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Sport, Leisure and Culture Consultancy

Quidditch hits the mainstream

30 Mar 2015
by Liz Terry, CEO, Leisure Media
Once an imaginary game played by characters in the Harry Potter novels, the sport of quidditch has been made real and is now played by people on every continent.

Quidditch. You may think this is a fantasy sport played only in the pages of a Harry Potter novel, but our reporters found the sport has been enthusiastically adopted by muggles (see our feature in Sports Management 2015 issue 1 on page 62).

It has its own world governing body – the International Quidditch Association – which has recognised 300 teams worldwide and established 20 national governing bodies and it's spreading via the university sports network and social media. So popular is the sport that it's even being adopted in countries where the Harry Potter novels have never been available.

Sports Management is the first sports magazine in the world to profile quidditch, and we're covering it as part of our regular series on new sports.

We get so used to the folklore and terminology of established sports being firmly woven into the fabric of our lives, that the idea of new sports like quidditch being "invented", means some people don't take them seriously. But most team games started small with eccentric beginnings and the rapidity with which they establish themselves gives an indication of how attractive they are to a wide range of people: will we one day see a version of quidditch in the Olympic Games? Given the rapid adoption of the game, I wouldn't bet against it, however unlikely it seems to us today.

The game was created by two American students, Alex Benepe and Xander Manshel and can be played with easy-to-find equipment: three hoops, a tennis ball in a sock for the snitch, two dodgeballs, a volleyball and seven brooms. Quidditch uses a mix of elements from rugby, dodgeball and tag. The game stays true to the fictional version, except players ride earth-bound brooms.

Harrison Homel, executive director of the International Quidditch Association, says the game appeals to people looking for a different sport: “It doesn’t take long for people to realise this is the real deal. It’s a full contact, very athletic, very fast game and it appeals to lots of people who haven’t read the books, but used to play football or basketball.”

In 2014, quidditch held its own European Cup, which was contested by 20 teams and a World Championship, which was played between seven nations and the events will become annual.

The reason for the success and rapid growth of the game seem, in part, to be the strong communities it fosters. Choosing a sport can help you find your tribe in life and it seems that quidditch cultivates an inclusive, friendly and playful atmosphere, as well as being highly competitive and athletic.

And it's a modern sport in every way. It couldn't have come into being without social media, it's based on an IP and run on a supportive, peer to peer basis – even the referee test can be completed online. It's played on every continent except Antarctica, so has become global in the shortest time imaginable. You could say it's the first social media sport and it's unlikely to be the last.

We need more sports like this – which emerge from a groundswell of enthusiasm and encourage people to come together to make communities and to stay fit and healthy and which are free from politics, government funding and bureaucracy.

As more people learn they need to exercise every day to stay healthy, the need for variety will increase and new sports such as quidditch will thrive. Anything which brings people together to exercise – especially under their own initiative – is to be encouraged.

Tags: Sports Management  sport & recreation 

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