8th March 2015 – Woollaton Hall and Deer Park, Nottingham, Great Britain
08 MAR 2015 – Benjamin Morton of Keele Squirrels evades a challenge during the bronze medal match against Loughborough Longshots.
Quidditch is probably the only setting where a snitch is favourably viewed and sought after and in Nottingham the snitch runners were kept busy during the British Quidditch Cup before Southampton Quidditch Club 1 were declared champions after a hard fought 120 – 90 extra time victory over current European Cup holders Radcliffe Chimeras.
Based on the game played in the Harry Potter books, but in contrast to the impression that may give, the muggle or non-magic version of quidditch is a physical sport akin to a cross between rugby, dodgeball, wrestling and tag. Each of the two teams has seven players on the pitch, at least two of which must be of a different gender to the others, and may have up to twenty one players in their squad so allowing for rolling substitutions throughout a game.
08 MAR 2015 – Radcliffe Chimeras’ Michael Holloway (top right) and Warwick Quidditch Club’s Christopher Noble wrestle for the quaffle during the two teams match.
Matches last until the snitch, the small ball with wings that Harry and his rival seekers pursued, is caught which can often be between twenty and fifty minutes though games can last over an hour. Whilst the seekers are attempting to catch the snitch which is worth 30 points, the chasers are attempting to score goals, each worth 10 points, with a slightly deflated volleyball whilst trying to avoid being tackled or hit by dodgeballs thrown by the beaters.
Popular in particular with students the sport has already spread across Europe, the Americas and Australia and teams have now been formed in Uganda, South Africa, China and Vietnam since its inception in Vermont in the USA in 2005. Quidditch UK alone has over 600 registered members playing for 30 recognised teams and it is estimated that there are in excess of 10,000 competitors playing for more than 450 teams worldwide.
Though the management of quidditch is trying to get away from the image portrayed in the Harry Potter books and establish it as a sport in it’s own right it still currently retains many nods to the books about the bespectacled schoolboy wizard. Several team names at the British Quidditch Cup included terms used by J.K. Rowling and some of the competitors carried character names on the back of their shirts in the place of their own. However Amy Maidment, the President of QuidditchUK, now believes around 60% of its members play for the sport and that it has become its own entity.
08 MAR 2015 – Players from Loughborough Longshots and Radcliffe Chimeras battle for a place in the 2015 British Quidditch Cup final at Woollaton Hall and Deer Park in Nottingham, Great Britain.
With the growth of the game has come the formation of the International Quidditch Association which has adopted the eighth edition of US Quidditch’s rulebook. Running to 170 pages it is now the official international standard for use at world and continental championships and details all aspects of the game from dimensions of the pitch and brooms to the behaviour of the competitors and various officials.
Clearly the game’s inventors and rule-makers had some problems as they adapted the game as described in the books. The human race’s failure to so far develop a flying broom resulted in the rule requiring players to hold a broomstick between their legs either with their hands or thighs as they play. To the outsider the use of the broom may look odd but to the players it provides a form of handicapping and requires them to learn how to catch the ball with either hand and tackle one handed.
Obviously the rule-makers also needed to address how to replicate the snitch. The solution was to place a tennis ball in a black sock and either tuck that into or velcro it to the back of the shorts of a runner dressed in yellow or gold who is released onto the pitch after 17 minutes, a minute before the seekers. To add to the intricacies of the game the seekers of a team losing by more than 30 points will try to prevent the opposing seeker from catching the snitch so their team mates can try to close the gap until their retrieving the snitch will give them victory.
08 MAR 2015 – Leicester Thestrals’ seeker Joseph Wilson succeeds in taking the snitch from the back of snitch runner Nicole Stone’s shorts during the match against Durhamstrang.
Whilst anybody can be tested for their ability to become a qualified snitch runner only those who demonstrate a suitable standard of strength, agility, pitch awareness, positioning knowledge, impartiality and, professionalism and conduct, and are a qualified snitch referee, can be officially certified for the role. The process involves an assessment of their abilities at a match by two examiners whose scoring determins not just whether the candidate has been successful but also whether they have attained gold, silver or bronze certification. To date, due to a change in the procedure, there is only one gold standard Quidditch UK snitch runner, Jordan Niblock a Sports Science student at Southampton Solent.
08 MAR 2015 – Snitch runner Jordan Niblock (right) attempts to evade the seekers from Keele Squirrels and Bristol Brizzlepuffs.
So what does he believe are the most important qualities for a snitch runner ?
