by Jack Lennard
This is the first in a new series from the Quidditch Post, in which we review tournaments as events, disregarding gameplay factors, considering and reporting on the level of organisation, the measures taken to ensure the success of the tournament, and the innovations that made the tournament more or less successful.
It is an oft-spoken but rarely appreciated rule of thumb that you cannot truly understand the undertaking of organising a quidditch tournament until you have organised one yourself. Until you have experienced the slow build of hype for the event, the desperate planning for profit margins, and the frantic scrabbling to recover when some unexpected disaster hits, you will only ever have a limited understanding of the creation of such events.
It is with this rule in mind that we are launching this new series of reviews. Whilst we will continue to provide high-quality analysis of gameplay, we want to bring the experiences of major tournaments around the world to our readers, allowing our audience to become better informed about what does and does not work when planning a successful tournament.
When considering where the big international tournaments might be headed in 2016, speculators often mention Barcelona. A rare hub of quidditch activity on the Iberian Peninsula, Barcelona hosted the first Barcelona Moustaches Time (BMT) tournament in the summer of 2014, and although the organisation of this event left much to be desired, it was seen as a successful, if small, tournament. The escalation in international play in Europe and the emergence of more standing mercenary teams led to the decision to host a second larger BMT tournament in 2015, BMT2.
When addressing the assembled players at the hostel on Friday Sept. 4, the night before the tournament, Marc Garganté promised an event larger than last year's that would improve upon problems from the first BMT such as pitch type and size, as well as general organisation. This promise would prove partly true.
Building on last year’s tournament, BMT2 attracted a wealth of teams from around the continent. It would be difficult to find a similar tournament open to teams of such variety anywhere in Europe. Two of the three main UK mercenary teams were represented, and both played well, with the Mighty and Amazing Quercs defeating the Dercs in a close, cautious, and slow final. New recruits Tom Norton and Franky Kempster were instrumental in the victory, though it must be said that almost every player on each team excelled. With the UK announcing a standing Team UK, tournaments such as this one may be a vital chance for players aiming to play at the highest level to prove their abilities. Perhaps one of the biggest talking points of the tournament were the Paris Titans, who sent a largely untested squad. Although the team played admirably and was clearly focussed on development rather than glory, there were whispers that the Titans needlessly sacrificed their aura of invincibility in Barcelona. Regarding the host team, it was easy to see how far the Barcelona Eagles have come since EQC 2015 in April. Moving beyond the physicality of just a few members of the squad, the Eagles displayed an impressive amount of depth, utilising fierce beating and clever passing to seize third place. Whilst the other Iberian teams (the Nightmare Grims, the Sparcs, and Imperius Zaragoza) did not play at the level of the Eagles, they will be happy to have some exposure to the wider European game, and it will be exciting to see the rest of the Iberian Peninsula grow to reach the level of quidditch played in other parts of the continent. The ODTÜ Hippogriffs did not disappoint with a display that will leave many excited to see their performance at EQC 2016 and World Cup 2016. The same could be said of the Norwegian Ridgebacks, and these two teams help to demonstrate that quidditch has absolutely exploded outside the UK and France this last year. The Vienna Vanguards have similarly improved since the spring and will be hoping to help send an Austrian squad to World Cup 2016. Meanwhile, the Bad Sexy Glitters had an encouraging tournament, coming fourth, and this result may push them towards being a standing mercenary team in France, a phenomenon that has proved popular in the UK and may soon spread further. This success was not matched by the mercenary Pink Fluffy Unicorns from Belgium nor by the Average Joes (a third UK mercenary team), although these teams will hopefully persist in attending such events to continue to give rising stars more international experience and exposure. Toulouse Quidditch, one of the few club teams in attendance, will be disappointed not to have made the upper bracket, though they will surely be more focussed on the organisation of the event itself as they prepare for the Chocolatine Cup in the summer of 2016, Tournoi International de Violette 2 in January 2017, and a potential EQC 2016 bid.
The pitches were potentially the triumph of the tournament. Avoiding the allure of astroturf, which can be easily available and not as subject to extreme weather conditions as a natural alternative, the tournament took place on natural grass made soft by wet weather earlier that week, whilst the ability of the venue to have four full-size and fully marked out pitches did justice to the 14 teams that bolstered the size of this year’s tournament. The amenities were also impressive, with a large, shaded seating bank giving ample room to cool down and socialise, whilst the showers and changing rooms on-site added to the professionalism. It was undoubtedly a very impressive facility, and the organisers must be applauded for securing it.
Perhaps more impressive was the comfort of the hostel secured for the tournament by the organisers. It was located a mere 15 minute walk from the pitches and situated on the doorstep of the iconic Camp Nou, the stadium of Barcelona FC. The rooms were spacious, clean, and relatively cheap, and the ease with which the bookings were arranged, through the main tournament registration forms, made for a more stress-free accommodation hunt than at other tournaments. Breakfast was included, and was delicious, as was the also included Saturday night dinner–the hostel was based in university accommodation, so the facilities on offer were of a high standard.
