Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Discussion of the QuidditchUK 2015/16 Membership Policy

With QuidditchUK announcing their 2015/16 Membership Policy, we decided to sit down with the UK department and take a look at the big changes, which include, among other things, a new club/team structure, more flexibility in transfers within a club, a rise in fees, and QUK official mercenary teams. Our round table discussion features a wide range of our contributors, as well as official statements from major club leaderships and the QUK Executive Management Team.

  • Jack Lennard: So let’s start off by talking about the new roster rules and what they mean for intra-club movement. We spoke to Teams Director Andy Cooke, who tied the changes made to a desire to create similarities with other sports:

    ‘As Teams Director, my priority is always the growth of new teams and to help legitimize the teams we have in their current environment. Therefore we can only hope that by lining our club system up with the way many other sports work we can aid in that process.’
  • We have a statement here from Natasha Ferenczy, the President of Southampton Quidditch Club, who seems pretty pleased with the changes:

    ‘As a club who have been campaigning all year for more squad fluidity between teams within the same club, it's a really positive step for us. Having more flexibility with our squad choices better serves our players and their development, allowing us to reward those who perform well in training whilst also keeping those players who have earned a spot on the first team working hard to keep it. It also means we can give players experience with the first team at tournaments and fixtures if there's a spot available. These new policies will hopefully allow all UK clubs to establish strong development systems in the future as clubs expand.’

  • Fraser Posford: It’s interesting about the core players thing. It's good in that it stops players who are obviously too good to be playing for a secondary team play down, but creating a class of core players may create a bit of a division in some teams with certain people knowing they're guaranteed a place in the squad for the upcoming tournament and therefore not feel as great a need to train hard and fight for their place as the non-core players will need to if they want to get in the first team squad. On the other hand, I can't think of a better solution right now, so this is the best option from what I can tell.

  • JL: I see it as a double edged sword for the core players - like signing a contract. So the club would need to discuss the commitment it requires and have them accept that role, rather than just list core players. It would need to be a dialogue, and probably a healthy one for the team to have.

  • Ashara Peiris: Although it's definitely a commitment. What about the Captain and/or Vice-Captains - I imagine they’d be core players?

  • FP: Just because a certain player is captain or vice-captain, it doesn't guarantee that they are the best player(s) to be selected for a certain squad. This is something that was included in the job description for both the Captain and Vice-Captain position in the SQC AGM in that they may have to select an alternate player instead of themselves if it is to the benefit of the club. For instance, if Charlie [Taylor] is not playing well or someone is performing better in training then he would have to recognise that and select that player instead of himself. If he were a core player then he wouldn't be able to do this. That is quite a hypothetical situation though.

    JL: Yeah, there's nothing that means the Captain or Vice-Captain have to be core players - the core players are the best players on the team, and I can definitely testify to the fact that my value in captaincy wasn't as an on-pitch chaser. 

    Now, onto financial matters. Looking at the new costs, £65 includes one team. And then it's £30 for each further team. So £95 in total. Last year they paid £40 for each team, £80 in total. Which didn't include the £40 team fees for regionals. So it actually comes out as slightly less for those multi-team clubs than it was last year. You actually have the more successful and established clubs paying less per member. The way I see it:

  • 21 one-team club members = £65 / 21 = ~ £4 per player.
  • 21 Chimeras + 21 Quidlings (taking OUQC as an example) = £95 / 42 = ~ £2.30 per player.

  • The numbers are so small that it doesn't really matter - but why should a big club pay less than a smaller club does per player? Especially when, realistically, a new team won't have twenty-one players. What are your thoughts on how QUK should balance this out - if, that is, they should?

  • AP: It's arguably just economies of scale, Jack. Having the admin of a team run under one banner could in theory make it cheaper

  • JL: Playing devil's advocate, if Durham University Quidditch Club Quidditch , OUQC, and SQC can all pay lower rates for having a second team, I don't see why a new team can't be either.

  • AP: Fair point, but do you define a new team by the players or the whole team? For example, Taxes Quidditch is aimed at mostly experienced players and you could argue that it shouldn't therefore get a discount.

  • JL: Why does that matter? The founder for any start-up team would still be fronting all the start-up costs at the moment, and they can guarantee there’ll have adequate numbers join to spread the cost or make it workable. Starting a team is always a gamble. I just feel bad for new teams who don’t have the luxury of sharing costs across forty-two or more people.