“Awareness, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, and being able to recognise what is happening around you. For example I know a lot of snitches that will do a lot of running to try and evade seekers. I know I’ll knacker myself if I do to much running so I tend to wrestle and use strength. The worst thing you can do is try and emulate another person because it might not fit your style.”
To replicate the actions of the book version the snitch runner has until the latest set of rules been allowed to leave the pitch and hide in surrounding buildings. The new rules now require the snitch to stay on the oval pitch once released into play.
“If they caught you off pitch it would end the game but it was problematic in terms of evolving the sport” says Niblock. “You’ve now got a minimum time for the game so (in the past) games might end off pitch and you might lose it for your team not knowing what your team’s score was on pitch. In terms of the snitching its made it a lot better and for the teams a lot better to organise aswell.”
Since that first match ten years ago drones have become smaller and more available so could the days of the snitch runner be numbered ?
“I don’t think so,” says Niblock “its too integral to the game just in the terms of its origins. To be fair I think with the physicality of the games it would be to expensive to replace the drones if they got broken.
“Plus its part of the fun having a person, we’re supposed to grandstand a little bit. We’re supposed to have some shenanigans, I tend to not bother, but we used to have things where people would run on with water guns or water balloons.
“There was even one guy in America who came on, on a unicycle.”
08 MAR 2015 – Sarah Dorricott prepares the goals for the 2015 British Quidditch Cup.
08 MAR 2015 – Competitors listen to a team briefing.
08 MAR 2015 – Adam Jasko of Nottingham Nightmares battles towards the goal during the match against Durhamstrang.
08 MAR 2015 – Jack Woolrich of Loughborough Longshots tries to evade a challenge from David Reutter of Cambridge University Quidditch Club.
08 MAR 2015 – Hannah Watts from Keele Squirrels tries to force her way through to goal.
08 MAR 2015 – Ollie Farrell (left) from Durhamstrang attempts to pass whilst trying to avoid a bludger during the match against Leicester Thestrals.
08 MAR 2015 – Snitch runner Nicole Stone (right) attempts to prevent Jimmy Boyd, a Leicester Thestrals’ seeker, from seizing the snitch, a tennis ball in a black sock hanging from the back of her shorts.
08 MAR 2015 – London Unspeakables player Fiona Howat listens to a briefing before the start of the 2015 British Quidditch Cup.
08 MAR 2015 – The team banner for Keele Squirrels at the 2015 British Quidditch Cup.
08 MAR 2015 – Radcliffe Chimeras seeker David Goswell celebrates catching the snitch to end the 2015 British Quidditch Cup match against Warwick Quidditch Club.
08 MAR 2015 – Radcliffe Chimeras’ captain Luke Twist holds a team talk ahead of their 2015 British Quidditch Cup quarter final match against Nottingham Nightmares.
08 MAR 2015 – Nottingham Nightmares players watch the quarter final match against Radcliffe Chimeras during the 2015 British Quidditch Cup.
08 MAR 2015 – Jerome Vaugarny (left) from Loughborough Longshots attempts to retrieve the quaffle as his team mate Charlie Guy tries to hold off Tom Heynes (right) from Radcliffe Chimeras.
08 MAR 2015 – Gold standard snitch runner Jordan Niblock (right) attempts to keep the snitch, a tennis ball in the black sock hanging from the back of his shorts, out of the reach of Radcliffe Chimeras seeker David Goswell (centre) and Francesca Kempster (left), the Loughborough Longshots seeker during their 2015 British Quidditch Cup semi final.
08 MAR 2015 – Alexander Greenhalgh (right) of Keele Squirrels looks for a chance to shoot during the 2015 British Quidditch Cup bronze medal match against Loughborough Longshots.
08 MAR 2015 – Radcliffe Chimeras’ Tom Heynes shoots during the 2015 British Quidditch Cup final against Southampton Quidditch Club.
08 MAR 2015 – Southampton Quidditch Club 1′s Robbie Young (centre) shoots during the 2015 British Quidditch Cup final against Radcliffe Chimeras.
08 MAR 2015 – Southampton Qudditch Club 1 seeker Robbie Young attempts to catch the snitch, the tennis ball in the black sock hanging from the back of snitch runner Denis Plog’s shorts.
08 MAR 2015 – Southampton Quidditch Club 1 players wait for a decision whether their seeker caught the snitch during the 2015 British Quidditch Cup final against Radcliffe Chimeras.
08 MAR 2015 – Southampton Quidditch Club players (in red) are congratulated on their victory in the 2015 British Quidditch Cup final by silver medalists Radcliffe Chimeras.
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