2013 State of the League Address
Greetings players, captains, presidents, coaches, families, fans, and all supporters and advocates of quidditch around the world. I am proud to have been involved with
quidditch since the beginning, but even prouder of the amazing team that runs USQ today. That team, and what they have accomplished, is what I want to address first, and then I will outline what we have planned for the league’s next four years of development.
This year, our team of volunteers has grown not just in breadth, but also in depth. We now have over 200 volunteers in seven departments, working hard every week to serve the league. USQ’s Chief Operating Officer, Alicia Radford, has taken over most of the day-to-day operations of the league, including the league’s management team, and has
made internal communications and project management significantly more efficient.
The most noticeable changes this year from our staff have come at the level of the sport’s organization and officiating. With World Cup as a qualifying tournament for the first
time, there was a lot of pressure on regional championships to be fair, well-run, and successful events. So far, each of the nine regionals has exceeded expectations on every
level, with more than 140 teams competing and over 5,000 spectators attending. In ddition to being the largest non-World Cup events yet, game play at each regional has
been smoother than ever, thanks to improvements in the sixth edition of the rulebook and the superb officiating brought about by the referee development team and their
certification program. To date, USQ has certified over 100 head referees at over 80 certification clinics in three countries. Over 80 captains and players attended the first ever QuidCon last summer, and Quidditch Quarterly evolved this year from an online newsletter into a real subscription magazine. As I write this, a detailed IQA tackling style
is being created by a panel of top tacklers and referees, along with input from former NFL players and professional rugby players, with the aim of teaching safe and efficient
tackling to quidditch players everywhere. Standardized quaffles and bludgers have also been selected based on league polls, which will debut at the World Cup.
None of these changes could have been fully realized without our teams making huge efforts as well. Not only have teams continued to respond to changes and evolutions
gracefully, but they also have made changes in the sport themselves simply by raising the bar on a competitive and logistical level. Skill and experience in the sport has visibly
increased, uniforms and equipment have improved, and teams have raised more money and traveled farther and more frequently to play than ever before. In a recent survey of 26 teams from the US, Canada, France, and Australia, the average team traveled to five events in the last year, and just under half reported that the furthest they drove to an
event was 12 hours! Altogether, just those 26 teams attended an amazing 73 different events, in 32 US states and four other countries. Nearly across the board, teams have
reported that those events are filled with an environment that is welcoming and friendly, with good sportsmanship prevailing.
The league has also grown over the past year, now up to 225 official teams and over 1,000 unofficial teams, including both categories of teams in brand new countries. Australia, France, and the UK in particular have stepped up their internal organization. Now Italy and Mexico are moving up in the league as well, and we recently saw our first official Chinese team. These international teams have been both a cause and result of a general increase in the global profile of the sport this year. Events like the Quidditch Summer Games, hosted as part of an Olympic torch lighting ceremony in July 2012, exposed the sport to millions of viewers and readers on the BBC and CNN, among many other global media outlets. And recently, BCSN, a regional college sports network in Ohio, was the first US television network to broadcast a live quidditch match, between Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo, followed by another full-length broadcast at the Glass City Classic. This was not the first time that this took place, however; two matches between Melbourne and Monash were broadcast in Australia on SBS in early 2012.
Preparations for the World Cup are almost complete, with ticket sales launched and a massive team of volunteers working almost full-time for over a year already. USQ has
enjoyed great support from the city of Kissimmee (along with every city that has hosted regionals), and the World Cup organizing team is excited to continue working hard to
get final preparations in place in the last several weeks before the Cup.
USQ has come farther in the past year than in any other year before; that much is certain. However, this rate of change and improvement is only going to accelerate. Here’s
what players and fans can expect moving into the future:
WORLD CUP X
In order to understand all of the smaller decisions I am about to go into, I need to take us farther into the future first: Summer 2017, to be specific. Our aim that season is to host a
unique event: World Cup X. The tenth World Cup will be a special World Cup for a specific reason – our goal is for the event to be the first World Cup that only the top team in each nation participatesin. USQ aims to have 16 nations compete at World Cup X. Each team would qualify forthe World Cup by winning their National Cup,
another new facet of the league that year. In some countries, this would replace that country’s “regional championship,” and regional championships would become qualifiers
for the National Cup in any country with enough teams to merit them. With 2017 four ears away and quidditch only accelerating in growth, USQ expects that will be
enough time for 16 nations to have functional, traveling teams that are able to compete at relatively equal levels of skill and make the event extremely compelling for spectators.
In order to work up to that point, USQ will focus on growing membership in every country by establishing National Leagues, which will allow other countries to play within
the official IQA framework to a much more structured and concrete degree. While the exact financial, legal, structural, and logistical aspects of National Leagues are still being
worked out, the plan will be designed to give National Leagues as much freedom as possible, while simultaneously holding them to the same standards as players and teams in the US, and delivering the same quality of program and global attention. USQ hopes to start off next season with at least five National Leagues, including the United States, although National Cups will not technically begin (at least in name) until 2017, with the advent of the evolvedWorld Cup. By the end of the 2016-2017 season, USQ aims to have over 650 official member teams in 16 countries, and over 20,000 official players.
