Quidditch (sport)

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Muggle Quidditch.jpg
A chaser tries to advance the quaffle but is deterred by an opposing beater.
Highest governing body International Quidditch Association [1]
Nicknames Quidditch
First played 2005 in Middlebury, Vermont
Contact Full contact[1]
Team members 7 on field, 21 total on roster
Both teams can substitute players freely at any time behind their proper keeper zone.
Mixed gender Yes
Type Team sport, ball sport
Equipment Quaffle (volleyball)
Bludgers (dodgeballs)
Snitch (tennis ball)
Venue Quidditch pitch (also known simply as a "pitch")
Country or region IQA World Map.png
Olympic No
Paralympic No
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Quidditch game

Quidditch[2] is a sport of two teams of seven players each mounted on broomsticks played on a hockey rink-sized pitch.[3] The pitch is rectangular with rounded corners 55 metres (60 yards) by 33 metres (36 yards) with three hoops of varying heights at either end.[4] Having been created in 2005, the sport is quite young, but it is played around the world and actively growing.[5] The ultimate goal is to have more points than the other team by the time the snitch, a tennis ball inside a long sock hanging from the shorts of an impartial official dressed in yellow, is caught. Rules of the sport are governed by the International Quidditch Association, or the IQA, and events are sanctioned by either the IQA or that nation's governing body.

To score points, chasers or keepers must get the quaffle, a slightly deflated volleyball, into one of three of the opposing hoops which scores the team 10 points.[6] To impede the quaffle from advancing down the pitch, chasers and keepers are able to tackle opposing chasers and keepers at the same time as beaters using their bludgers to take out opposing players. Once a player is hit by an opposing bludger, that player must dismount their broom, drop any ball being held, and return to and touch their hoops before being allowed back into play.[7] The game is ended once the snitch is caught by one of the seekers, awarding that team 30 points.[8]

A team consists of minimum seven (maximum 21) players, of which six are always on the pitch, those being the three chasers, one keeper, and two beaters. Besides the seeker who is off-pitch, the six players are required to abide by the gender rule which states that a team may have a maximum of four players who identify as the same gender, excluding the seeker,[9] making quidditch one of the few sports that not only offers a co-ed environment but an open community to those who do not identify with the gender binary.[10] Matches or games often run about 30 to 40 minutes but tend to be subject to varying lengths of time due to the unpredictable nature of the snitch catch. If the score at the end of the match including the 30 point snitch catch is tied (such that the team that caught the snitch was 30 points behind the other), the game moves to overtime where the snitch is constrained to the pitch's dimensions and the game ends after five minutes or when the snitch is legally caught.


Quidditch has its roots in the fictional Harry Potter sport of the same name. To denote the difference, the fictional sport uses the capitalised "Quidditch" whereas the sport played as per the IQA rules uses the uncapitalised "quidditch". The sport was created in 2005 at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont by Xander Manshel and Alex Benepe, who later became the first commissioner of quidditch.[11] It has grown into its own separate and distinct sport after seven[12] publications of rulebooks.[13]

After beginning in 2005, the sport grew to the point where, in 2007, the first "IQA World Cup" took place with Middlebury taking the place of top team. Since then, yearly until 2014, there was a "World Cup" within the United States, where collegiate and community teams would compete to be the best team. While Canada often sent several Ontario or Québec teams, and Australia and France each sent one team once, the World Cup in its state never saw true international competition. In 2012, the IQA hosted the Summer Games, where five nations hosted national teams. Two years later, on July 19, 2014, the IQA hosted the Global Games in Burnaby, BC, Canada, where national teams came together to compete, with the States defeating Australia for the gold medal.[14]

Since beginning at Middlebury College, the sport has its roots in the United States, but it soon grew internationally, arriving in Canada through McGill University and Carleton University in 2009. It began to take shape around the world with teams beginning in Australia,[15] the UK,[16] and France.[17] It soon spread across Europe and the Americas, arriving in Italy, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Mexico, Argentina,[18] and Brazil. There are now active teams in Uganda, Malaysia, China, South Africa, Uganda, the Philippines, and Vietnam.


