Thursday, November 12, 2015

Three Ways Valentines Cup Changed UK Quidditch

by Abby Whiteley

In advance of the captains’ sign-ups for Valentines Cup III being released this evening, the Quidditch Post takes a look back at the impact that Valentines Cup, the biggest fantasy tournament in the world with its unique paired draft system, has had on the sport in the United Kingdom.

The Valentines Cup III logo | Photo credit: Ellie Aaen

1. Tournament professionalism
For players in the United Kingdom or Europe, Valentines Cup is an instantly recognisable brand. The first Valentines Cup, held on February 23-24, 2014, set a new standard in tournament organisation and branding, and its effects are still visible in the UK today. It was the first mercenary tournament to create and sell merchandise especially for the event and, with nine teams, it was over double the size of any previously attempted mercenary tournament. Valentines Cup II was a masterclass in pitch and referee organisation, using five pitches–more than British Quidditch Cup (BQC) 2014-15 of the same year, which had four–with full complements of referees and demonstrating the closest thing to an on-time schedule that the UK would see until the 2015 European Quidditch Cup (EQC). Not only was its second iteration in February 2015 the largest quidditch fantasy tournament ever held, with 20 teams and 340 players, but it was the largest tournament that Europe had ever up until that time; since then, it has been overtaken in size only by EQC. Problems which have plagued fantasy tournaments before and since, mostly those pertaining to inadequate facilities and unworkable schedules, are non-issues with Valentines Cup; the only significant hiccough that Valentines organisation has encountered since its inception was the shirt company failing to deliver the correct order in advance of Valentines Cup II, a hugely inconvenient incident which nevertheless failed to seriously affect the running of the event itself on the day. Valentines truly sets the bar of quality in the UK not only for other mercenary tournaments but for club tournaments during the regular season, and it is doubtless that fear of unfavourable comparisons with Valentines Cup spurs other tournament committees to perform to a higher standard.

2. First aid

Although this could be discussed in tandem with general professionalism, the impact of Valentines Cup on first aid provision in UK quidditch can be traced so clearly to a single incident that it warrants its own discussion. Prior to the first Valentines Cup, it was the norm in the UK for the first aid provision to be rudimentary, especially at mercenary events. This was also the case at the first Valentines, with first-aid personnel but no standing ambulance assigned to each pitch. Towards the end of the tournament, several serious injuries happened nearly simultaneously on adjacent pitches; an ambulance had to be called from a nearby hospital, which significantly stalled the provision of aid, and the final matches had to be cancelled. As a result of this incident, it is now unimaginable that a tournament of any significant size should not have first aid provision on-site, and this is often where the bulk of the tournament budget goes. This occurrence is not a happy memory, but it is undoubtedly one which shaped the future of first aid provision in the UK.

3. Internationalism

With players from Belgium and France attending the first Valentines, and the latest iteration seeing visitors from Norway, Catalonia, and Poland on top of those regions, Valentines Cup is the only opportunity that many people get to interact with players from other countries, and it offers genuine integration as well. Its international reach is unmatched in fantasy tournaments, and it only seems to be increasing year on year. This is hugely facilitated by the tournament format; players have to sign up in pairs, and it is becoming increasingly common to see international matchups in the couples as well as mainland European players signing up as captains. Valentines Cup offers an opportunity to see the big names from each country play, and allows people first-hand experience of the increasingly internationality of quidditch. The tournament helps to create and sustain bonds within the wider community, not to mention the fact that people are willing to travel so far for a mercenary tournament does great credit to the faith that players have in the organisers.

Whether Valentines Cup III will continue this run of success is yet to be determined, but it is clear that Valentines Cup has become a staple of the European quidditch calendar, and that it has been instrumental in shaping UK and European quidditch thus far. Captains' sign-ups for Valentines Cup III open at 18:00 GMT tonight.

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