The Quidditch Post (QP) and QuidditchUK (QUK) collaborated on Aug. 17 to hold the first ever Open Office Hours, in which people could submit questions to Melanie Piper (president), Matthew Guenzel (vice-president), and Megan Snape (treasurer) of QUK. It was hosted by QP, who provided commentary and follow-up questions as needed. All responses given are paraphrased by QP U.K. Editor Abby Whiteley, and have been approved by QP COO Jack Lennard and by the QUK representatives. We hope that you find this a useful and accurate summary.
The QUK logo.
How are seedings going to be done for the regional championships and British Quidditch Cup (BQC) this season?
There will be a limited seeding system to ensure at both regional championships and BQC that all the top teams do not end up in the same groups, but nothing hugely extensive. This will be looked into more for next season.
QP Commentary: The more elaborate the seeding system, the better that teams can be matched up appropriately, and this is becomes easier the more data we have to draw from. It would be preferable to have a more extensive seeding system to facilitate the most appropriate matchups.
Why is Northern Cup so early on in term time? It puts newer teams and teams that are relying on fresher (first year students) intake at a huge disadvantage. Most freshers will only have a maximum of four training sessions before they're expected to compete. It places unnecessary pressure on teams, forcing them to quickfire teach their freshers rather than being able to spend the first few weeks of term developing their freshers and consolidating the current team.
First of all, the weather will only be getting increasingly worse during the autumn term, and the earlier we hold regional championships, the more likely it is that the weather will hold. On this basis, it makes sense that Southern Cup, which is marginally more likely to have acceptable weather, be the later of the two tournaments. The regional championships have to occur some time apart in order to give volunteers a chance to attend both; there are limited volunteering resources in the country and keeping the events slightly apart chronologically will give people the chance to be involved with both tournaments.
Is there any scope for alternate tournament formats [such as the Swiss Style] being used?
We are happy to consider alternate tournament formats, although Swiss would be unlikely at BQC as it had limited success in the USA. We are open to alternative ideas, but have no concrete plans.
What are the contingency plans for Southern Cup if the weather is poor?
The tournament committees for Northern and Southern Cup will be meeting soon to decide upon these contingency plans; for BQC we had cancellation insurance, and we will be looking into similar policies for tournaments this year.
QP Commentary: For Southern Cup specifically, Horspath Athletics and Sports Ground
is a speciality sports ground which is designed for outdoor sports, and should stand up to bad weather better than a normal park. It also has the capacity to add extra pitches if needed.
Will we know how many spaces for EQC the U.K. gets before Northern/Southern Cup? Given that placings are going to be used for EQC entry, this is an important piece of information.
Quidditch Europe (QE) has been very focused on European Games (EG) lately, but these things will be sorted out soon. We will let you know as soon as we do!
Can you please explain the decision to wait until 2018 to look into the benefits of Sports England and British Universities and College Sports (BUCS). What are the main obstacles that need to be overcome before making this a reality?
Sports England requires detailed financial records for at least two years; QUK is in the process of compiling these. Involvement with BUCS would mean having to use its established league systems, which would only allow university teams to be involved. The situation of community teams in the future will determine whether this is an appropriate move for the sport in the U.K., as well as whether the community thinks it would be something that would serve it well.
How does QUK feel about the possibility of BQC being run and funded by an external group, as EG was in Sarteano, to great effect? For example, the Rotary Club of Doncaster St. George's (via Nicholas Oughtibridge) has mentioned this is something it could be able to do with ease in order to form a tournament bigger and better than EG, with minimal effort on QUK’s part. That's a huge amount of manpower, experience, and funding that QUK does not yet have access to.
We are happy to work with external organisations; it is absolutely something we are interested in. With regards to BQC specifically, we will be changing to a system more similar to USQ’s, where external organisations and cities can make bids. We definitely do want to work with external partners, so do come to us if you have any ideas about making this happen.
Follow-up question: Instead of people coming to QUK with ideas for external companies, why doesn't QUK approach organisations like rotary clubs instead?
We cannot offer the volunteer hours to send out lots of speculative proposals to such companies. It would take a huge amount of time to send out such proposals to every potentially interested organisations and that would not be the best use of our volunteers’ time. We have certain companies that we are reaching out to, but we cannot commit to contacting the tens of thousands of organisations in the U.K. If people contact us first, we know that they are already interested and invested. Also, because we are such a unique sport, the people who are already involved are those who know it best and are therefore best-placed to understand a tournament’s needs.