However, it was the relationship between the organisers and the facilities secured for the tournament that proved to be one of the two major failings of the tournament. The social gathering on Friday night was based in the hostel where a majority of the players were staying. The bar provided by the hostel was not well advertised or appointed, with only beer on sale. This led to a majority of people bringing in alcohol from outside the hostel, much to the annoyance of the hostel managers. As a result, the social on Saturday night was cancelled by the hostel managers, and only quick thinking from the tournament organisers allowed any social to take place at all. Alcohol was still not allowed, which was a major disappointment to many of the players in attendance, and the social overall was definitely the least impressive part of the weekend. On top of this failure, the providers of the paella lunch on Saturday, who were meant to prepare a barbecue lunch for people on Sunday, did not make enough money, largely due to a lack of options in the lunch, long queues (especially with the hectic schedule, which shall be touched upon shortly), and a nearby shop, all of which dissuaded people from the €5 lunch option. Instead of the promised barbecue, microwave meals of varying quality were provided, although it was impressive that microwaves and power were sourced so quickly. A better understanding of the relationships with suppliers that the organisers gained through these unfortunate moments will help them, and any tournament organiser reading this, avoid such disappointments in future.
The other major failing of the tournament was the use of the much-discussed Swiss format. Quite simply, it did not work. Whilst one of the major benefits of the format is the increase in high profile match-ups, this would only really be relevant for a tournament with a large number of spectators, something BMT2 did not have. Although the venue had loudspeakers, the vagueness of matchups led to scheduling problems, as teams did not know who or where they were playing next. On top of this, the heat and small size of teams led to some forfeited matches, further complicating the Swiss system that was already hampered with only 14 teams in two mismatched groups. Rumours of the Vienna Vanguards being asked to choose their opponents from a remaining two, after being told that some teams wanted to play each other, led to the system being further discredited. We spoke to Lukas Linser, captain of the Vienna Vanguards.
“The organisers came to us offering a free win against the Average Joes, which would send the Bad Sexy Glitters to play against the ODTÜ Hippogriffs and place us higher in our bracket,” Linser said. “We felt this put us in a very awkward position, since at that point our team was pretty much physically exhausted, and we knew we could not beat the Bad Sexy Glitters. I think everyone was tempted by the offer but we knew we could never take it since it would have been massively unfair. It would have placed us above the Norwegian Ridgebacks, for example–and at that point the Bad Sexy Glitters had not been informed of the situation at all. When we asked the organisers to go and talk with them, the Bad Sexy Glitters obviously said they were not okay with these switches. In the end, the games continued as they were without any changes. [I believe everyone] thought the situation could have been handled better.”
Although not a fatal blow to the system, instances such as these will not be an encouraging sign to those hoping to adopt the system for their own tournaments further afield in Europe. However, it must be said that the organisers made a public statement after the tournament apologising for the issues with the tournament structure, and they must be commended for holding the first European event to experiment with it. Another tournament structure issue arose with upper bracket teams that lost their first match being placed in the lower bracket moving forward. Although this decision did address the issue of a mid-placed team that makes the lower bracket final getting more games than a top five team that makes the upper bracket quarters, it hardly seemed fair to pit teams that had conclusively finished in the bottom bracket against teams that were much more successful but had suffered a bad draw in the upper bracket, largely due to Swiss format failings.
The issues with Swiss style were coupled with the schedules for officials being released much later than many would have hoped, and even then missing detailed information on assistant referees. This proved to be a problem throughout the weekend, with very few qualified volunteers available and difficulty finding scorekeepers and timekeepers for each match. This problem extended to photographers, with a disappointing number of official photos of event matches being released so far compared to the larger tournaments from the summer, such as the League of Extraordinary Ghentlemen 2015 (LXG 2015), although the number of photos taken by attendees should make up for this. The first aid cover was decent, and the volunteers were incredibly professional when called upon, although their position between the two fields (and out of the line of sight of both) was not acceptable - all pitches should have professional medics within the line of sight of play, or at least have a qualified first responder.
On a positive note, the merchandise available was of a very high quality, potentially some of the best at any European tournament so far. The t-shirts were varied and interesting, the host team sold its own kits, and there were badges featuring every participating team’s logo on sale. These proved immensely popular, and should have really helped the organisers cover costs and fund the host team for the year ahead. The massages and physios provided were also an unexpected touch, and a huge success - many players went to enjoy a relaxing sports massage between matches, something I’ve never seen in a European tournament before.
Barcelona is, of course, a stunning location, and it’s worth noting that everyone in attendance seemed to enjoy themselves. The tournament, though stumbling over basics a couple of times, had an incredible atmosphere, and once again, the organisers must be praised for their dedication, hard work, and bravery in attempting many European firsts. Although the tournament may dissuade some people who were hoping for BMT2 to be a test-run for a Barcelona EQC 2016 or World Cup 2016 bid, the future looks bright for a third edition of BMT, and this tournament will hopefully have provided a wider boost to quidditch on the Iberian Peninsula.
Structure and officials: 4/10