There’s something spooky going on down at the University of East Anglia.

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There’s something spooky going on down at the University of East Anglia.

Young muggles are being grouped into teams – Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw – before clutching a makeshift broomstick between their legs and taking off to hunt out the golden snitch, intercept the quaffle and evade the bludgers.

But these would-be wizards have not mistaken the UEA’s leafy campus for the playing fields of Hogwarts – they’re playing Muggle Quidditch, a version of the game made famous by the Harry Potter novels and films.

Adapted to be played on the ground, the sport is a mixed seven-a-side sport in which teams must score through one of their opponents three goal hoops while also chasing the golden snitch – the all-important winged ball whose capture signals the end of the game.

“I’d describe as a cross between handball, dodgeball and it,” said Ellie Reynard, president of the newly-established UEA Quidditch Society.

“It’s can become quite an intense game, because it’s full contact and people really get into it.”

Miss Reynard, an avid Harry Potter fan, set the society up during the summer after hearing about the popularity of the game in the USA.

The UEA’s Quidditch Society already has 30 regular members – each split into one of the four Hogwarts houses – and more are joining every week.

“We are new this year, but the sport is growing across the country all the time,” said Miss Reynard, 20, a third-year English and Creative Writing student.

“In the US it’s huge, and the teams really go for it – they dress up with the capes, full brooms and everything. We haven’t yet gone for the capes, because we think it’s a bit dangerous.”

Without enchanted balls and broomsticks, the students have to be inventive – the magical wooden goal rings become hula hoops balanced on traffic cones, the quaffle is a deflated volleyball and the destructive bludgers are dodgeballs.

The game’s most desired object, the lightning-fast and ephemeral golden snitch, finds its muggle form as a tennis ball hidden in a sock tucked into the back of the shorts of the neutral snitch player, dressed in full gold and fairy wings.

But as well as being a place for fans to indulge their love of Harry Potter – and argue over who is the biggest fan – the society does have a serious purpose too.

“We’re going to try to take quidditch out to schools.” said Miss Reynard. “We’re thinking of coming up with a tag version of the game, played with foam brooms and suitable for children.

“It would help to reinforce the links between literacy and sport, and get more kids involved in exercise.”

By using children’s love of the novels, they hope they can inspire those who would otherwise be less inclined towards sport to give it a chance.

The same is true of many of the club’s existing members, many of whom are not typical sports club members, but enjoy the challenge of the game and the benefits of the exercise, said Miss Reynard.

“Some of our members are people who aren’t all that into sport,” she said. “We’ve had to set up fitness classes for people, but it’s great that people are trying something new and enjoying it.”

The society doesn’t see itself purely as a sports club, though, and takes every opportunity to tap into the magical world.

The upcoming Halloween social event will feature bottles of Harry’s favourite drink, butterbeer, with teams winning or losing house points for their conduct.

“Our first social was supposed to be a sorting hat social, where people would be put into the school houses,” said Miss Reynard.

“But we found that people wanted to choose themselves. It turns out that Ravenclaw and Slytherin are the most popular, and no one wants to be in Gryffindor for some reason.”

The society just organises games among its members at the moment, but hopes that, once fully established, it can travel to play other university teams.

“We are still getting a lot of interest from people, even after the start of term,” said Miss Reynard.

“Usually we get a lot of ‘What on earth?’ reactions when people first hear about us.

“Once we’ve explained it to them, people either think it’s ridiculous, that we are nerds or that it’s the coolest thing ever.”

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