First of all, I'd like to tell you that for the past few years, quidditch has been one of the key things that made my life fun (and still is) and my time in this community has been nothing short of amazing. You people rock! :) I'm very thankful that I've been able to be a part of the good and the bad of the quidditch world and helping make quidditch better for all of us - at least trying to, anyway.
It is with some regret, but also with some happiness that I would like to announce me stepping down from my position as Executive Manager of Quidditch Europe. I hope that I have been able to achieve quite a lot of the things that I wanted to, such as improving the situation of volunteers at tournaments and covering more of their expenses to come to tournaments, helping to make EQC an institution that, while hiccups and downright catastrophe (*cough* EQC 2016) have seen us put on the back foot, is now one of the better international quidditch tournament formats in the world. I am also proud to say that we've managed to grow European quidditch nicely and we're trying (to some criticism) to bring the interests of everyone (competitive teams and players, as well as those who come to enjoy the community) together in a split-format EQC.
At the same time, there are things that we haven't managed yet. We're still a long way from being a professional association. We have not been able to find a way of running a well-oiled system, where little time passes betwen decisions and action and where progress can be made to become a professional sport. One of the big sticking points is that we, like others, have been unable to properly incorporate into a legal body that is able to run on a level needed for a international sports body yet, and this is also due to my own failings, mainly where time is concerned. These things do take time and energy (and money) to do, and I've personally not been able to deliver these over the past few months to an extent needed to get there. I'm at a time in my life where more and more time is spent on work and/or getting there, which means that I am having to make the conscious choice of where to put my energy; which means that I am stepping down, so someone who might be able to do more than I can. I will be stepping down as of December 1st on a soft basis, meaning that I will still be around and properly leaving the executive by Jan 1st. I will of course be around to answer any questions that my successor might have, but I will not be part of the executive of QE from 2019.
Note: The above was the "official part", everything that follows below is my personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the stance of Quidditch Europe and/or its member NGBs.
With that out of the way, I do have some pieces of (mostly well-meant) advice to everyone in the quidditch community. You heard that right, everyone, including you reading this; we're all in this together, and there is no "they" in quidditch; we can all make a difference, which sounds cheesy, but never is it more true than in the context of quidditch. What I will not do here is talk about any specifics or people and I refuse to be partial in any debates surrounding how quidditch is run outside of our very own QE. I won't give you a tl;dr because what I'd like to say can't be broken down into catchy phrases (even though I'll try to give them snappy titles) With that said, and without further a do, my pieces of advice to the community are these:
1) Be good to people and people will be good to you. This may sound idealistic, but I truly believe that this is the case, both on an interpersonal, but also institutional level. What I mean by this is that our community has grown a ton over the past years, but it's still small enough for most people to know at least a small majority of people at least by sight. New countries and new teams join the community and become part of this circle of essentially still....friends, coming together to be really serious about a wacky sport and have fun together a few times per year.
On the other hand, we're at a level of development, where we do really need at least some professional work to maintain and improve, which, I think you will agree, is hard. In fact so hard that few people would currently be crazy or crazy passionate enough about our sport to even consider volunteering for one of the leading positions on a level beyond the initial honeymoon period of new NGBs.
But Felix, you will say, you're rambling again, where is this going? Well, the fact of the matter is that running quidditch is hard, and it does take time, effort and energy from those who do it. There is "plenty" of money to run the operations, i.e. make a tournament like EQC really good, but there is very little of it to pay for professional services. This means that those who step up will have to run the operations, and then also do all the things needed to run the operations, and so on. Of course you always have a few people keeping things together and tasks are at least somewhat specialised, but the fact of the matter is that teams are always small, made up of unpaid volunteers (with a few exceptions, which are awesome!) and the biggest of all: there is noone to cover up your screw-ups. Yes, I'm absolutely saying that we all screw up in our work as parts of these organisations, but no, I'm not saying we should screw up less, I'm saying we should create an environment where you screw up and someone in your team is there to tell you you did and help you work it into something better. As quidditch currently stands, this is not the case. Why is this important for this point? Bringing it back to the initial point, this means that if we're good to our volunteers, we will get really good results from their work. There are amazing things that have already been done by people when there wasn't much love for them, imagine what they (and/or you) could achieve when there is! What does this mean:
2) Pay your volunteers, you will not regret it. Quidditch is a volunteer sport. We get it, because that's why we're doing it in the first place. For this reason, money has always been a sticking point. Travelling around because our small community is scattered throughout the different countries is expensive and we all want to have a good time. This is why your money could be used better. Why do I allow myself the insolence of deciding how other people's money should be spent? Well, as I've said, a lot goes into running quidditch. As much as it feels like our lives revolve around quidditch and being able to express ourselves in this community, we also all have big commitments outside of it. We work, we study, we would like to see ourselves somewhere in 5 years and we have friends. The work we do in quidditch does not make up most of our lives, because we can't sustain ourselves purely on it, plain and simple. There a lot of things that we would like to do (and keep trying with a few of them) that we simply cannot do because we lack the time/resources to do them.
