The Harry Potter book and film series have been subject to a number of offshoots over the years. Perhaps most recent is the divisive issue of the Harry Potter-themed shop on Market Street. An obvious and growing descendant of the Harry Potter world is the wizard sport quidditch. The quidditch craze quickly reached St Andrews and St Andrews University was one of the first universities to have a quidditch side. Whilst quidditch is very much rooted in the tradition of Harry Potter, it is also evident that that sport has quickly grown its own, self-standing identity.
The St Andrews Quidditch Team, AKA the Snidgets (Snidget being a reference to the original snitch in Harry Potter), formed in 2012. Since its creation, the club has continued to grow. The 2018 recruitment being particularly successful, and strong turnouts were seen in the “give it a go sessions”. The club has almost doubled their numbers in comparison to the previous year. The team trains regularly twice a week, with a further number of optional sessions. The club compete regularly at tournaments across the UK, and this year finished fourth at the Scottish Cup. The club contains a broad spread of participants from freshers to postgraduates. Many players within the squad — Henry Williams, Natalie Smith, Guillermo Parra, and Tev Wallace — have been selected for the newly formed Scottish national team.
The sport itself is a complex multi-layered game. Every viewer of the first Harry Potter film will remember the complex, thrilling, and highly intense nature of quidditch, as Gryffindor stole victory from Slytherin. The muggle version of the game is no different. Quidditch combines aspects of netball (or basketball if from the other side of the pond), dodgeball, and capture the flag. As Vice Captain Henry Williams explained, you essentially see many individual games take place on one pitch, and that a quidditch game is “a lot to take in.” Scoring is similar to netball, three chasers on each team, passing the ball into one of the three opposing hoops. These hoops are protected by the opposing team’s goalkeeper. Dodgeball is seen through the way the two beaters in each team can throw a ball at players to eliminate them from play for a period of time. Finally, capture the flag is seen through the snitch being chased by each teams seeker.
The sport itself has also grown massively. It has spread across a number of continents including the USA. There is now a Quidditch Premier League. If you pardon the pun, this acts as the top flight of competitive quidditch in the UK. Each region of the UK has a team to represent them in the League. Further, a vast number of universities have teams to represent them. Quidditch is played from Southampton University to as far north as Aberdeen University. There are currently over 50 university sides across the UK. Perhaps due to this growing domestic interest in Quidditch, is the rise of the newly formed Scottish National Team. Quidditch is certainly a sport on the rise.
This said, through speaking to Natalie Smith, a quidditch squad member, and Henry, the sport faces a sort of dilemma on how to evolve. The dilemma is based around whether to reduce the sport’s association with Harry Potter. The association to the Harry Potter series is seen by some to be problematic. Henry admits that the sport’s link to the series is like marmite, either it attracts people or it turns people away. The idea of a sport generating from a fantasy book is a difficult concept for some to grasp. So some in the quidditch community have argued that a greater disassociation with the book series is necessary, in order to attract more players. Henry and Natalie both agree that Quidditch deserves to be thought of as more than just a by-product of a book series. The sport deserves to be seen as a unique past-time in its own right.
Already, the brief evolution of quidditch has seen some natural distancing from the series. Most obviously is that broomsticks (both magic-flying and domestic) are not used for matches. Further, the wearing of robes such as the Crimson ones worn by Gryffindor are not sported anymore. These steps were perhaps important as it brought quidditch away from the stereotype of being purely a re-enactment of the wizard series. Instead, traditional sports jerseys are worn like most other sports. PVC poles are used instead of broomsticks, as they are lighter and lack sharp bristles which present a health hazard. This shows that quidditch has been altered to make a strong sports game, rather than to represent Harry Potter, and so should be thought of as a sport in its own right.
Furthermore, the makeup of the St Andrews quidditch team is not what one might assume. Gone is the stereotype that all quidditch players are purely Harry Potter fanatics with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the wizarding world, who preach the gospel of Hogwarts. There are naturally Harry Potter fans in the club. That said, the Club has other members too. Both Henry and Natalie explained that they were not Harry Potter fanatics. Neither joined the club because of a passion for Harry Potter, but instead because of the fact that quidditch is a unique and unorthodox sport. Further, they loved the open and laidback nature of the club. Clearly, the club maintains its support from the Harry Potter community but is slowly branching out with other types of members. The sport and its fans are so much more than just Harry Potter.
Yet at the same time, Henry and Natalie are quick to emphasise it is important to remember the club’s roots. The Club still continues to be associated with the Harry Potter Society. Further Henry says that any argument that the use of “brooms” should be removed is perhaps ill-conceived. Ultimately this fundamentally changes the nature of quidditch. The use of a “broom” makes the game all the more complex. A player has to run with it and try to catch a ball and thus acts as a substantial handicap and key challenge of the game. It is part of what makes quidditch the sport that it is. So it is one thing to change the connotation of quidditch but it would be quite another to change a fundamental principle of the game.
I would agree, all sports are created in their own unique way, and this legacy should be remembered. But the game’s creation is not the be all and end all of the sport. This is most obviously seen in rugby. It began with strange beginnings, Webb Ellis decided to pick up a football. Yet rugby has evolved to be a sport in its own right. Many may notice that the rugby World Cup is called the Webb Ellis Cup, and thus remembers the legacy of the game’s creation. On the other hand, few consider or critically analyse how the sport was created when they decide to begin playing. So why should quidditch not follow the same path?
Henry and Natalie emphasised the clubs openness and inclusivity. Both talked about how the club regularly goes to WaffleCo after training or pub nights at the Whey Pat. But, all sports clubs tend to have this kind of social scene. So what makes quidditch different? Quidditch is one of the only mixed gender sports at St Andrews. Further, this club is the perfect club to discuss during LGBT History Month. Quidditch is a sport noted to its openness to all genders, Henry stated “It is something the club prides itself on.” Some members are part of the LGBT community and all members are strong supporters of the LGBT community. The strong openness and inclusivity of the Snidgets is perhaps what makes this club all the more special! Quidditch is clearly a unique sport because of its origin, but it is far more than its origin. Its complex nature and openness is what makes it truly great.