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Quidditch Society Flying High With $5,000 USU Grant

Justin Pen and Michael Rees follow the galleons.

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The University of Sydney Quidditch team has qualified for the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. The tournament will be held in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The sport is modelled after the game of the same name played within the Harry Potter series.

Founded in Middlebury College, Vermont, in the United States, Quidditch currently has leagues in the United States, Australia, Canada, France, Italy and of course the United Kingdom. There are currently twelve teams affiliated with the Australian Quidditch Society in addition to ten, unaffiliated Quidditch teams. The majority of the unaffiliated teams play as local, community groups.

With a few modifications Quidditch may be played by university ‘muggles’. The responsibilities of players remain largely the same as in J.K. Rowling’s novels. Beaters throw dodgeballs, instead of hitting ‘bludgers’, to hamper their opponents. Chasers attempt to throw a volleyball through hoops placed at either end of the field to score points, while Keepers are charged with defending their hoops. Seekers, who traditionally chase a magically flying Golden Snitch, attempt to catch a person dressed as a snitch who continually aims to evade capture. Players must also run around with a broomstick placed between their legs.

After recently reaching the semi-final of the National Australian Quidditch Tournament, the USYD team was offered one of the four World Cup spots assigned to teams from the Oceania Region. This follows an upset win over the highly-favoured Western Sydney Thestrals in the Quarter Final.

“The team was ecstatic with the unexpected result,” said Quidditch Society Vice-President and Keeper, Cameron Caccamo.

Eighty teams from eight countries will compete in the tournament between the 5th and 6th of April. This will be the seventh occasion on which teams from around the world have gathered for such a World Cup competition.

The Quidditch Society has been picked up by Australian media outlets such as the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, and Channel Seven. Both the University and the Union have attempted to capitalise on this success by issuing media releases featuring the society.

Estimates suggest that flights to the US, accommodation and registration for the World Cup will cost each team member approximately $3,000. The Quidditch Society has made funding requests to both the University of Sydney Union (USU) and the University itself in an attempt to secure financial backing for the tournament.

The Quidditch society has received $5000 from the USU to assist with expenses. The team intends to raise further funds for the World Cup during March of 2014.

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Of the $10,203,401 raised by Sydney University through the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), the USU secured $3,110,000 from negotiations in 2013. In dollar terms, last year all students essentially paid $83 to the Union per semester. This fee is paid ancillary to the purchase of an ACCESS card and Union membership.

Generally, Union-affiliated groups such as the Quidditch Society receive funding on a pro rata basis. Money is transferred via the Clubs and Societies (C&S) program, which provides a majority of societies with $4,000 from which to draw upon over the course of a year. This income is tied to the club’s expenditure, so normally clubs cannot earn more through the Union than what they spend.

The $5,000 grant obtained by the Quidditch Society, however, was awarded following a direct appeal to the USU. The Quidditch Society’s application for the grant was sent to Al Cowie, head of the USU Marketing, and Louise Anthony, head of the USU Programs, following informal consultation with student Board Directors.

The application was assessed by the two departmental heads before it was passed on to the executive members of the board for approval. “As with all grant requests, the board executive is given a proposal and asked to approve it,” explained USU President Hannah Morris. “Apart from that the Board was not involved in any other part of the process.”

This type of grant is not unprecedented. The Sydney University Dramatic Society (SUDS) receives up to $3,000 per year to subsidise accommodation, logistics and travel to the Festival of Student Theatre (FAST). Though, this funding agreement is set to expire in 2014, SUDS President Patrick Morrow told Honi.

However, not all societies who apply for special funding are so fortunate. A sponsorship document authored by several executive members of the Sydney University United Nations Society (SUUNS) was similarly submitted to the Heads of Marketing and Programs earlier this year, but was ultimately rejected, a former member of the SUUNS executive told Honi.

The proposal sought a four-tiered funding model from the USU that would confer “small bursaries for students to attend AMUNC [Asia-Pacific Model United Nations Conference]” and “larger grants for students to attend WorldMUN and other international MUN conferences,” the former member said.

Honi understands the document was rejected outright by Cowie, before it could be reviewed by the Board. Reasons cited for its rejection were its length – the document was 30-40 pages long –and the fact that it had been submitted late. A second, one-page, report was subsequently requested by the departmental heads.

When asked what benefits the $5,000 grant to the Quidditch Society would provide the broad membership of the USU, Morris contended that “a key part of the USU’s mandate [was] to support students in exploring their potential and developing their skills, talents and leadership abilities.”

The grant was unanimously approved by the board executive.