Amateur quidditch match held between Mobify and Hootsuite companies in Jonathan Rogers Park Vancouver, BC on May 6, 2014

Three circular goals are placed on either side of the pitch. The goals are often circular tubes on top of PVC pipes. All players are required to carry a broom between their legs at all times, otherwise they are considered "off their brooms" and must touch their team's hoops to rejoin play.[13] Volleyballs are used as the quaffle, and dodgeballs serve as the bludgers. The snitch is a tennis ball contained in a sock tucked in the waistband of the snitch runner. Affiliated with neither team and considered both a match official and a ball in play, the snitch runner is dressed in gold or yellow.

A game begins with the quaffle and bludgers placed in the centre of the field and all players behind the starting line (halfway between the keeper zone line and the goalposts). The head referee calls "Brooms up!" to begin the game.[19] As of 2014 with the release of the eighth edition of the USQ rulebook, the rules of snitching worldwide have changed slightly. Rulebook 8 contains the deletion of off-pitch seeking where now the snitch is restricted to only the playing field; the snitch is released after 17 minutes of game time, while the seekers are released after 18 minutes.[19]

Earlier rulebooks stipulated that as the match began, players would line up near their hoops with their eyes closed until the release of the snitch who then had the complete liberty to run about a predetermined play area. When played on a university or college campus the range is often the entire campus.[20] The seekers search for the runner around the play area; if they fail to catch them, they return to the field after a preset amount of time.

The match ends when one of the seekers catches the snitch - grabbing the tennis ball in the sock and maintaining possession for a minimum of three seconds. Catching the snitch awards a team 30 points, while each goal scored is worth ten points. The team with the most points wins.[19]

Positions in quidditch

  • Chasers are responsible for passing the quaffle and scoring points by throwing the quaffle through one of the opponent's goals for 10 points. When a bludger hits a chaser in possession of the quaffle, they must drop the quaffle, remove the broom from between their legs, and touch their own hoops to rejoin play. Chasers not in possession of the quaffle must perform the same knockout procedure when hit by a bludger, but do not have a ball to drop. Chasers may enter into physical contact with opposing chasers or keepers. There are three chasers on the field for each team, identified by a white headband.
  • Keepers can be likened to goalies in other sports, and must try to block attempts to score by the opposing team's chasers. The keeper is invulnerable to bludgers as well as having indisputable possession of the quaffle when within their team's keeper zone, an area around the team's hoops. Once outside of the keeper zone, the keeper may serve as a fourth chaser. Keepers may enter into physical contact with opposing keepers or chasers. There is one keeper on the field for each team, identified by a green headband.
  • Beaters attempt to hit the opposing team's players with bludgers and attempt to block the bludgers from hitting their team's players. Beaters are subject to the same knockout procedure as chasers or keepers when hit with a bludger, but unlike chasers and keepers, they may attempt to catch a bludger thrown at them. If they succeed in catching a bludger, they are not knocked out, and the beater who threw the bludger may remain in play. As there are three bludgers for the four beaters on the pitch, the fourth, bludger-less beater puts pressure on the team in control of both bludgers (often called "bludger control" or "bludger supremacy"). Beaters may enter into physical contact only with other beaters. Two beaters on a team may be in play at a time, identified by black headbands.
  • Seekers attempt to catch the snitch. They may not contact the snitch, but are permitted to contact the other seeker. Seekers are released after 18 minutes of game time. There is one seeker on the field for each team, identified by a gold or yellow headband.


The game is played with six standing hoops, three on each side of an elliptical pitch. Each player must hold a broomstick between their legs. There are three different types of balls in play, and five in total: the quaffle, three bludgers, and the snitch.

One quaffle and three bludgers lined up for "brooms up" before a quidditch match


Probably the most iconic piece of equipment for quidditch, the broomstick serves the purpose of being a "handicap" such as one-handed dribbling in basketball or using only your feet in association football. The player must stay mounted on their broomstick for every moment of play unless they have been hit with a bludger, in which case the player needs to dismount from their broom and return to their hoops.[21] To be mounted on the broomstick means that the player must hold the broom between their legs and not have it fully on the ground. It can be supported by their thighs or hands equally, just as long as it is not attached to their person nor fully resting on the ground.