What exactly is QUK going to spend the membership money on, bearing in mind clubs are already personally responsible for the purchase of their own equipment and paying for tournament participation? It’s good to mention here also that on top of this, players also still generally volunteer for and plan/execute most tournaments. For example: what does the "membership programme" involve, and what will the assigned £2250 be spent on?
The reason we ask for membership fees is to get our tournaments up and running. Northern and Southern Cup are very soon, and we need to have some cash available to book things such as first aid provision in advance. Those are our short-term objectives. We also use it to invest in things which ensure the longevity of QUK; we have used membership fees to keep the website up and running, and we have also invested in some financial software which enables us to set up proper procedures. We have to pay affiliations to the IQA and to Europe, which membership fees help with. We are also interested in getting affiliated with different organisations which will be able to provide us with consultations and advice. Our original projected membership fees were considered too high, so we ran some figures and found that the cost of doing membership cards for every member of QuidditchUK would be about £2,000, which would cover the first aid for both regional tournaments. Therefore we decided to get rid of membership cards and focus on real benefits. All the funds either go into the tournaments or into investing in the future.
Follow-up question: In the strategic plan, it was mentioned that the raised team fee included the entry fee to a regional championship tournament. Could you discuss how the team fee for Northern and Southern Cup, as well as the player fee for those tournaments, will be spent? Where do the individual fees go exactly? Also, what happened to the profits from last year’s money collection?
We broke even last year. This year, tournaments are getting bigger so we need more money for more ambulances, more pitches, and potentially tent hire too. We cannot budget for events like this on an event-by-event basis; Northern and Southern Cup will be run on a small profit which will then go into BQC. Fees do not correspond exactly to each tournament because it’s impossible to assess it in that way; all tournaments cost varying amounts.
Follow-up question: Last year everyone paid for membership cards, but only one batch was released and many people still do not have them. What happened to them?
This was a big mistake from last season. We regret it; however our new software, as well as collaboration with the Merchandise department, should ensure that this does not happen again. At the start of the year, our PayPal account was locked, which coincided with our treasurer stepping down. We could not access a lot of our funds for most of the season, which meant that executive management team (EMT) members had to tap into their personal funds to pay for these membership cards. We realised we should not be putting EMT members in this position, so we stopped after the first run. It will not happen again, as we now have a proper HSBC Holdings bank account, which is accessible by the president, vice-president, and treasurer.
Is there going to be a tightened implementation of rules regarding alcohol influence on pitch?
We will be enforcing our Intoxicating Substances Policy strictly this season, with a zero tolerance attitude towards alcohol at events.
If the IQA releases its rulebook before the start of the season, will QUK change to the IQA rulebook over the USQ rulebook?
No. QUK supports the production of an IQA rulebook, but we will stay with our decision to use the USQ rulebook in the 2015-16 season.
Why did gameplay decide that adding a rule about tackling and changing the mouthguard rule were not too much of a departure from the USQ rulebook but that changing the brooms rule was? The split seems arbitrary.
The overall intention was to change as little as possible. We changed mouthguards because it is a barrier to participation; this additional equipment which people cannot necessarily afford is an additional barrier to people getting involved.
After the issues and safety concerns surrounding the brooms last year at BQC, will brooms at BQC, Northern Cup, and Southern Cup this year be a forced standard broom provided by QUK, or will teams be allowed to use their own brooms? If there is going to be a standard broom enforced, will we get to know the dimensions of it at the start of the season so we have time to get used to it?
There will be definitely be standardised broom (which has not yet been chosen). This is because it looks more professional, and it is easier for us to be able to make sure people are using appropriate equipment. We will be doing research to find out which brooms people prefer.
Follow-up question from QP: If your primary concern is aesthetic quality of brooms, what if a company such as BlueHawk started producing brooms which were aesthetically homogeneous but varied in girth or other parameters? If they all looked near-identical, would you consider those brooms as a tournament standard?
We would have to examine that as it came up. We do not want to make predictions based on what does not yet exist. If someone is setting up a company producing such a product, please get in touch.
Follow-up question: Why are aesthetics more important than players’ comfort and happiness?
They are both important. We don’t want anyone to feel as though they are having brooms that they hate forced upon them. We will do research to discover a consensus on which brooms are most commonly preferred. We do not want to sacrifice players’ happiness for the sake of the sport’s legitimacy; we hope that we can get them to tie together.
Follow-up question: The brooms issue has come up before, and people have made it quite clear that there is no consensus on which broom is most appropriate. It seems unreasonable to expect that this will change; how would you respond to that?
