Was the football of Exeter City “the Grecians” the inspiration behind Quidditch?
We all know that JK Rowling studied at Exeter University and that some of the places she saw and visited in and around the City of Exeter became the basis for locations within the Harry Potter series of books. For example, the Great Hall at the University gave her the idea for the Great Hall at Hogwarts and Gandy Street (off Queen Street) inspired Diagon Alley. There is still some dispute about which of the Exeter pubs, the Old Firehouse or the Blackhorse, that is the basis for the Leaky Cauldron in her books.
What appears to be less well known is that she attended a match at St James Park. This was the game against Cambridge United on 21st February 1986. Apparently, according to the local newspaper, it was quite a dour game. The manager at the time was Colin Appleton and we were not a great side that season, finishing in 21st place, in front of ever dwindling crowds.
The local newspaper reported that the evening of Friday 21st February was a cold and blustery one. Not conducive to good football. Not that this mattered too much for the Grecians, as the paper reported that the ball spent so much time in the air that they could have dispensed with the pitch! The only moment of excitement, notes the match report, came early in the first half when a passing gull got caught by a hoofed clearance from Exeter City’s Keith Viney.
Was this then the inspiration for Quiditch? The ball, up in the floodlights, suggesting the Quaffle? The hit gull the basis of the snitch? The fact that the ball spent so little time near the ground, could have led to the brainwave that it would have been better if the players had been on broomsticks? To us, having looked at the evidence, the answer is clearly yes.
None of the above has been confirmed with JK Rowling or her agents. Neither has this been discussed or confirmed with Exeter City Football Club.