Thursday, September 17, 2015

A New Challenge for UK Quidditch

by David Goswell

During the 2014-2015 season, competitive quidditch in the UK was split into two distinct parts: independent events organised by clubs (such as East Midlands and Highlander) and the QUK organised competitions of BQC and the Challenge Shield. QUK recently decided to dissolve its Challenge Shield, which now means there is an opportunity to replace it with a new form of season-long, organised competition that could further develop quidditch in the UK.

A possible successor to the Challenge Shield could be a QUK-organised seasonal league. A seasonal league would develop higher level play as a result of fiercer competition, the establishment of a more representative ranking system, and would further legitimise the sport in the eyes of the general public. On top of this, it could easily run alongside QUK’s current season with only a few more fixtures.

How it could work:
This league’s model could resemble a standard league where all the involved teams play each other over the course of the season. As a proposed scoring system, teams could earn three points for a win and one point for a loss. The team with the most points at the end of the season would win the league. Having a win:loss point ratio of 3:1 appropriately weights winning whilst also encouraging teams to play as many games as they can as it also offers the opportunity to make up for losses.

A seasonal league would develop fiercer competition | Photo credit: London Unspeakables
The main challenge for a league like this would be facilitating all the matches that need to be played, due to the amount of time and travel it would take to make them all happen. An obvious strategy would be to divide the league into geographical regions so as to reduce the travel costs of participating teams. This division would probably be a north/south split along a similar line to that which QUK has used to divide the UK for its Northern and Southern regional tournaments for this coming season.

Even with this division, it would probably be necessary to further reduce the amount teams have to travel so as to make this league feasible on top of the current seasonal fixtures. This could be achieved by making every QUK official game played between teams in the league count towards league rankings. This would mean that games between league teams at major tournaments such as Northern or Southern, or even at independent events like Highlander, would also be league games.

The benefits of organising the league like this are numerous. By having existing events in the season contribute to league play, it saves teams the cost in both money and travel time. On top of this, it will make pool play at tournaments more competitive when there are matchups between league teams, as the result of the match would have significance beyond the tournament. Two additional bonuses of having QUK official games contributing to the league are that QuidditchUK’s policy of collecting all scores and statistics from QUK official games would apply here; and a high standard of officiating would be guaranteed.

The major benefit of integrating the league into the regular QuidditchUK season is that it makes it easier to pull off. At the end of last season, there were 26 QUK official teams. With the number of new teams that appear to be joining the ranks for this coming season, it is not unlikely that 30 or more teams might compete in the UK. Even if only 10 teams each in the north and south signed up to their respective leagues, teams would have to schedule and travel to nine games on top of the events they are already planning on or hoping to attend.

Organising this league as an extra layer of competition above the existing events will still involve some extra fixtures, as currently there are few teams that manage to play nine others across the season. However with the growth of small four-team tournaments, such as the L Tournament, Kuffdon, and Nightmarish that we saw this season, adding a few extra fixtures is unlikely to be a problem - especially when you consider that at small tournaments like these, teams would get the opportunity to play three of their league games. Plus, with a league structure in place, clubs might be more keen to organise small tournaments, so that they have the opportunity to play more of their competitors in the league on their home turf.

A league structure would encourage teams to host small tournaments | Photo credit: London Unspeakables
Obviously a league like this would not form by itself. Fortunately, to create and run something along this model or something similar should not be too much effort to organise, or require too many additional volunteers. The main body of work for the coordinator of the league would be to sign up teams and then track their results in QUK official games. As QUK official matches already have scores and statistics submitted to QUK, the coordinator of the league should have access to the data required. They would just have to add the points for winning or losing to the respective teams, then appropriately rank the teams. The coordinator could also help facilitate the small scale tournaments that would bring together multiple league teams for fixtures, as well as general league-related help and troubleshooting.

If this league succeeded in its execution and establishment, it is highly likely more teams would sign up to the league in successive years to be a part of the added competition. Even if only 10 teams, as suggested earlier, signed up to each regional league, it would rapidly become near-impossible to play all eligible teams in the relevant league as more teams joined. The solution for this would be simple. Upon reaching a suitable number of signups, the regional leagues could be further subdivided into competitive tiers - i.e., upper and lower leagues within the regions. A system like this would match teams with teams closer to their level of play. This should further develop their quality of play and the competitiveness of the sport within the tiers of the league. Should more teams sign up in future years, they could be accommodated by repeating this process and simply splitting each regional league into more tiers.

An additional development to fuel the competitiveness of the tiers would be to introduce a tournament at the end of the season to decide the position of teams on the edges of tiers. The bottom two teams from the upper tier and the top two teams from the lower tier would be invited to a four-team tournament, where the top two teams earn spots in the upper tier league for the following season. If the level of play between the tiers was not too disparate, then the decider tournament would be expanded to have eight teams: the bottom four of the upper and the top four of the lower would compete for four spots in the upper tier.

This proposal allows ample room and support for growth | Photo credit: London Unspeakables

In a similar vein, at the end of the season, the top four teams of the highest regional tier leagues could be invited to a tournament where they would play each other. On one hand, this would be another event that would require organising, and it would mean additional time for teams to schedule; however, it would be an exciting opportunity to see the best competitive quidditch the UK could offer. Plus, a tournament of this high competitive nature could possibly help develop the spectator element of the sport in the UK.

To conclude:
A league like this presents a great opportunity to develop competitive quidditch in the UK. The UK is uniquely suited to hosting such a league due to the large number of teams it has in a comparatively small area. Considering this fact, the wealth of benefits that a league like this could bring, and the relative ease with which it could be achieved, it would be a terrible shame if the UK didn't rise to the challenge.

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