Quidditch, the broom-riding sport of boarding school masters in “Harry Potter,” will become “quadball” for people who play the game in real life, its leading organizations said Tuesday.
The groups cited financial obstacles imposed by Warner Bros., the producers of the film series, who owned the Quidditch trademark, as well as a desire to “break away” from J.K. anti-trans stances,” referring to her controversial statements about gender identity in recent years.
“It’s a bold move, and for me personally, there’s definitely nostalgia for the original name,” Alex Benepe, who helped launch Real Sports in 2005, said in a statement. “But from a long-term development perspective, I am convinced that this is a smart decision for the future, which will allow the sport to develop without restrictions.”
The road to a decision began in December, when USA Quidditch and Major League Quidditch — the youth and professional wings of the sport — announced their intention to choose a new name and brand the new name. Their statement highlighted “sponsorship and broadcast opportunities” that have been missed due to licensing issues.
In a 2017 interview with The Quidditch Post, a sports news website, Mr. Beneppe praised Warner Bros. for being “amazingly permissive” about the league’s operations and ticketing rights.
However, he added that Warner Bros. had banned the sale of merchandise that used the word “Quidditch” and that the sport had to sacrifice key business opportunities. Mr Beneppe argued at the time – before his latest political row with Ms Rowling – about changing the name.
“I love Harry Potter and always will, but if our sport needs Harry Potter to survive, it doesn’t have to be that great – and I believe it is great, and I think our players do too,” he said.
However, on Tuesday the International Quidditch Association, the sport’s highest governing body, cited Ms Rowling’s “anti-trans stances” as the main motivation for changing the sport’s name.
“We’ve tried to understand that it’s both reasons,” Jack McGovern, a spokesman for USA Quidditch and Major League Quidditch, said in an interview. “We weren’t going to make a value judgment about which cause was more important than another.”
Quidditch matches often appeared as scenes in the Harry Potter books and films. Its real-life version includes many elements taken from Mrs. Rowling’s fantasy game: sweeping brooms, throwing balls into hoops, and having to avoid bludgers and finally catch the golden snitch. In real life, the Bludger is a rubber dodgeball rather than a flying iron ball, while the Snitch is a tennis ball attached to a person like in flag football.
According to the International Quidditch Association, thousands of people play the game in more than 40 countries.
After her comments on transgender issues gained widespread attention on Twitter, Ms Rowling published an essay in 2020 in which she was concerned about the “erosion of the legal definition of sex and its replacement by gender” and the rise of gender transitioning among young people.
Many transgender rights advocates called Ms. Rowling’s comments transphobic, while some fans tried to reconcile their love of “Harry Potter” with opposition to her views.
Mr McGovern said Quidditch’s association with Ms Rowling had become an obstacle to recruiting new players, and he said he did not know how much the sport’s official bodies would refer to “Harry Potter” in the future.
He said his first exposure to real Quidditch was in 2010, when he was in high school. He convinced one of his parents to fly from Philadelphia to New York to see the Quidditch World Cup. He said he was amazed by the game’s “energy, life and forward momentum” and that he was “an obscure sports fan in general”.
Almost as an afterthought, he added, “I was reading Harry Potter at the time.” Asked how much his love of books led to his early interest in sports, Mr McGovern said: “It’s hard. I don’t want to say more now.”