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The Seeker is key to winning a game of Quidditch. If your team doesn't have a Seeker and the opposing team does, then the opposing team can only ever lose by surrendering. Unless there's a huge skill difference between the two playing teams, this is as good as an automatic win. It follows that if you have a strategy that can remove the opposing Seeker from the game for a long period of time, you should use it. In other words, if you can foul the opposing Seeker without significant losses, you should.

Put simply, my problem is that the books appear to show this outrageous tactic as being perfectly legal. For example, chapter 13 of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Has Wood outright recommend it:

HARRY, THIS IS NO TIME TO BE A GENTLEMAN!” Wood roared as Harry swerved to avoid a collision. “KNOCK HER OFF HER BROOM IF YOU HAVE TO!

and chapter 11 of Philosopher's Stone as good as proves that a player can't be removed from the game as a consequence of fouling. Indeed, the punishment in this case was just a free shot at the goal posts.

Madam Hooch spoke angrily to Flint and then ordered a free shot at the goal posts for Gryffindor. But in all the confusion, of course, the Golden Snitch had disappeared from sight again.

Down in the stands, Dean Thomas was yelling, “Send him off, ref! Red card!”

“What are you talking about, Dean?” said Ron.

“Red card!” said Dean furiously. “In football you get shown the red card and you’re out of the game!”

“But this isn’t football, Dean,” Ron reminded him.

Hagrid, however, was on Dean’s side.

“They oughta change the rules. Flint coulda knocked Harry outta the air.”

Finally, chapter 15 of Prisoner has an extremely dirty game of Quidditch played, but the only punishments that I can see are more free shots at the goals. For example:

That will do!” shrieked Madam Hooch, zooming between them. “Penalty shot to Gryffindor for an unprovoked attack on their Chaser! Penalty shot to Slytherin for deliberate damage to their Chaser!

and

Bole hit Alicia with his club and tried to say he’d thought she was a Bludger. George Weasley elbowed Bole in the face in retaliation. Madam Hooch awarded both teams penalties, and Wood pulled off another spectacular save, making the score forty-ten to Gryffindor.

and

YOU DO NOT ATTACK THE KEEPER UNLESS THE QUAFFLE IS WITHIN THE SCORING AREA!” she shrieked at Bole and Derrick. “Gryffindor penalty!”

are the only punishments that I can find, despite this being obviously deliberate damage. So why not foul the Seeker as much as possible?

In summary: Fouling the opposing Seeker is as good as an automatic win and the worst punishment for fouling another player seems to be a free shot at your team's goal posts. If both of these are anywhere near true, why isn't fouling the opposing Seeker a tactic that is used regularly in Quidditch? Personally, I'd start every game by clobbering the other team's Seeker.

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    "If your team doesn't have a Seeker and the opposing team does, then the opposing team can only ever lose by surrendering." The seeker is not the only way to win. Sure, getting ahead by 16 goals is difficult, but we saw Ireland do just that at the World Cup. – Arcanist Lupus Jun 13 at 5:40
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    I just imagine both teams chasing each other's seekers to injure them instead of playing. That would be a whole new attraction for the audience :D – Shana Tar Jun 13 at 9:18
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    How is this opinion-based? Questions about game tactics (in a game as extensively described as Quidditch) seem perfectly well on-topic here. – Valorum Jun 13 at 9:28
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    @ArcanistLupus The Seeker is not the only way to win, but they are the only way to end the game. That's why I made the comment about skill gaps in my first paragraph. – J. Mini Jun 13 at 11:59
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    Are you saying Quidditch rules have flaws? Preposterous! ;-) – Julien Lopez Jun 14 at 8:25
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It is a tactic commonly used in Quidditch.

As mentioned in Quidditch through the Ages, attacking the opposing team’s Seeker is a common tactic. Due to their important role in determining the score, Seekers are the players most fouled by members of the opposing team, and typically receive the worst injuries. Further confirmation of this is that the first rule in one guide for Beaters is to take out the opposing team’s Seeker.

The Seeker

Usually the lightest and fastest fliers, Seekers need both a sharp eye and the ability to fly one- or no-handed. Given their immense importance in the overall outcome of the match, for the capture of the Snitch so often snatches victory from the jaws of defeat, Seekers are most likely to be fouled by members of the opposition. Indeed, while there is considerable glamour attached to the position of Seeker, for they are traditionally the best fliers on the pitch, they are usually the players who receive the worst injuries. ‘Take out the Seeker’ is the first rule in Brutus Scrimgeour’s The Beaters' Bible.”
- Quidditch Through the Ages

So yes, attacking the other team’s Seeker is indeed a common tactic in Quidditch. As for why it is not seen more in Hogwarts Quidditch, presumably this is because there it is played by mostly underage wizards, and the teachers are more likely to impose stricter penalties on players who attempt violent tactics.