Players ride a variety of objects considered to be brooms depending on level of seriousness. Many teams tend to play on PVC pipes of about a metre in length; these are usually made, but can also be purchased from quidditch suppliers such as Petersons or Blue Hawk. Less serious players or players who enjoy the whimsy of the sport often use Alivan's Shadow Chasers, which are wooden and have a tail to resemble brooms described in the Harry Potter books and movies. Oftentimes, newly formed teams tell players to BYOB (bring your own broom), which results in players coming on an assortment of camp and/or dangerous "brooms", from Swiffers to 2x4 pieces of wood, though this practice is discouraged beyond the first few practices.


Three hoops are placed on either side of the pitch of differing heights (1m, 1.4m and 2m), placed two broomsticks apart (2.34 m).[22] Chasers and keepers can score by throwing the quaffle through any one of the hoops, from either front or back, gaining ten points for their team per score. Any player experiencing a knock-out effect from either dismounting their broomstick or getting hit with a bludger must touch with any part of their body excluding the broom any one of their hoops before returning to play.


The quaffle is a slightly-deflated regulation volleyball that can only be manipulated by chasers or keepers. Used for scoring, it may pass through any hoop from either side. Regardless of which team caused the quaffle to pass through the hoop, as long as it is in play, a goal is scored against the team whose hoop was scored upon, which is counted to be 10 points.[23]


The bludger is a slightly-deflated dodgeball that can only be manipulated by beaters. At any given time there are four beaters in play, but only three bludgers. The bludgers are used to hit any other player on the field. Upon being hit by a bludger previously in the possession of an opposing beater, the player suffers the knockout effect. This means they must dismount their broom, drop any ball that they may have been carrying, and touch their team's hoops before resuming play. It's worth noting that there is no friendly fire, meaning that bludgers thrown by beaters cannot affect any of their teammates.[23]


Seeker (l) and Snitch (r) at King's Cup Quidditch Tournament, Syracuse University, April 2015.[24]

The snitch is a tennis ball placed at the bottom of a yellow long sock which is attached to the back of the snitch runner's shorts as if it were a tail. The snitch runner may do everything in their power to protect the snitch from being caught by seekers. Only seekers may make advances towards the snitch or the snitch runner, and no forceful contact with the snitch runner is allowed. After a certain amount of the time without having been caught, the snitch runner is relegated to the first of two handicaps: playing with one arm held behind their back. The second handicap is applied if the snitch is still not caught after a secondary amount of time where the snitch runner must hold both hands behind their back. The game ends when the snitch is grabbed by a seeker, awarding that seeker's team 30 points.[23]

As of the release of the Rulebook 8, the snitch is relegated to playing only on the field in the same fashion of the other players. Previously, snitch runners left the pitch to be pursued by seekers returning to the field after a predetermined amount of time. The term off-pitch seeking is applied to the pre-Rulebook 8 scenario. Many countries play using the eighth edition's rules all the while keeping the seventh edition's off-pitch seeking rules.


The IQA has released nine iterations of the rulebook, each building upon the last. Currently, Rulebook 8 is available in French, and there are translations until Rulebook 5 in Italian, Mandarin, and Spanish.


Each match begins with the seven starting players along the starting line within their keeper zone with brooms on the ground and their eyes closed (so as to not watch where the snitch goes) and the four balls lined in the centre of the pitch. The head referee, when they see the snitch fall out of sight, then calls "brooms up!" to which player run to gain possession of the balls.[25] After brooms up is called, the seekers must not interfere with other positions, and wait near the pitch until the end of the seeker floor, usually 17 minutes. After the seeker floor, the seekers are released, and may run off pitch to search for the snitch.

Play runs rapidly, with quick change-of-hands of the quaffle, because every goal (each being worth 10 points) scored against a team gives that team the ball. Once a point is scored, the quaffle must be given to the other team's keeper, and almost immediately returns to the offensive[26] with the chasers returning to their keeper zone or proper side of the pitch;[27] beaters are not bound to return to their side of the pitch nor exit the opposing team's keeper zone at any point.[28] Games generally last 20 to 50 minutes, depending on the skill and endurance of the seekers and snitch. Many tournaments introduce snitch handicaps, such as asking the snitch to use only one hand, no hands, or remain on the centre line, to ensure games fit within the time slots.

