While the players at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry flew on brooms, those in the QPL will hold one while they run, avoiding dodgeballs and full-contact tackles as they attempt to throw a semi-deflated volleyball — the quaffle — through one of three hoops of varying heights for 10 points. Midway through the game, elements of tag and flag football come into play when the snitch gets released. A twinkling ball with fluttering wings in the film versions of Rowling’s famous books, this real-world version of the snitch is a tennis ball in a sock attached to a yellow-clad, fast-moving neutral player. The team that grabs the snitch first earns 30 points, and also ends the game.
“It sounds ridiculous, and I grant you, it looks ridiculous,” QPL director Jack Lennard admitted while describing the snitch, but he emphasized the physicality of the game is no joke. He’s seen a couple of players break bones in the three years he’s been playing the game.
“It is a full-contact sport,” said Lennard, who credits his interest in Quidditch with altering his professional path. Originally set to be an archaeologist, the Oxford-educated 21-year-old learned he had a talent for marketing when he volunteered to do PR for his university’s Quidditch team. Lennard now works in a marketing firm in London, and his expertise shows: He timed the announcement of the QPL to coincide with the recent release of the Harry Potter spin-off “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”
Lennard also said he’s keeping the QPL small to increase its marketability.
“Having only eight teams means we can really focus on quality,” he said. “We can really showcase the best of the sport. We can really focus on … PR and branding, so we can put together a very accessible package for people who haven’t previously experienced the sport before.”
Not only that, but Lennard plans to make Quidditch attractive even for those totally unfamiliar with Harry Potter.
“I think I was probably on one of the last waves of people to come in three years ago just to say, ‘Oh my God, I love the books,’ ” Lennard said, adding that Rowling has an open invitation to attend any QPL competition. More and more, he said, new players are coming into the sport because they hear it’s fun, not because they are fans of the books or movies.
“But regardless of how [people] get into the sport, they never stay because of Harry Potter,” Lennard said. “They stay for the sport.”
And you’ll likely have to be good to make one of QPL’s eight teams, each of which is capped at 30 players of both men and women. Twenty-one travel to games, and seven will be on the field at any given time. Of those seven, a maximum of four can be of the same gender.
“I think for pretty much everyone in the sport, that’s probably the thing we are most proud of,” he said, pointing out Quidditch’s emphasis on gender balance.
The QPL hasn’t yet scheduled tryouts, but Lennard suspects the turnout will be great judging from the response to the announcement since Tuesday.
“We’ve seen an unprecedented interest,” he said, adding that it’s been “an emotional couple of days to see how many people are excited about this.”
Lennard doesn’t have a lot of time to reflect on the new creation, however. There is still a lot of organizational work to do, including nailing down a final schedule for each team. Lennard has only announced the QPL’s inaugural season will run from early July to late August, culminating in an end-of-season championship weekend in a “central location” for all the teams.
For now, players will fund their own travel, as well as purchase uniforms. That isn’t likely to put potential QPL recruits off, Lennard said.
“[Quidditch players] spend almost all their disposable income on the sport,” he said, speaking from both experience as a player and from research he’s done. Lennard hopes potential sponsors will find that appealing.
“There’s actually huge amounts of opportunity and financial growth there,” he said, noting QPL is actively looking for sponsorship opportunities. “You’ve got a group of people who are absolutely committed, heart and soul, who will travel across the country over and over again for this sport and spend their money on it.
“We give back to Quidditch and Quidditch gives back to us.”