Well, the views we see on Facebook are not necessarily representative of the entire community. We know people have different tastes but most examples of brooms at tournaments we have seen are at the extreme ends of the spectrum of broom sizes, so we still hope that a compromise can be reached. We defend our position of having a single standardised broom.
Is QUK going to maintain a standing TeamUK to train and evolve throughout the year? / What is the plan for TeamUK for the coming year?
We are now reviewing the last TeamUK and will be reaching a decision on the basis of this feedback. Nothing has yet been ruled out including a standing TeamUK.
Follow-up question: Do you have a time frame for when decisions will be reached about TeamUK?
As soon as we receive all the information, we will be able to proceed. We hope to have all relevant information in our possession by the start of the upcoming season, which would give us the whole season to figure it out.
What is the likelihood of the creation and adoption of a formalised ranking system for teams?
Coming up with league systems like this is quite a lengthy and difficult process and has little reward if we are not using them for rankings, which we already decided we will not. It will not happen this season, but we are not ruling it out either.
Follow-up question from QP: What about having a QUK-endorsed algorithm like USQ has? That would not require any changes to the regular season as it would just use extant data.
If someone approached us with such an algorithm, we would discuss using it with them, so anyone with ideas is welcome to come forward. We make no promises at this point.
What are QUK's plans to help with new teams? Will the set of hoops owned by QUK be available to rent? Will QUK look at procuring Baden brand volleyballs and dodgeballs to sell to teams given that they are relatively hard to locate within the U.K.?
We have a lot of new things which will be announced in the coming week. The Hooch Initiative will be significantly expanded this season; it will have a points system to introduce a competitive element. There will be an equipment hire policy and equipment grants, and we will be making more resources available to people.
What is QUK doing to try and encourage volunteering?
We have noticed that people tend to join when they are excited about the sport, especially after big events and significant announcements. We hope that the Strategic Plan will help with that as people get excited about being able to see the direction that the sport is taking. We also have a new Human Resources department, headed up by Tamara Morriss. This department will be responsible for the creation of resources meant to encourage people to volunteer and make them aware of what perks are available to volunteers, such as our generous leave and expenses policies. We are also looking at making training programmes available to volunteers to help their careers after QuidditchUK by making them better employees.
We also put a lot of work into encouraging our current volunteers and making them feel as though they are part of a close-knit team. When managers are happy, they will pass that on to the volunteers in their department, and everyone will feel involved and valued.
Follow-up question: Does QUK not feel there is something it can do to look after its staff better and motivate them better, and what plans has it got to do this?
This is part of why we want to start paying our volunteers, as people knowing that their positions will become paid in the future will motivate them.
Follow-up question from QP: But that’s only the three of you [president, vice-president, and treasurer] who will get paid. There are no plans to pay other volunteers.
We have not committed to [paying other employees] in the strategic plan, but that is something we will consider.
Follow-up question from QP: And have you made these plans available to your staff?
We haven’t researched it yet; it depends on how our financial projections unfold. We have planned financially to be able to support the president and vice-president, but their wages [would] never go up while other volunteers aren’t being paid. We are definitely looking into getting their expenses paid. We will not see an increase in wages for the EMT while other volunteers are not receiving financial benefits.
QP commentary: There is also an onus on the community to make volunteering feel like a worthwhile endeavour. There is a culture of openly criticising people in public forums because things don’t go exactly to plan, and that is not fruitful because people’s first impressions of volunteering are often that of being publicly criticised. An open discourse of critique is important, but the community has a responsibility to ensure it remains respectful.
Is it fair to say that QUK volunteers suffer from burnout? There seems to be a high turnover rate.
It is fair to say that a lot of QUK volunteers stay with the organisation for around a year, and this is often because of burnout. People at the higher levels of volunteering are putting in about 20 hours a week without pay, which is just not sustainable for many people.This means that volunteers do have a relatively high turnover rate, although we hope that this will reduce as the top positions start to be paid.
QP commentary: It is worth noting that volunteer positions, especially the Executive Management Team positions which require a lot of time, appeal to people at a particular point in their careers. First-year university students are not likely to take these positions and neither are final-year students. This means that most people only have a year in their second year when they would be eligible for these positions. Recent graduates are also generally only around quidditch for about a year.
Where does the QUK Facebook group stand in relation to QUK? Is the group an official means of communication? Are members held accountable for what is said there? Is the group moderated by QUK? Are the “personal” tags really necessary? Wouldn't it just be easier for people to know something said on a personal page is a personal opinion and not representative of QUK?