Imagine me asking everyone in the European quidditch community for 10€ per year. That's 275 teams, roundabout 4500 people (guessing here at 16 players per team). That's 45000€, crazy to ask for that much money right? Yeah kinda crazy, which is why noone has dared actually doing it, fearing the backlash from the community. Let me run you another calculation though: 45000€ will pay 6 staffers a pretty reasonable additional income (~750€ per month) for the time they put in. Why is this reasonáble? Well, if I don't have an extra job to help with my food, rent, quidditch travels, whichever it might be, I can devote that time per week to actually do good in quidditch. We currently have the capacity to maintain and improve our sport to an extent, but we cannot afford a vision. Well, we can come up with one, but we do not have the resources to properly follow through on them given our time and personal resources. What things we could achieve with that money? The following list is not exhaustive, but includes a lot of things I can come up with on the spot:
- Incorporation of all quidditch bodies: A lot of the NGBs are incorporated, some aren't and the perpetual question about international bodies is an ever-sore spot for us all. The fact is that it takes a lot of time and either money to hire professionals, or paying those of us willing to do the research. Give me 750€ (which pays for about 20h a week and I can absolutely use 4 hours a week to talking to lawyers, 5 hours trying to get the authorities to tell me requirements and forms needed and another 11 hours trying to get all the internals done. And that's just the first week!
- High-profile partnerships: It is absolutely possible for us to attain high-profile partnerships with institutions on an international level. There are plenty of funds to cross-cultural sports projects from the EU, local and national governments and in-kind support from those who know what they're doing. Pay someone a little bit of money to talk to authorities and we can make tournaments cheaper for everyone, in nice locations, with loads of media attention.
- Fundraising: This one is a big one! By the time EQC committees come together in late autumn, most companies will have already signed off their budgets for the new year, meaning that their charity money they're willing to give away is already going to other places. Someone in charge of fundraising is able to
talk to any potential companies in sport, culture, tech all throughout the year and secure funding for tournaments and further for the use in developing the sport. This means that not only does paying volunteers help to make quidditch better and more well-run, but it literally means that tournament fees will be cheaper because we can get money from outside the community into our events that pays for volunteer accommodation, food, medics...
- Professional outreach: These points all intertwine to some extent, but if you have someone to actually go out and talk to people, making them aware that quidditch exists (I'm looking at you Ffiske) and showing them why we're worthwhile makes the previous point so much more efficient. Why would someone "invest" in us showing their advertising at a tournament? The paid outreach position can give those people 5 reasons why and make the Fundraising person very happy indeed, and the pockets of players who benefit from that extra money even happier.
- Well-run sports bodies: And how does this all come together? All of these positions need to be managed. Throw in someone to take care of the admin (such as our current Secretary Chula) and someone to manage these people professionally (and only do that, rather than all the things), and while you're at it, why not pay someone for graphic design, and you're setting yourself up for progress and success.
3) Ask yourself what it is you want, and what the steps are to get there. While this is pretty good life advice in general, it's true also in quidditch. I fully and very wholeheartedly understand that we all do not have time to become Executive Manager, or tournament director, or gameplay manager at our local NGB. If you do, you're amazing and I want to thank you for the things you have done and will do. At the same time we don't all have the means to contribute, BUT we definitely all have the means to influence how quidditch is being run. You can make a world of difference, with only as much time as you're able to commit. What you specifically can do to improve quidditch:
- create an atmosphere where those with time and energy can do their tasks. This includes being willing to pay for people doing what effectively becomes a second job to them, in terms of time, effort, commitment. It also includes a general trusting atmosphere, where, if you task them (by paying them) to do a thing, that they will have your best interests at heart when organising this sport.
- take part in the channels available to you. You may know this, but to those unaware: ANY level of quidditch organisation, from your local team board, to NGBs and the biggest international levels will value your constructive input. Most associations, including QE, NGBs etc. publish minutes accessible online. All NGBs will listen to you, when you tell them what you want them to lobby for in the IQA or QE. You likely have a lot of opinions on quidditch if you're reading this; I'm telling you that there are lots of places where you can have those opinions count and be heard.
What this means is that if you have any grievances in how quidditch is being run, take a moment to think about what you would do to adress these issues. If you can come up with some ideas, but you don't have the time to carry them out, go talk to your NGB board representatives or send an email to Quidditch Europe. They might not have the time at the moment either, but they might start a project based on your feedback or take it on board for tournament planning. There are very few things that, if presented in a courteous manner and with outlined steps on how to get there and are at least somewhat sensible, people in positions to carry them out will refuse. Use that power wisely!
4) Try and walk a mile in people's shoes. As I've said, people screw up. A lot. We all aren't perfect and we have little time to spare, including you! I do think that because of this, and also due to how isolated by technology our lives are nowadays, we find it hard to see why someone is thinking a certain way or why some people are doing certain things, even if explanation is given; this is especially true in quidditch organisation. We can all benefit from compromise, and I find that having open discussion at a table together (and I'm fully aware how crazy this sounds, which is kind of crazy in its own right huh?) and finding solutions to common problems are the best ways to do away with any us-vs.-them mentalities on any side. Think about all the things we could do if everyone could say what they want/need and we can all find a way of getting there together!
Wow, this has turned out to be a lot longer than I though it would be. Good on you if you managed to get this far. I won't say goodbye because quidditch in my life isn't going anywhere, I just can't be part of the executive any more, but I'll more than likely see you at the odd tournament or two. I want to thank you for the time you've given me and the experiences I've had, and I hope that whoever follows will be just as passionate about our sport as I am and able to do 10 times more than I could. Let's help them get there!