  • AP: I do think that there should be some more support for new teams, reduced fees for example, or help with equipment, but that would likely mean greater costs for other teams who might be less happy about it.

  • Sherrie Talgeri: Surely established teams wouldn’t object to paying slightly more if it helped further the sport they love and made it easier for new teams to emerge.

    Claire Evans: I know in terms of actual numbers/potential cost difficulties (particularly for new teams) it doesn't make a difference, but the way I see it is effectively a club registration cost of £35, plus £30 for each team you have within that club. To me, it makes more sense to think of it this way, but I can also appreciate why QUK phrased it as they did. I think the idea of registering as a club rather than individual teams goes hand in hand with the changes concerning transfers and the idea of being affiliated to your club rather than team, making it easier to transfer between teams within the club - which in my opinion is a very good move, because as far as I know in no other sport is movement between different teams of the same club as complex and involved as it has been in quidditch.

  • JL: It sounds better that way.

  • AP: Yeah the way you've said it is way clearer to understand and would probably be easier to justify.

  • Alex Harrison: It seems to me like any club big enough to consistently field two teams doesn't need a(n effective) discount, whereas a lot of clubs which can only field one team are much less financially secure and could use any discount they can get. Having said that, a second team would require its own expensive set of equipment and various other things, so I can see why QUK wouldn't want to further financially burden clubs which establish a second team. I'd personally rather they kept a flat fee per team.

    FP: Not really, SQC trains together and use all the same equipment, it's the completely new teams that need it.

  • ST: Same for Durham (including its QUK unofficial college teams) regarding equipment. I completely agree with Alex's point about new teams needing discounts more. Starting up and buying equipment is the most costly part of the process and it seems that community teams are being penalised to an extent as they can't apply for a university grant to fund this.

  • Sasha Burgoyne: I think it's difficult for new teams as well because whilst you can charge large membership fees in order to fund equipment and other expenses, that is likely to put a lot of new players off.

    CE: I think the issue we might see with new teams is  this: it's basically impossible to have a team without equipment. Thus, buying equipment is a priority, and player subscriptions or a grant of some description may be able to cover that, after which teams are faced with the decision of whether to be QUK official or not, which, compared to having equipment, is not essential. So if new teams are are unable to get money together, either through subscriptions or grants, the thing that has to go is the QUK membership, which is a shame because it will make it much more difficult for new teams to take part in matches and tournaments. If QUK were able to offer a discount for new teams, it might encourage new teams to get involved and attend events from the outset, rather than having to wait until they are more established and have more regular members to be able to take part (which seems to be what has happened recently with teams such as Preston and Liverpool).

    ST: I think playing matches and going to tournaments is the main driving force of the sport: this is where you get to meet other members of the community and get excited about quidditch. Durham improved a lot following its first few matches against St Andrews Snidgets and the Hogyork Horntails from York - though some team members were put off by travel costs. The fixtures also give a team something to work towards.

    SB: I agree with Claire. It is pretty tough for new teams to get the funds for equipment but at the same time getting gameplay is what gets new players hooked. Basically all it means is that it is very expensive to start a new team and that's that.

    JL: What would you guys like to see? Discounts for first year of registration? How much of a discount? And how would you balance out that with the more established teams then having to pay more?

  • AH: Bluehawk vouchers as a perk of QUK membership, maybe?

  • JL: Oooh that's an interesting one. You heard it here first, folks.

  • AH: Of course, that one depends heavily on what Bluehawk's long-term strategic plan is.

  • JL: My thinking is that the general rise in membership fees is probably justified, I'm frankly more irritated that they made the silly and classic PR slip-up of raising fees without first releasing their accounts for that year or plans for the next year in order to justify those raises. It's a rookie error. Well, we’ve reached out to QUK regarding the release of their accounts, and we received this statement from their Treasurer, Megan Snape:

    ‘We have ambitions to become a leading National Governing Body. QuidditchUK is currently ran by dedicated volunteers on a basic break-even budget. However, as events get larger the costs inevitably rise. Our priority is to keep these costs as low as possible whilst providing the best value for our members which we ensure via questionnaires and forums to measure the impact our fees have on grassroots participation and player recruitment. The finance department is currently overhauling its administrative procedures but we would be happy to provide a more detailed picture of how your money was spent 2014/2015 - just not with less than a days notice. In future, fully audited accounts will be a compulsory requirement for QuiddutchUK to meet legal standards, of which we'd expect a public copy to be published as best practice.’