Currently all members of the EMT are administrators of the group, and part of the Human Resources department’s current responsibilities is writing some forum guidelines for the group. The administrators will then just be Tamara Morriss and Fiona Howat, who is our head of social media, and the rest of the positions will be available to the community.
It is not an official means of communication. We share our announcements there because it is the most efficient way to show the community what is happening, but it is not official per se.
The personal tags are not that useful, because whether you say something as a personal opinion or an official statement, you are still the same person, and whatever you say will still reflect on you. Jokes will still be made, and members of QUK still maintain biases towards certain teams; that’s fine, but you can’t separate people’s official personas from their personal statements.
Follow-up question from QP: Will there be an official party line on using personal tags then?
Yes, there will be an official party line which will be released with the forum guidelines.
QP commentary: Just as a bit of history – the QUK Facebook group is how quidditch was initiated in the U.K., and it used to be the official centre for all QUK activity. This is no longer the case as it has relocated to its own website here.
Do you feel that the sensitivity and closeness of the community can stifle discussion and lead to people being afraid to criticise or contribute to QUK? For instance, I've spoken to people who were afraid to ask questions for the office hours in case their wording was too harsh, not wanting to risk upsetting people when the questions could lead to real progress.
This is partly symptomatic of being part of such a close-knit community. We want to encourage people to come to us; we’d rather have a dialogue with people than have people keep it to themselves. This was part of the reason for the focus groups. People want to have a say in the direction that the organisation is moving.
QP commentary: There is definitely a hyper-sensitivity and awareness in the community because it is so small, and controversies that happen can be remembered for months to come. If people feel that their opinion is genuinely valid and respectful of the people doing the volunteer work, then there is no reason that they should feel that there is a barrier to their expressing that.
How important do QUK feel it is that the community get a say in who represents it? Is QUK planning to make any changes to allow the community to have an influence on who runs QUK?
First of all, the EMT roles were never intended to be representative; they were intended to be leaders and managers of the organisation, not representatives of the community. We recognise that this is not sustainable, so we have created a board of trustees. They appoint the next president and regulate QUK’s activity. This will consist at least partly of elected members of the community which will allow the community to have practical involvement in the running of the organisation.
Why was QP chosen to host QUK open hours? Surely it should be an independent QUK production.
Transparency and communication is really important to us, and QP was able to offer a platform which QUK does not have. QP had additional resources available; having the commentators’ analysis offers another perspective which is very helpful.
Why have EMT meeting minutes been uploaded so infrequently?
EMT meeting minutes will be released in the future. Over half of the EMT positions have changed in the last six months, including a change in secretary. Because we have been trying to get everyone up to date at the minute, making the minutes public has slipped under the radar, but this will be changing very soon. Apologies for the oversight, but they will be returning.
How is QUK working to ensure that the IQA improves? Right now it seems the IQA hardly meets, and when it does, not a lot is achieved. Additionally, from QP: What role are you playing in the development of QE?
We support the IQA and want it to succeed. However, we think it is very important to remember that it is a very new organisation with an enormous mission, and that needs to be taken into account. We encourage people to get involved with the IQA. In terms of what we are doing practically to make it work, QUK is a member of the International Congress and regularly contributes to it. We have a reputation for being a very proactive league, which we are proud of. Members of our EMT such as Matthew Guenzel also contribute to the IQA volunteering team, and we actively encourage this. In terms of QE, it is coming on in leaps and bounds; it is developing very quickly under Rebecca Alley’s direction, with EQC bidding about to open.
QP commentary: Obviously both the IQA and QE have their own struggles, with the IQA being a very new organisation and QE having to look after the interests of many disparate organisations. They are both finding their feet, but it is good to know that this participation is still ongoing and productive.
Are you planning on redesigning the website any time soon? It's not well set up and is difficult to navigate; a lot of the information is out of date. QP note: This is one of several similar questions, including a query about the recaptcha bug.
The technology department is currently understaffed and will be recruiting soon. A website is a large and complicated project to undergo, and we need to ensure we have the volunteers to complete it. We have recently hired a new website designer so it is being worked on, but it is not a priority in comparison with making sure regional championships go well. We apologise for any delays or inconveniences the website is currently causing.
Will QUK publish detailed bank account summaries to show what it has spent money on and why?
Due to last season’s complications, we were not able to release detailed financial information then, but we are happy to publish what we have. We expect it to be public in the future.