2012 State of the League Address

My name is Alex Benepe, and I’m the commissioner of US Quidditch. Today it is my pleasure to lay out a road map for the future of USQ and real-life quidditch. So pull up a chair, grab a mug of hot butterbeer, and settle in, because we’ve got a lot to look forward to.

In case you’ve been locked up in Azkaban, 2011 was a big year for quidditch. USQ just held its fifth annual World Cup in New York City. We’ve come a long way in the five years since a ragtag gaggle of freshmen first played real-life quidditch on a field at Middlebury College in Vermont. Last month, 93 college and high school teams comprising over 1,600 players from 27 states and four nations (Canada, Finland, Iceland, and of course the United States) descended on New York City to compete in over 300 games on nine fields over two days. I would like to congratulate Trinity High School, Purdue University, and Middlebury College: the high school, D2, and D1 champions respectively.

The event was the biggest and best USQ has put together to date.  Despite moving the tournament to an island and charging admission for the first time, there were more spectators than ever: security estimates that more than 11,000 people passed through the gates on Saturday alone. This encouraging number proves that quidditch has the ability to become an economically viable spectator sport. Our website, quidditchcup.com, featured minute-by-minute stat tracking for almost every game, thanks to volunteers using Michael Strickland’s Marauder’s App, and got over 200,000 hits over the weekend. This is also a promising statistic and could become another great way for the league to raise money for future events. NBC featured a fantastic segment on the event that captured the feel and scale (Watch the video here).

Our volunteer workforce at World Cup was unparalleled. More than 250 local volunteers of all ages and backgrounds came out and worked hard all weekend, sometimes going 12 hours straight to keep things running smoothly. Even during the transition to the stadium for finals, field directors kept turning in scorecards and continued to run their fields well. The real heroes of the day were the main group of IQA volunteer directors. They were experienced event organizers and league leaders from around the country who came days or even a week early and got little to no sleep as they poured their hearts and souls into keeping the event together at all times.

We are very grateful to the Randall’s Island Sports Foundation for assisting in event organization and especially to Emergency Medical Rescue NYC, a volunteer group who provided medical services for the entire event at cost and also helped with ambulance transportation. Having ambulances on site meant that more players were transported this year, even for injuries that were not life-threatening. However, only 18 ambulance runs took place over the course of more than 300 games (that’s about one out of every 17 games), an enlightening statistic for a full-contact sport.

The energy of the event was jubilant. Enthusiastic college students, cautiously amused New Yorkers and scores of children and families combined to create an atmosphere that was infectious. Caped, chanting, banner-waving players, adults dressed in elaborate Harry Potter costumes, dogs dressed as quidditch players, and general tomfoolery all mixed together, supported by great November weather and one of the most glorious sunsets in recent memory.

The fifth World Cup was not without problems. For one thing, on the day before the event, online ticket sales sat at just 3,000. That was the number of spectators our food vendors were prepared for, and the avalanche of 8,000 more ticket buyers at the door overwhelmed the food and bathroom lines, and despite our best attempts we could not obtain additional services over the course of the weekend, though we were able to open additional cash registers for the food lines on Sunday.

Another issue was electronic – our scorekeeping system had communication issues due to the island’s weak wifi signal, which led to a big delay between pool play and single elimination on Sunday. Additionally, an error discovered on one of the scorecards just as single elimination games started meant that the bracket was wrong, and had to be fixed by hand on the spot. This necessitated a re-arranging of the rankings and therefore a restart of play in order to make sure teams were fairly paired with one another.

Lastly, within a week before the Cup, over 20% of our volunteer referee force canceled. That overwhelmed most of the referees who did work at the Cup, with most refereeing back-to-back games for twelve hours straight. Despite this, our referees remained positive, and most players agreed that this year’s refs were far superior to years past. I must admit, though, that I was rather disappointed with the attitude some players took toward referees. I encourage those players to volunteer next year to ref themselves, nominate someone else, help with referee training, or join our newly forming referee development team (more on that later).

This World Cup was a huge learning experience for us. All of this year’s challenges will be overcome by completely revamping the bid process and beginning planning much earlier with a larger staff – but I’ll come back to that later.

Here’s what USQ has in store for the next year and a half:

This month, the World Cup and Regional Championships bid processes will begin, and they will continue, with various deadlines, surveys, and steps through April 2012. During December, applications will be accepted for the World Cup organizing team. Additionally, World Cup rankings, brackets, and final scores have just been posted.

USQ is also restructuring its internal management to increase efficiency and communication, and better utilize our amazing volunteer talent. We will be posting new volunteer job openings, including for the rules council, throughout the months to come. We are moving away from a council-based culture and toward an agency culture, with better internal collaboration and communication. This will include a gradual overhaul of USQ’s editorial and marketing departments so that information is released on a more consistent basis.

