Clapham Common Quidditch league gets the ball Rowling on all-inclusive sport

The 20th anniversary of the first Harry Potter book release was an opportunity for people to praise the contribution it has made to society.

Many spoke of more children reading thanks to J.K. Rowling’s magical creation, or how Hogwarts helped them escape after a trying day, but few have mentioned the effect the boy wizard has had on the world of sport.

Over the past few years Quidditch, a game dreamed up by Rowling in her world-famous series, has been brought to life in universities across the country, bringing with it a level of inclusivity not seen in many sports.

At the first southern fixture of the Quidditch Premier League on Clapham Common earlier this month, it was clear fans who have claimed this game as their own are breaking new ground.

Players, fans and organisers all declared the Quidditch pitch a place of gender equality, open to players of all abilities and particularly welcoming to members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Jack Lennard, the 22-year-old founding director of the Quidditch Premier League, said this is what first drew him to the sport, especially the ‘four maximum rule’, which states a team can only play four people of one gender at a time, including non-binary and trans people who play as they identify.

He said: “This is different to any other sport, where you would have to go through vigorous hormone and genitalia testing – that’s very invasive and puts a lot of trans people off playing sport.

“That’s not something we have a problem with here and because of that you see a huge LGBTQ+ uptake in Quidditch.

“It’s the only mixed full contact sport in the world, that really pushed the involvement of everyone.”

But the broomstick-based game does not just appeal to all genders, it attracts people who would shy away from sport altogether.

Tom Norton, 22, from south east London, plays as a snitch in the Quidditch Premier League and described it as a ‘gateway sport’, showing people how enjoyable exercise can be.

He said: “It’s so great to see people who, outside of Quidditch, would normally be shunned from sports, don’t have a lot of confidence and have never been very good at sport.

“Trying to get into sport in this age group having never played is always very difficult, but people start enjoying it and play other sports.”

Ben Pooley, 23, manager of the London Monarchs, one of eight teams in the Premier League, agreed with Norton.

He said: “I used to play sport when I was younger but fell out of love with it because it was too masculine and aggressive.

“From playing this, I’ve gotten back into other sports because I’d forgotten how much I love exercise and the competitive nature of sport.”

Hannah Dignum, 21, the former captain of Warwick Quidditch Club, was at the event on Clapham Common as a spectator.

She said: “It’s probably the most inclusive thing I’ve ever been a part of, it proves that girls are just as capable as guys in sport and breaks all the stigma of, ‘girls are weak, girls can’t run.’

“If little girls walk past and see this and think, ‘I want to be a part of that’, it kick-starts getting them into sport and being a part of something like Quidditch.”

The only chink in the inclusive armour of this novel sport is that it is predominantly played in universities, excluding those without a degree, but this could soon change.

Norton said: “The large majority get into Quidditch through university, but there are some community teams which get people from the general public.

“The target market of the London Unspeakables, a team which trains on Hampstead Heath, is people who have not been to university.”

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