The UBC Quidditch Club has come a long way since its birth in 2010.
Once upon a time, they were a handful of Harry Potter enthusiasts playing with duct-taped brooms for the fun of it. Now, the club has established itself on the UBC campus and the 2016/17 school year marks its first season as a Thunderbirds Sports Club (TSC).
Quidditch is now a competitive game played on an international level. The UBC team has travelled in and around the Lower Mainland, the rest of Canada and even in the United States. Some members even represented a Canadian national team at a Quidditch world championship event held in Germany.
The growth of UBC Quidditch has been in “leaps and bounds rather than a continuous growth,” as competitive club lead Austin Wallace put it.
“A few years ago, we became more of a competitive club and we went down to California to play against some of the top teams there, which are a lot better than [teams] here,” said Wallace. This road trip helped propel the club into the United States Quidditch (USQ) league.
Totalling over 150 teams from both the club and university level, UBC ended up in the Northwest division. This was alongside the University of Washington and the University of Oregon amongst many others. Two years of play saw UBC come in third place in their division twice and qualify for the United States national championships.
But this season, UBC was kicked out of USQ. “They say it's because it’s too hard to insure a Canadian team,” said Wallace.
“We got an email saying that they were not able to make an exception due to insurance reasons. However, this was right after Quidditch Canada had talked to them, who made [it] clear that not having UBC in their league was a significant issue for them.”
When Wallace spoke further with USQ, they stated that the insurance concerns were real and that pushing the insurance company was not worth the trouble. This was especially because USQ was not mandated to serve the Quidditch Club.
“I’m not sure that’s the real reason,” said Wallace, expressing his doubts.
Wallace suggested that the Canadian Quidditch league felt embarrassed that UBC had chosen to play in the US.
American Quidditch leagues have a higher level of play as well as qualification tournaments. Quidditch Canada is a step lower and only has 30 teams. This means that as long as a team attends regionals, it can qualify for the nationals. It is more attractive to play down south.
“It looks bad for [Quidditch Canada] to not have one of the better teams play in Canada, so there’s a little bit of politics there,” said Wallace.
UBC has continued to play well despite the change. The team is preparing for the Canadian national championships in April.
The club reached Thunderbirds sports club status under the presumption that it would be competing in USQ. The resulting change to Canada has forced UBC Quidditch to go on probation for the season. This is to see how things go and whether or not the club will merit full status in the future.
Regardless of these changes, UBC Quidditch still boasts a membership of about 70 people between their A and B rosters. According to Wallace, there are 21 people on the A roster, while the B roster is more rotated amongst many people. There are also people who choose to come to just practices, for the fun and exercise, but not tournaments.
According to Wallace, the sport has grown internationally. It has gone from a US-dominated sport to being filled with emerging teams from the United Kingdom, France, Australia and others. UBC players — including Wallace — have represented Canada at World Cups held every two years. The sport is also spreading into Africa.
“Uganda was going to come, but they had visa issues unfortunately — but the community raised 10,000 euros for them to come,” said Wallace.
Quidditch might become even more present on the national and international stages. According to Wallace, the International Quidditch Association is pushing to have the sport included in major international multi-sport events.
“They're trying to progress to the point where we can get to the Commonwealth Games and eventually the Olympics,” said Wallace.
“But that’s at least 15 years away.”