Hey there guys, think this is one of my first posts - sorry I don't use the site more, kind of busy.
I've just got back from bazaar of moxen 4 in france (did ok-ish, report to follow sometime)
and I have to say they sure know how to do a good magic tournament in france, and I think we need to learn something from them.
I currently live in Bath with the truly inhuman Paul Smith as our local TO and demi-god. He is one of my favourite TOs in the UK (alongside Jason and Glen from Gravesend, sorry to anyone else I probably haven't played enough events in your area) . Last year, Paul ran a tournament called the champsvitational - a series of qualifiers in different formats meant to bring lots of different magic players together for a fun and challenging final tournament, which you had to earn your place in. I for one thought this was an amazing idea, but I could only attend one of the tournaments due to work commitment, which I was disappointed by. One of the qualifier events was a standard tournament where first place had a guaranteed box. 9 people showed up. I have a very hard time comprehending what it is that stops magic from being big in the UK - we have had TOs try their hardest to get people to come to their events - better prizes, better formats, travel awards for GPs, and none of it brings in many people. The biggest tournaments in the UK nowadays seem to be GP trials (~50) and PTQs (~80 or ~100 in london). What is the cause of this? I recognize maybe 30% of the people in every tournament I go to, I may have been playing for a long time, but that is a huge number of the same people playing every tournament. Make no mistake, magic in the UK is dying - when I stopped regular play due to uni 2 to 3 years ago it was all the same people, granted some new people have joined our amazing community, but underpinning it all is the same people as it was 4 or more years ago who got me so interested in this fantastic game in the first place.
If a french TO conglomerate made up of judges and an international trader providing prize support can reel in 750+ players over 3 days for a legacy and vintage tournament, then we are missing a trick. Why don't we get many GPs? Birmingham was about 700 players(?) and Brighton was about the same. These same formats would have had twice the number of players if they were held just across the channel. Almost every major magic country has an independent tournament infrastructure as well as wizards sponsored events, and contrary to the UK scene, these tournaments are thriving, and it is not to the detriment of other events.
As far as I can tell the biggest issues facing UK magic are;
Magic being priced in euros, and our poor economy - this seems to be a red herring - prize support obviously isn't something people care about, given there was a win-a-case tournament in lincoln (or wherever) and 21 people showed up. It is a pain for TOs as event entry has to stay high, which sucks, but players spend serious money to qualify for the PT (which almost all of them will never do) so creating an equivalent incentive of some sorts would bring more players in.
Cost of venues - this one is a respectable problem - almost all big spaces in england cost a heap to rent, and anything larger than 80 players becomes a squeeze. I was speaking to the guys in france, and they got the venue for almost nothing, which obviously made their lives easier.
Tournament awareness - I don't know about you guys, but before seeing Gary's thread about PTQ dates, I didn't even know Reading was next sunday (going to win that one). This is something I have seen a fair amount recently - which is partially due to the wizards site being impossible to understand. I want to believe something as simple as this would help - CREATE A CENTRALIZED UK EVENTS LIST INDEPENDENT FROM WOTC. This site is already a huge help in that regard, but all previous attempts with these sites have failed (mtgtwincast still about?).
Tournament sponsorship - Again, something which all successful tournament series appear to have in common. USA has starcity, France has MagicBazaar. We have one of Europe's biggest traders! I can't speak on Mike's behalf, but if I was a trader I would be very interested in sponsoring an open series of tournaments in the UK.
TO co-opertion - There aren't loads of free weekends over the magic season, between PTQs, regionals and GPtrials, and the weekends in between are generally filled with smaller local events. I think there's a strong vibe among TOs that if a player goes to another TO's event, then they have lost support that that player could bring. This is a respectable view - TOs NEED that continued support from their player base, or they won't be able to run events any more, and that won't be fun for anyone. The only way to see returns for all our event organisers is for them to communicate with each other.
I really think that if we got some kind of series of tournaments running, with a big final within the UK, you would get all the excitement of regionals or PTQs, while being able to be independent, allowing a sponsor (such as madhouse or trollandtoad) to come in to improve prize support and bring real respectability to the event. The only thing standing in the way of this really happening is communication, not just between event organisers, but also within the player community - we need to have one UK website where everything gets posted, where every player can come and see what's going on. Hell, where any aspiring UK player or writer can post their thoughts and receive helpful feedback. We have the player base, they're just too apathetic or ashamed of the fact that they love magic to come forward and speak.
The next 5 years are going to see magic decline in the UK if we do nothing about it - numbers are down from 5 years ago, and there are not enough new players getting involved. It is up to the magic community in the UK to fix this. It is up to TOs to start working together to take magic tournament structure to the point it is already at in many other countries, and it is up to us as players to start supporting these events so that TOs can actually afford to run them.
What do you guys think about magic in the UK? I believe my points are valid, but I'd like to know what you think about it. Sorry for the massive post,