    Moving on from the financial issues a little, let’s look at how some other affected teams are reacting to the news. We have this statement from Emily Hayes, Captain of the Oxford Quidlings:
  • 'Having looked over the new QUK Membership Policy I am excited for the upcoming season. I am really pleased by the changes to the transfer system between teams in the same club. The ease of transfer is going to make movement between the Chimeras and Quidlings, in either direction, a much simpler process. It will allow us the freedom to carry out team transfers on a more regular basis and ensure our players are on the team that is best suited to their needs and skill.

  • However, I am concerned about the 21 player limit. By our nature, the Quidlings have a large squad of both primary and secondary players who are not necessarily able to attend every event and our squad list for each tournament has so far been dictated by availability and interest. I think that being confined to only 21 players being eligible to play for the team will provide us with challenges.'

  • This provides us with a nice introduction to discuss this point - what do you think of teams having a maximum of twenty-one players being members? Clubs can have more than 21 members, so you could get a club member who is not on any team within that club.

  • ST: It will cause problems particularly for big tournaments like BQC or EQC where teams will be looking to have full rosters.

  • JL: I suppose it depends on how easily captains can swap out members of the teams with floating members of the club.

  • ST: I think it's wrong anyway. Your first allegiance is to your team, then your club. Though everyone is part of DUQC/OUQC/SQC, you're tied to your team and you're not a 'floating club member' even if you're not part of the twenty-one.

  • JL: See, I'd disagree there. Your first allegiance should always be to your club. It's why SQC (from an external perspective, at least) have a strong front to present to opponents, things like pre-match chants as one team performed by the whole club. I'd say that a multi-team club that has a focus on the individual teams rather than the wider club identity has structural issues, and needs to get that balance corrected.

  • ST: I see your point. I have now changed my mind.

  • JL: I know. I’m brilliant. Something that's really gone under the radar is the new ability for merc teams to become 'official', allowing for QUK official tournaments between such teams (such as the Quercs, Dercs, and so on). What do you make of that, analysts?

  • AP: Have they dropped the requirement them for teams to have a minimum of 7 primary players for a team? That was what I believe prevented QUK official merc teams in the past.

  • JL: No, I don't believe so, they've just created a new class of membership for those teams I think.

  • FP: It would be cool to be able to list the Quercs as my secondary team on QUK, but I don't see the benefit of the Quercs becoming QUK official. All the players have primary clubs who they would play for at QUK official tournaments and all the tournaments the Quercs enter currently are non-QUK so it would be a pointless expense. It would only be worth it if QUK had an international tournament or if you could enter the Quercs in merc tournaments such as Christmas Cup.

  • JL: I think the plan is to encourage tournaments featuring specifically those teams (Quercs, Dercs, Average Joes, any others that pop up), and then those tournaments can be QUK official. But they'd still be very distinct from 'club' teams (as shown by the much lower registration cost).

  • FP: I don't think that would take off to be honest. The UK season is packed enough with tournaments as it is and the idea of another UK tournament wouldn't be as appealing as Barcelona Moustaches Time, Tournoi de la Violette, or Apulia Summer Time which all have an international element to them. The merc teams (Quercs, Dercs, Monsters Quidditch Club, and so on) could easily have an unofficial tournament if they wanted to, so why would they benefit from being QUK official?

  • JL: A fair point. Although this does allow them to have the QUK logo on their branding.

  • FP: But is that worth paying registration for? I admit, it would be cool to have it but that's hardly a logical argument.

  • Andy Marmer: It could potentially lead to some sort of organized fantasy tournament which could be really cool. I see this having logistical hurdles as well but there's no reason you couldn't have a bunch of secondary teams with which players are affiliated. Almost an MLQ-like league. During holiday players go back to their second club and there's a tournament or two. Actually sounds like a fun idea to me

    JL: It would certainly add some permanence to the saturation of draft fantasy tournaments we have at the moment and that looks set to grow even more as clubs want to try their hand at hosting mercenary events. I’m going to call a halt to this now, before we run into the 2016/17 season, but thank you everyone for taking part!

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