The game is won only after the snitch has been caught cleanly, and the team that caught the snitch is awarded 30 points.[29] The winner is determined not by the snitch catch but by the number of points earned; thus it is not unknown for teams that are losing by a wide margin to try delaying a snitch catch so that they can narrow the opponents' lead.

Fouls and illegal plays

A player can commit numerous fouls and illegal plays. Varying degrees of illegality will earn a player anything from a warning to a red card and permanent expulsion from that match.

Contact rules are fairly straightforward and are similar to other contact sports. Tackles are legal between the knees and shoulders. Players can only tackle other players of their same position (with keepers considered chasers) if they have the ball. Pushes are allowed if the arm is held straight; it is illegal to push if the arm is bent and then extended when pushing another player.[30] Contact initiated from behind is illegal, but it is considered clean if a player tackling another runs into the tackle and then turns backwards.[31]

After several various types of illegal play, the head ref will blow their whistle twice to indicate stoppage of play, in which every player must drop in place their broom and any ball they were holding.[32]

Most fouls result in a yellow card being given. With a yellow card, the player awarded the card goes to the penalty box for 1 minute, or until their team is scored upon. Players may not sub from the penalty box, however, if a keeper is awarded a penalty they must trade headbands with a chaser as a team must have a keeper on the pitch at all times.[clarification needed]

When a red card is given, the player who committed the foul must sub off for somebody else on their team. The player who received the red card must leave the pitch. Their replacement then has 2 minutes in the penalty box, and is not allowed to leave the penalty box for those 2 minutes even if his or her team is scored upon. A red card can either be given outright or can be the result of two yellow cards in a game.

The snitch, however, only has a few explicit restrictions such as climbing trees and buildings. However many snitch rules may soon become void, as some leagues are removing off-pitch seeking from their official gameplay.


The quidditch pitch is marked with lines or a series of cones, but it is not binding to players,[33] meaning players can continue play outside the boundaries, but within the spectator zone (a rectangle of 44 x 77m around the pitch).[34] Balls are not allowed to be kicked off the pitch under penalty, nor is play allowed in the spectator zones. Players are asked to return to the pitch when play continues out of bounds.

On the edge of the pitch are two penalty boxes where players who have committed fouls that warrant yellow cards are sent for one minute.[35]


Each official game requires having several referees present as well as an official snitch. The referees are the head ref whose job is to control the field and administer fouls and yellow or red cards to offending players, assistant refs who assist the head referee in watching for illegal plays, the snitch ref who follows the snitch once they enter the field and determine whether or not the catch was clean, and the goal refs whose job is to determine whether the quaffle went through the hoop.[30] Assistant refs are oftentimes called bludger or beater refs, and their job is to call "beat" (or, in French, "touché") when the beat was clean (meaning hit the opposing player), to help determine whether a goal was scored based on the beat and assist with making calls concerning illegal action or give verbal warnings to players. Assistant referees are also able to communicate to the head ref for a stoppage of play if witness to an action that would result in a yellow card. Snitch refs, whilst the snitch is off field, act as an additional bludger ref.

The snitch, being a neutral player and assistant referee, may help the referees to determine whether or not the catch was clean.[30]

Rulebook 8

The release of Rulebook 8 coincided partially with the reformation of the IQA. As USQ released the rulebook, the IQA chose to adopt the eighth iteration as the de facto international standard where the proceeding rulebook will be released under the guise of the IQA. The changes from the Rulebook 7 to Rulebook 8 were minimal except in two areas: blue cards and snitching.

A technical foul results in a blue card on a player where that player must substitute with another player of the same position. The substitution does not, however, result in a power play for the other team, and play is not stopped when this card is rendered. A play may accrue an unlimited amount of technical fouls during a match.[36]

Snitching also changed in Rulebook 8 resulting in the deletion of off-pitch seeking. Where before, the snitch would be "released" before each match by running off the pitch during a set amount of time, now the snitch is released to the field, limited to the playing area, at 17 minutes (the seekers being released at 18 minutes). Many NGBs choose to continue playing under Rulebook 7 rules.[36]

International Quidditch Association

The International Quidditch Association serves as the central governing body for quidditch worldwide and helps to coordinate with national associations around the world through the IQA Congress. Previously, The IQA held a World Cup for qualifying members of the association at the end of every season, the first being held in 2007, ending in 2014 with its restructuring.[37] Now, the only tournament the IQA oversees is the international Global Games.