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    "the teachers are more likely to impose stricter penalties on players who attempt violent tactics." - I struggle to believe that. The several quotes that I gave in my question show that the worst punishment that I could find were free shots at goal posts. Regardless, that Quidditch Through the Ages quote is golden. – J. Mini Jun 13 at 12:10
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    @J.Mini: I imagine the examples you quote are at the upper limit of what would be tolerated. They may not be able to send someone off during a game, but these are students. They can be banned from playing Quidditch altogether if they consistently endanger one another. – Kevin Jun 13 at 21:52
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    It should further be noted that Seekers rarely interact with the rest of the players on the field, need completely different positioning, are very focused at watching the environment around them - they're overall in a very good position to avoid the others. Attacking them when an opportunity presents itself is a great idea; but diverting your players away from the game to take a shot at the fastest, most nimble flyers on the field? You're probably not going to catch them anyway, and in the meantime, your opposition gets considerable advantage in the actual game. – Luaan Jun 15 at 8:18
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    It would be important to make the distinction between fouling as a tactic and as a strategy. As I read the question, it would be more about strategic use. – leftaroundabout Jun 15 at 10:26
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    Given that there's two players on each team whose sole job is to hit balls at the opposition, I don't know that they'd be too worried about violent tactics :) – anotherdave Jun 15 at 12:15
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Fouling people is hard. Specifically, you're trying to fly up next to someone and swing at (or run into) them without getting knocked off your own broom or having it forced out of position. And, you're trying to do it while keeping track of a dozen other players swirling around you in three dimensions, the positions of the other balls and hoops, and of course where the ground is. That's a lot to keep track of. For players who are already not that great at flying or playing (they're still learning, and most of them probably won't ever be professional-level), an ill-timed attack could leave them worse off than the opposition.

It's one thing for Wood to tell Harry to attack a rival Seeker: Harry's a flying prodigy, and he already has to keep track of the other Seeker as part of his role anyway. It's less of an imposition for him to try an attack, and if the other Seeker is close to winning anyway there's not much else he should be doing. On the other hand, if other players are simply attacking the Seeker at random times, there's a good chance that they wouldn't be successful, that they might put themselves in a worse spot, and that they would worsen the team's overall performance by not playing their position for that moment.

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  • I could agree, but the Slytherin vs Gryffindor match in Prisoner of Azkaban showed a lot of success in fouling players. – J. Mini Jun 13 at 17:21
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    I don't think the idea was for Harry to knock her off the broom as a primary tactic either - just that if she was in the way, to plough on through to get to the Snitch. – Michael Jun 13 at 22:29
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The disadvantages outweigh the advantages

Continuously clobbering the opposing Seeker isn't worth it - if you clobber him continuously you might be banned (Quidditch bans exist after all ). This would be a large blow to the team. Perhaps if you seriously injure the seeker you might be in detention.

So continuously clobbering the seeker isn't worth it.

What's more, other players have their own IMPORTANT roles to play (eg - beaters = bludgers), so you might be putting your team at risk of being defeated eventually. Let's say your chaser clobbers the other seeker, your team now has only 2 active chasers as opposed to the enemy's 3 so you might be outscored.

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    "Quidditch bans exist after all" - source? As for setting all of your chasers on the other Seeker, remember that you only have to cripple their ability to play once. Once you've done that, you're back to a normal game, albeit a free shot or two down. – J. Mini Jun 13 at 12:05
  • J Mini you completely misunderstand me. Umbridge imposed a Quidditch ban on Harry, Fred and George in the fifth book. I didn't say you need to set all 3 chasers to chase the seeker either. Read Again my Answer – TheMadHatter Jun 13 at 12:43
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    @TheMadHatter That was an arbitrary administration decision by the school that had nothing to do with conduct on the pitch. Nothing indicates there are any penalties beyond free shots at the goal. Also, why would clobbering the other seeker handicap your team more than the handicap of removing the opposing Seeker? Once the seeker is out, you are back to 3 active chasers. – Michael Richardson Jun 13 at 14:49
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If I might be so bold as to propose another angle: while it does happen, dedicating effort to defeating a Seeker may largely be a problem of retaliatory effect.

There is possibly a level of moral high-ground maintained by both teams by at least attempting to provide the appearance of damage to Seekers being accidental or otherwise unintended. I'd propose that it's for much the same reason that it's generally a bad play in real human conflicts to intentionally target the opposing force's clearly marked medics: Yes, it could cause you to gain a significant advantage by weakening the other team's position, but there is an even chance it will result in the other team using the same strategy against you, which may result in an even less advantageous position for you (of your own Seeker going missing).

After all, the Seeker doesn't meaningfully contribute to the game in general, aside from providing a sort of sudden-death finish to the match. Essentially, the match clock is the Snitch. As a result, no Seekers mean the game must be played to submission, potentially taking days (a la cricket).

If you couple all of that with Shana Tar's comment on the question, the audience is here to see a rough conflation of aerial rugby/soccer, not a team capture-the-flag game. Your overall popularity is likely to at least shift if you continually end up in protracted, days-long matches after offing a player on the opposing team.

Lastly, I'm not clear on if there are any rules that would bar re-admission of a downed player, but fouling the Seeker as a strategy in a professional game is as likely to result in them being out of play for hours at most, as a professional team would surely have potions, tinctures, and medical witches or wizards to revive and restore the Seeker as well as either magic to repair the broom (if it took damage) or more likely, spares.

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