The Rise of Fantasy Tournaments in UK Quidditch with Luke Stevens 8pm 25th Jun, 2016

It is undeniable that over the last year quidditch has earned its status as a growing sport within the UK. With thirty-two teams competing in the British Quidditch Cup 2016, and several more on the rise, the popularity of the sport and the dedication of the players is impressive, and even relentless. The desire to play quidditch often and all year round is shared by many; some might even say there is simply not enough quidditch in the UK to satisfy the hunger.

With an absence of a centralised UK league, more and more clubs are turning to forming their own fantasy tournaments - essentially tournaments where teams of players from different clubs compete rather than the clubs competing against each other. The rise of these has been speedy and enduring, with Oxford’s Valentine’s Cup reaching its third year in February 2016 and Durham’s immensely popular Summer Cup returning for its second year in June. The tournaments are often acknowledged as a great opportunity to get to know new people, and also offer a fantastic fundraising opportunity for the host club, two reasons why the fantasy tournament style is so attractive.

Though fantasy tournaments are often hosted by clubs, this is not always the case. Luke Stevens, a beater for the Brizzlebears is one of the ambitious few who hosts an annual fantasy tournament completely independent of all existing quidditch teams. Named after Luke’s favourite beverage, Tea Cup originated from an impressively good pun and is now returning for its second summer this July.

Competitors at the first Tea Cup in 2015. 

Tea Cup is a non-profit, independent fantasy tournament run by Luke and aided by a volunteer committee. Held in Worcester each summer, the tournament was created simply to facilitate quidditch during the dry summer season during which there is generally a distinct lack of the sport due to universities having broken up for the academic year. 

“I didn’t want to stop playing over the summer.” was Luke’s main motivation for founding the tournament- plus the fact that ‘Tea Cup’ was simply “too good a pun to go to waste”. 

Tea Cup had humble beginnings, with only 24 players; a number that has more than doubled to 64 this year, with places hardly being enough to accommodate the demand. Tea Cup II sold out in 72 seconds, with 74 people still on the waiting list. However, despite this roaring success, Luke is still cautious about expansion. “It’s a difficult balance to strike,” they admit. “I don’t want to expand too fast so that Tea Cup loses its community feeling, but I also don’t want anyone to miss out”. This is perhaps the biggest challenge all fantasy tournaments face; the interest in quidditch is perpetually rising, and consequently also the desire for tournaments. Big competitions such as the British Quidditch Cup offer one kind of team experience with a player’s primary squad, but fantasy tournaments lend themselves to a friendly, open reception due to players being placed with others they may not have played with before; perhaps this is why they are growing in popularity so quickly.

Luke’s advice to anyone thinking of setting up their own tournament is to find a venue first. “We’re already looking at places for Tea Cup III” they explain; “Booking the right venue is the most difficult bit, and it affects the rest of the tournament; the most important thing to me is that it’s not a subpar tournament”. Luke also extends this philosophy to the size of Tea Cup teams, limited to 15 players each instead of the usual 21 so everybody gets suitable playing time. As a non-profit tournament, Luke’s main concern is player experience, and trying to make a good tournament as cheap as possible. They tell me that Tea Cup greatly relies upon trust; “Quidditch as a sport just lends itself to the fantasy style of tournament, but there is a lot of trust involved. Last year people I didn’t really know stayed in my house, but I trusted them because they’re part of this community. That’s what makes quidditch different to other sports”.

Luke Stevens taking part at Tea Cup I

With Tea Cup II, Summer Cup II and Looking Fly’s second All Star Weekend all coming up this summer there’s no shortage of fantasy tournaments to get involved in, and this is undoubtedly only the start of what will be a long and successful journey for the style. Personally, I look forward to seeing where existing and new fantasy tournaments go in the future and if Tea Cup II’s impressive sell out tells us anything, it’s that I’m certainly not alone.

Tea Cup II takes place on the 2nd-3rd July 2016 at Malvern St James school.

Article by Nicole Wootton-Cane. 
Photos from Luke Stevens.