EVENT & AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
Events will not just be added to USQ at the top of the competitive spectrum, though. As the sport of quidditch becomes more competitive and streamlined, USQ will make
sure that there are official events for players of every type and skill level. As early as next season, every region will host events like open-enrollment fantasy tournaments, uniquely structured tournaments like the “Bottom of the Bracket” tournament held in Houston, Texas this yearto give newer teams a chance to compete with other teams at their level, and clinics for tackling or snitch training. USQ will also begin identifying existing ournaments and working with the current directors to turn them into official league
invitationals, supplementing them with extra volunteers, funding, and promotion. Each year, USQ will join with more of these events in each region or country, and create
more opportunities for players to compete in large tournaments in numerous locations close to their home base. Additionally, USQ will be creating a massive annual invitational tournament open to every single official memberteam, which may grow in size to host hundreds of teams and dozens of fields. The goal of this event will be to
retain the spirit of the original, all-inclusive World Cup, as the current World Cup and other championships grow to become more exclusive.
At the middle of the spectrum (regional championships) and moving into the upper echelons of events, USQ will put more focus on developing a stronger spectator base.
Building a massive live audience for the sport is critical to long-term sustainability, especially fan bases for local teams that help them financially. While the World Cup always commands a large audience based on the reputation and sheer spectacle of the event, regional tournaments will ideally find centralized, highly-populated urban centers to remain in for several years at a time. By finding central cities to host and keep regional tournaments, the audience will build year after year to the point that regionals have tens of thousands of attendees and generate a significant amount of revenue to fund other regional events throughout the year. These “quidditch cities” will serve as regional hubs for the sport, and may one day hopefully stimulate the construction of quidditch fields and possibly even small stadiums.
Entirely new categories of events will be springing up over the next four years as well. USQ is currently scouting a location for a High School World Cup, and next season
each regional championship will have a high school division, in addition to the High School World Cup. The league is also discussing the possibility of an event specifically
for community teams. Last, but not least, as a hold over until World Cup X, USQ will be hosting the Global Games, a national team-only event, in summer 2014, similar
to the Summer Games event in Oxford last year. USQ is currently in talks with several cities in Canada for hosting, and will also approach the Olympic organizers in Rio e Janeiro about another such tournament there in summer 2016.
Beyond increasing events and building a live audience for the sport, USQ also wants to develop and embrace a large digital viewership. Right now, USQ is working out
plans to livestream games and tournaments on a more regular basis, and leverage partnerships with other websites to build a regular viewing audience numbering in the
millions. This audience will not only support teams and grow the visibility of the sport, but also help raise money for the sport.
THE NEAR FUTURE
One of the first steps to achieving all of these goals is moving to an individual membership plan, starting next season (in July, technically, but starting for most people in September). This means that players will purchase an individual membership with USQ, in addition to teams paying a decreased flat team fee. This new plan allows the league to purchase a comprehensive insurance plan, which is crucial at this junction in the sport’s development to protect players and the league. The insurance will include accident coverage to protect players from expensive injuries, and liability coverage to protect the league. USQ’s new membership plan is based on research from the policies of many other successful amateur sports leagues and has been reviewed by dozens of IQA volunteer staff. USQ has also surveyed players from over 20 teams about the plan’s components and pricing, and we will survey more in the coming weeks.
With a solid grounding in amateur sports membership policies and feedback from our players and volunteers, we hope that the final form of the plan will be generally satisfying to the league. More information on this will be released before the next season begins, and in time to submit school funding requests for next year.
The exponentially increased amount of data-tracking that this new membership plan requires means USQ is hard at work on a new website for summer 2013, spearheaded
by CTO Dan Panzarella, that will not only be able to handle payment and membership profiles for thousands of individuals, but also feature a comprehensive league schedule, iving teams the ability to create tournaments, invite teams, and post game schedules, scores, pictures, and even write-ups all through USQ website.
By July of 2013, USQ expects to have dates and locations set for the full roster of 2013-2014 events, and possibly even some dates and locations for the following season,
2014-2015, should suitable bids be submitted. Most immediately, USQ is focused on finishing up its spring events with the final regional, USQ US Southern Regional
Championship, and then, of course,World Cup VI, followed hopefully by the High School World Cup, and QuidCon 2013 in Seattle this July.
Thank you very much for reading about what we have planned for the future of quidditch. We hope that you continue to play and support USQ, not just because quidditch is fun, and not just because we won’t be able to get there without your help, but mostly because the destination won’t be worth the journey’s work if we don’t get to enjoy it together.