In January 2012, World Cup organizing team applications and location nominations will be due. the global rankings will reset for the new season with an improved algorithm that incorporates strength of schedule. January marks the start of the spring interim season. During this season, USQ will be focused on preparing for the 2012-2013 academic year, which will be the first “real” season of USQ. It will include a regular schedule of games worked out by regional directors and team captains, with a required minimum number of games per team throughout the season.

Regional championships will become qualifying events for World Cup (it hasn’t been determined yet whether they will be qualifiers for D1 or the event as a whole – this depends on the capacity of the World Cup site). In order to effectively lay the groundwork for the 2012-2013 year, USQ will not be sponsoring or organizing “official” regionals or championships, but it will continue to promote and report on official member events and tournaments, maintain and update the league standings, and assist in organization if possible.

Overall, it is our goal to make Regional Championships into much bigger events so that teams have opportunities to attend large tournaments around the continent (while at the same time considering capping or reducing the size of World Cup to make it more manageable).

Throughout February and March 2012, USQ will work with bidding parties to develop their bid packages. The rules council will begin to review and discuss refinements and improvements to the rules for Version 6. During this time, our official membership program will be reviewed. Teams will be surveyed to decide the most important benefits and a new pricing structure (subject to a team vote) will be developed to better meet the needs of the program. Additionally, IQA regional directors and captains will work together to make improvements to regional boundaries. The South will be split into the South and Mid-Atlantic, and some other regions may have states moved around, based on demand from teams and logical distribution.

In April 2012, final bid packages for Regionals and World Cup for the 2012-2013 academic year will be turned in and the selection process will begin. The final selections and their dates and locations will be announced by the end of the month.

In summer 2012 USQ will organize an expo match in London during the Olympics. USQ is currently assessing venues, working with media contacts, and reaching out to local teams. At minimum, USQ will organize a UK vs. US match, and may bring additional European teams. Meanwhile, back in the United States, the rules council will finalize Version 6 of USQ rules.

In September 2012, the first real season of IQA quidditch will begin. The rankings will reset to zero for all teams who will play through their pre-set schedules. With games set farther in advance, players and fans will be able to closely monitor the progress of their favorite teams. A new app, currently in development, will (among other things) allow captains to instantly upload scores from mobile devices.Throughout October and November the first regional championships will take place. FromFebruary to March the remaining regionals will take place, and in April 2013 – WORLD CUP VI.

This gives us an excellent segue to explain the bidding process. Starting December 15, USQ will accept applications to the World Cup organizing team. This team will be a long-distance organizing group that will task-manage the local organizing bodies for World Cup and regionals. Members will visit the site as much as possible during the organizing process and come as early as possible in the weeks leading up to the event to supervise planning. This group will be open to applicants from any part of the world, but only those with the best quidditch tournament organizing experience and/or general event planning experience will be selected. Applications are due January 8.

Rather than expect teams to complete bids on their own, USQ will work closely with teams and also numerous city agencies to develop fully-fledged bid packages. In the past months USQ has been approached by over 80 local government bureaus who hope to bid for the next World Cup or regionals. While having city and town governments closely involved with the process will greatly improve organization and financing, it is still essential to have a local group of experienced and organized quidditch teams to handle the unique requirements of the sport, so teams must spearhead the bidding process, with other local support organized around that.

Before this process can begin, we must do two things:

1)     Ascertain which locations/teams are willing and able to host World Cup and regionals

2)     Screen those locations for event viability

The first step is the bid interest form. Do you think your city and/or team could host the event? Fill out our nomination form and get more details here. The second step will be a survey among official member teams to check off which options they are willing (and financially able) to attend. Bid interest forms will be due January 8 as well.

Once it is evident which of the cities nominated are viable options, a local organizing team will begin to work closely with USQ to develop bid packages. At this stage, USQ will connect interested cities to the organizing team that has nominated the bid. Professional local event organizers will be brought in for consultation and a location will be selected. Budgets will be prepared, and PR efforts will begin to rouse public support for the event. IQA officials will travel to inspect event sites and prepare reports and assessments based on these and other elements:

  • Basic facilities and location availability
  • Transportation and access
  • Budget requirements and financial support
  • Strength of the local quidditch network
  • Additional perks and unique local aspects

Final bid packages from all approved applicants will be due on April 1, and the final locations and dates will be selected and announced by April 15. The final selection process will reside with USQ World Cup organizing team and will include surveys of official member teams.

We are very excited for the upcoming season and the 2012-2013 academic year, and we look forward to continuing to develop real-life quidditch with all of our staff, players, and supporters. Thank you for joining us on this journey. We hope you have fantastic holiday season, and we’ll see you next season on the pitch!

Mischief, managed.