brought back European Games flashbacks).

In terms of quidditch development internationally, there is less I can say than for other competitions, except that I am keen to help other countries develop in my new role. Ireland and Switzerland are recent examples. I’ll be sure to make a micro-report on this in the future.

Conclusion

I think Ashley Cooper summarised it really well:

In terms of governance, we’ve stabilised ourselves and started developing a standardised routine, but still haven’t made any progress in dealing with our big limiting factors; like the lack of new motivated volunteers, improved resources and facilities, and the divisions in the community. Overall, good growth at the bottom, but no meaningful progression at the top.

I agree with this, alongside the apparent barrier in quidditch development internationally. European Games, the IQA World Cup, and general feedback has shown me that we need to get smarter about how to portray quidditch. I have taken the feedback and created communications plans for QUK, as well as planning movements for the QPL.

In any case, the times are changing. 2017 has been one of my best years in my life, and this is linked to the success of quidditch. I am really happy with the way it is developing, and I will continue to work hard to keep the momentum going.

Tom Ffiske

 

 

 

Leave a Reply