So, on top of a multi-million book and movie franchise, and endless toys and games, the world of Harry Potter has also spawned its own sports league: the Quidditch Premier League.
Our resident Harry Potter fan Linus Karp got to interview the League’s founder, Jack Lennard, and they talked all things Quidditch. Oliver Wood, eat your heart out…
“If 11 year old me knew I’d be doing this, I’d be freaking out!”
So, how did the Quidditch Premier League start?
Quidditch as a sport started in 2005 in Vermont (on the East coast of America) and grew from there. It started as something for University level athletes, and now it has 25,000 players in 45 different countries, so it’s grown very large. However, it’s still very much based on University level athletes – so when they go home for the summer there’s not that much for them to do. We wanted to fill that gap during the summer, so we founded the Quidditch Premier League in November 2016 and had our first season in the following summer. It’s grown so much because of the excitement: it’s very, very easy to brand it and market it and get people excited for the competition.
I started playing in 2013 when I was at university and loved it – it was so different from other sports. It’s inclusive, exciting and well designed, and because it’s an emerging sport, you’re at the start of something. So, after I finished University I thought “how can we take this and make it into something special?”
What are the main differences between your sport and the Quidditch we know from the books and films?
We kept a lot of the main elements. Every player is using a “broomstick” made of PVC piping, and they have to stay mounted on their broom at all times. This acts as a handicap because it’s a contact sport, and it makes catching, passing and tackling harder.
We still have the Chasers who have to get the ball (the Quaffle) through hoops. We have the Beaters (bat-wielding players trying to hit the opponents with Bludgers – black iron balls that have been spelled to attack) but in our version they throw dodge balls. The idea is that if you’re hit with a dodgeball from the opposing team you have to drop your ball and run back to your hoops and touch back in.
Then, the element we’ve had to change the most is the Golden Snitch (the tiny, winged golden ball that is worth 150 points) and the Seekers (the one player in each team who has to catch the snitch – Harry Potter’s role in the films and books). Eighteen minutes into the game a person playing the Snitch comes on, and they aren’t a member of either team. They will be an impartial official, and most of them have had training in martial arts or cross-country running. Their job is to evade capture by the Seekers from each team. They have a tag at the back of their shorts which the Seeker has to grab and catch, and that ends the game, just like it does in the books and the films, but in our version it’s only worth 30 points, which creates a more balanced game.
“Obviously we don’t fly. We tried, but health and safety weren’t having it…”
There’s no time limits to your game, just like in the Harry Potter version?
In our particular competition we’ve installed a 45 minute cap on game time, because otherwise it can go on for a while! But it’s actually fairly rare that we hit that. Usually the snitch gets caught in about 25-30 minutes.
What makes a good Quidditch player?
I think the best thing about the sport is how inclusive it is. I’m quite tall and lanky, if you tackle me I go down like a crisp packet. But the fact is I can still find a role in Quidditch that I would excel at, like hanging around behind the hoops and catching high balls. If you’re shorter, that’s making tackles, if you’re very agile making runs down the wing, or even if you’re just very tactical, there’s a place for you in the sport.
So whatever background you’ve brought to the sport, even whether that’s not having played sports or a full contact sport before you’ll find something that you are particularly suited to.
And that’s why Quidditch is so popular.
You’ve talked about it being inclusive – is that why it’s so popular with the LGBT+ community?
It’s very simple – the sport is the only full contact mixed gender sport in the world. And that’s immediately taking huge strides to raise the standard of the sports; the Guardian called us the standard bearer for mixed gendered sports, and Vice have called us the most progressive sport in the world. And it goes further than that: the gender rule itself is that out of the seven people on the pitch, a maximum of four are allowed to be one gender. That means you’re forced to mix, but it also establishes that it’s based on gender rather than biological sex.
Let’s say you’re trans; in any other sport you’d have to go through hormone testing, sex testing – really invasive stuff. That’s why the rates of trans athletes are so low, whereas Quidditch is so welcoming, people see it as a safe haven from potentially toxic environments in other sports. And that’s why we have such a huge proportion of LGBTQ athletes, and it makes you think. If other sports were this inclusive, you’d see so many trans athletes, you’d see so many people being more confident in identifying as their gender, and publicly coming out as their gender.
What would you say is your proudest moment or greatest achievement as head of the Quidditch Premier League?
We’ve done a lot of good, we have partnered charities like Mind, and the UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group, and raised quite a significant chunk of money for them. That’s something I’m very proud of. At the end of our first season we had a big feature on BBC Breakfast and J.K. Rowling actually saw it and tweeted us, saying congratulations to the winning team, the West Midlands Revolution.
Congratulations to West Midlands Revolution, whom I’ve just seen on the news winning the first Quidditch Premier League. @quidpremleague— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 28, 2017
That was amazing because it was the first time she’d acknowledged that the sport exists, and showed her support. That was a really big step for us. Obviously we’ve moved away from the Harry Potter aspect a fair bit, but for it to get recognition from someone who created the original idea for the sport and showed that it’s getting more mainstream, that was a very, very proud moment.
How do people react when you tell them what you do?
It always gets a response like “Wow Quidditch, isn’t that the Harry Potter sport?” Or, “Never heard of it, how does it work?” Something I’ve discovered is the moment you show people a game or you take them down to a training, they never ever go away saying “That’s rubbish!” So although it sounds a bit wacky at first, they understand that it’s an intense sport, and really fun to watch and to play.
So if we want to get involved, how do we do that?
Just head over to our website, or Facebook. We have try-outs every February, and all our summer season fixtures are free, so just come down, and you’ll see some of the best players in the country battling it out. And if you want to get started playing then you can find your local club during the regular season, from September on quidditchuk.org.
Thanks to Jack for giving London Tailored Tours these amazing insights!
You can find Linus leading one of our Harry Potter tours of London, spotting the inspirations behind the books, seeing movie filming locations, and eating the odd chocolate frog or four. Broomstick travel not included.