World Map of quidditch activity. Dark blue indicates full member, lighter blue indicates developing member and the lightest blue indicates emerging areas.

National governing bodies

Each nation in which quidditch is played has or is in the process of developing a national organisation. The job of the national organisation is to organise quidditch within the country, create membership policies for teams, organize referees, snitches, and coaches and be the bridge between that nation's teams and the IQA. Currently, the active national associations are:


International tournaments

IQA World Cup

Formally called both the Global Games and Summer Games, the World Cup is the IQA's tournament for national teams. Any quidditch-playing nation is offered the chance at competing on the world level at this tournament. The latest iteration was held in Burnaby, BC, Canada in July 2014 where it saw the US taking first with Australia coming in with a close second. The Games, hosted by US Quidditch, attracted limited media presence and saw a small gathering of spectators. The results were, in order: United States, Australia, Canada, UK, Mexico, France, Belgium.

The original World Cup was titled "Summer Games" to match the Olympics being held in London, UK. July 2012 saw 5 national teams from around the world compete in this first international tournament run by the IQA, taking place in University Parks, Oxford, England. The five teams were from the USA, Canada, France, UK, and Australia.[38]

European Games

Similar to the Global Games, the European Games is an international tournament open to national teams. Inclusion within the European Games is limited to members of the European Committee (also known as Quidditch Europe or QEurope). The first European Games will be held in Sarteano, Italy from 24 July to 27 July.[39]

Asian Quidditch Cup

The inaugural Asian Quidditch Cup will take place at the end of July 2016 in Vietnam at the same time as the 2016 IQA World Cup.[40] They will be held again in 2017 then biennially to match the World Cup/Regional tournament alternations. Current participants include: Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China and the Philippines.[41]

Regional or league tournaments

European Quidditch Cup

The European Quidditch Cup, also known as EQC and formerly known as the European Quidditch Championship,[42] is a yearly championship tournament for teams in Europe. The 2014-2015 season will see its third iteration which is set to be held in Oxford, UK on 18–19 April 2015.[43] EQC began first in France in Lesparre-Médoc on 13 October 2012 where a minimal amount of teams attended during the 2012-2013 season due to the fact that quidditch was only recently introduced to Europe.[44] In the 2013-2014 season, however, with EQC II, Brussels and the Belgian Quidditch Federation hosted the tournament on 1–2 February. Twelve teams from a variety of countries attended, with Radcliffe Chimeras coming in first and Paris Phénix and the Belgian Qwaffles taking second and third place, respectively.[45]

Canadian Nationals

Canadian Nationals will be the national championship tournament for Quidditch Canada.[46] The 2014-2015 national championship will be held in Burnaby, BC on 28 March 2015. Its precursors: East and West Regionals, will be held in Kingston, ON and Moose Jaw, SK on 1 February and 7 February 2015, respectively.[47]


Yearly, the Australian Quidditch Association hosts QUAFL, an all-Australian championship that determines which Australian team is the best. The first tournament was held in December 2011 at UNSW, Sydney and won by the hosts. The second tournament was hosted by Macquarie University and was won again by the UNSW Snapes on a plane. The tournament in 2013 was held at the University of Western Sydney on 30 November and 1 December. The winning team was the Perth Phoenixes. The third place team, University of Sydney Unspeakables, decided to travel to the US to participate in the last ever IQA World Cup. Melbourne Manticores defeated UNSW Snapes On A Plane in the 2014 tournament final held at Macquarie University. The same teams would make the 2015 tournament final, held at Monash University, where the Manticores would once again emerge triumphant.

USQ Championships

Also known as the USQ World Cup, the championship tournament within US Quidditch will be held for the first time in April 2015. There, qualifying teams from regional championships will compete to see which team is the best in the US. USQ membership policy dictates that any team outside the US will be eligible to compete in this and any other USQ tournament as long as they pay the membership fees in full, but, to date, only two teams outside the US have registered as such: University of British Columbia's A and B teams.

