Quadball: The Sport Inspired by Harry Potter’s Quidditch – How to Play & Why the Name Change?

Though the Harry Potter series didn’t become a hit the moment that it was first published, it is fair to say that it grew to become a global and cultural phenomenon. The books are considered to be cornerstones of modern literature, whilst the films made stars out of the likes of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint household names. The Harry Potter franchise is believe to be worth around $25 billion, with spin-offs including a play, the Fantastic Beasts films and numerous exhibitions. There is also a sport that came from the Harry Potter world but is no longer called by its original name.

What Is Quadball?

International Quadball Association (IQA) logoIn its simplest terms, Quadball is a sport that is based on the game of Quidditch from the Harry Potter books and films. The contact sport is a mixed gender one that is played across the world, growing in both scope and popularity since the inaugural match was played in 2005. It is played in more than 40 countries and sees thousands of people taking part every week. The governing body for Quadball is the International Quadball Association, working with members to facilitate competitions and develop the sport by ensuring the rules are always up-to-date in order to make it accessible to a worldwide audience.

The entire ethos of the IQA and those who created Quadball as a sport is that it is inclusive. With Quidditch having been played by wizards and witches, why on earth shouldn’t everyone be allowed to play it who wants to? As a result, the governing body prides itself in being a welcoming sport that is inclusive for all, especially encouraging those from the LGBTQ+ community to join. It is a sport for everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age or ability. It is considered to be the world’s only mixed-gender contact sport and it is played across the ability levels, from the grassroots through to international level, encouraging excellence.

A Brief History of the Sport

The sport, as with everything else that features in the Harry Potter books that didn’t exist before, was created by J.K. Rowling when she realised that her world needed a sport for people to congregate around. The name came from filling several pages of a notebook with words beginning with ‘Q’, rather than having any specific etymological root. The game that would become Quadball was created in Middlebury in the state of Vermont in the United States of America in 2005. The idea of making this fictional sport a real one was the idea of Xander Manshel and Alex Benepe, with the latter becoming the first Commissioner.

It grew relatively quickly, with the first Quidditch World Cup taking place in 2007. It became a yearly thing until 2014, being rebranded as the US Quidditch Cup in 2016, whilst the IQA World Cup is a separate tournament. It grew through the various colleges and universities in the United States, particularly in the East and West Coast, with UCLA becoming the first major university to have a permanent Quidditch pitch put in place after a donation from the actor Matthew Perry. In the years that followed, the sport moved out of the United States and is now played all over the world, with governing bodies including the likes of the Australian Quadball Association.

How to Play

Quadball is played by two teams, with up to 21 players in each team. Seven players are fielded at any one time and the teams are made up of a ‘keeper, three chasers, two beaters and a seeker. Players rotate through games, seeing the substitutes used on a constant basis. A match starts with the quaffle and bludgeons lined up in the middle of the pitch, with the two teams lining up at the far edges. Once the referee has checked that both teams are ready, the match begins with a shout of ‘brooms up!’, at which point the two teams race to get the balls that are in the middle of the pitch.

The seekers and the flag runner don’t get involved until after 20 minutes of play, with the play continuing until the flag is caught. Chasers and the ‘keeper pass the quaffle between themselves, attempting to score through one of three hoops that are positioned at the opponent’s end of the pitch. It is the job of the opposing ‘keeper and chasers to protect their hoops by intercepting passes and tacking. If a goal is scored then it is worth ten points. The beaters, meanwhile, throw the bludgers and if a player is struck by a bludger that the opposing beater has thrown then they have to drop any ball they’re carrying.

As well as dropping any balls they’re carrying, the player also has to dismount their broom and run to the hoops at their team’s end of the pitch before they’re allowed to rejoin play. The seeker is trying to catch a flag, which is a tail that is attached the back of a flag runner. Flag runners are impartial officials who dress in yellow and use evasion and physicality to prevent the seekers from catching their flag. A flag is worth 30 points when caught and play ends if the team with the highest score at the time catches the flag. If it is the lowest scoring team that catches it then they can choose to play on to set a score that is 30 points more than the highest scoring team.

Why Isn’t it Called Quidditch?

JK Rowling
JK Rowling (Daniel Ogren, Flickr)

The most obvious question to ask about Quadball, given the fact that it is based on the sport of Quidditch from the Harry Potter series, is why it is named Quadball rather than Quidditch. The answer comes in the form of the aforementioned inclusivity of the sport overall, which welcomes people from all demographics. J. K. Rowling, the creator of Harry Potter, has repeatedly positioned herself as anti-trans, which flies in the face of the fact that Quadball looks to be as inclusive as possible to all, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. T in that acronym is, of course, for ‘Transgender’.

With Rowling repeatedly taking to social media to attack trans people, it was rightly felt that associating itself with her was not a good image for the sport. Rather than walking away from it altogether, a decision was taken to re-brand the sport as Quadball, which is also a reference to the number of actual balls that are used in the game. The decision was first take by US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch to re-brand as US Quadball and Major League Quadball, with the International Quidditch Association soon following suit and changing its name to become the International Quadball Association in line with the others.

There is also the fact that ‘Quidditch’ is a Trademark that is owned by Warners Bros., whereas the Trademark for Quadball is owned by the USQ and MLQ in the United States of America. The Co-Commissioner of the MLQ said, “Bringing full creative control of the name of our sport to the vibrant community of players and fans that has grown and sustained it will allow our organizations to take the next step. We are now able to pursue the kinds of opportunities that our community has dreamed about for years.” The move away from J. K. Rowling and her transphobia allowed the sport to have more control over itself.

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