The regions within USQ are:[48]

Great Lakes
IQA World Cup (old)

The IQA World Cup is the former "world" championships of quidditch which was held yearly in the United States. As it was maintained by the former IQA, it was almost a purely US-based tournament, seeing little turnout from teams outside of the country. This tournament was discontinued in 2014 when the IQA took on its new role as international sports federation, choosing instead to host then-Global Games now-World Cup as a world championship with individual teams relying on their national governing body for a culminating tournament.

British Tournaments

The British Quidditch Cup was held in Oxford, England, on the 9th and 10 November 2013, and was won by the Oxford University's first team, The Radcliffe Chimeras.[49] The BQC was repeated on the weekend of the 7th March 2015 held in Wollaton Park, Nottingham. At this tournament the defending Champions, The Radcliffe Chimeras, were defeated in the final by Southampton Quidditch Club 1, with Keele Squirrels coming third. In total 24 teams were registered to compete with 23 doing so.

Also significant in the UK are the two regional tournaments - Northern Cup and Southern Cup. Having being originally devised as independently organised tournaments by Keele University Quidditch Club and Southampton Quidditch Club respectively in March and November 2014, the inaugural tournaments were won by Bangor Broken Broomsticks and Radcliffe Chimeras. The tournaments were then taken over by QuidditchUK, to ensure consistency between the two, as the tournaments are now used as qualification criteria for the European Quidditch Cup.[50] The second Northern Cup took place on the 31st October-1 November 2015, and was won by Nottingham Nightmares, who defeated Durhamstrang in the final.[51] The second Southern Cup will take place on the 14–15 November.

Other long-standing tournaments include the Annual Mercian Cup, a mercenary tournament hosted by Derby Union Quidditch, Reading University's Whiteknights Tournament, and Oxford's unique Valentines Cup, a fantasy tournament where players signed up in pairs. Since awareness of quidditch in the UK is rising exponentially, every year new tournaments are being devised.

Other large tournaments

Each season, regions generally host one to two larger tournaments, mostly following the North American/European school model of two terms (autumn-winter, winter-spring) where there is one larger tournament per semester in addition to that region's regional championship.

Fantasy tournaments

Fantasy tournaments are tournaments where players sign up individually and are seeded to teams at a drawing by the team captains. Each year, there are quite a few fantasy tournaments, with greater numbers being during June–August during the off-season.

Gender or "four maximum" rule and the LGBTQ2+ community

Since its inception, quidditch has sought gender equality on the pitch.[52] One of the most important requirements within the sport is its 'four maximum' rule:

A quidditch game allows each team to have a maximum of four players, not including the seeker, who identify as the same gender in active play on the field at the same time. The gender that a player identifies with is considered to be that player’s gender, which may or may not correspond with that person’s sex. This is commonly referred to as the "four maximum" rule.

USQ accepts those who don’t identify within the binary gender system and acknowledges that not all of our players identify as male or female. USQ welcomes people of all identities and genders into our league.

— US Quidditch, Four Maximum Rule[53]

Because of this wording, quidditch is becoming a leader of sports for equal basing for both women and non-binary members of the LGBTQ2+ community.[54] In 2013, US Quidditch created Title 9 ¾, a branch of the IQA that actively promotes advocacy and awareness as well as gender equality and inclusivity,[55] whose role moved onto to the IQA under its "Initiatives".[52] The sport as also been illustrated to yield a positive experience for athletes of all genders, increased desires for inclusivity and stereotype reduction.[52] Testimonials include: "The gender rule makes playing safe for me. I'm trans and genderqueer, two reasons I never know which team to join... so having a non-binary option means I don't have to choose."[56]

Quidditch by other rules

There are other variants of real-life Quidditch, notably played in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Hungary amongst other places. These variants often play with rules similar to the fictional sport within the Harry Potter universe but differ wildly from the IQA rules, including but not limited to: playing without brooms, brooms serving a different purpose, referees throwing balls to act as snitches, differing bludger and beater roles, etc.[57]

A version of "real life" quidditch is also portrayed in the film The Internship, however it strays wildly from quidditch's ruleset.[58]


Modified rules with less contact have been used for younger (school age) players.[59] These rules include no tackling, modified hoops, and a little lee-way on calls made by referees.

Wheel-chair quidditch

The Australian Quidditch Association has a set of rules for wheel-chair quidditch. It is rarely used elsewhere, however it is starting to gain traction in several other countries.

See also


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External links