Statement from Chair and Executive Performance Director on World Champs Selection Policy
As the Chair and Executive Performance Director for British Curling, we ask that you take a couple of minutes to read and consider the information we share below.
British Curling works extremely closely with our partners Scottish Curling in all regards. We run the Scottish and British Performance Programme on behalf of the sport in Scotland and Britain and have shared aims and objectives for the success of Scottish and British teams at European, World and Olympic level.
The decision taken by the Scottish Curling Board to alter the method by which teams are identified to represent Scotland at the annual World Championships, has the full support of British Curling. We know the seriousness with which the Board considered all the facts in arriving at this decision and we respect the “business” decision they have reached for what is a very emotive issue.
We are of course aware of the proposal being considered at the upcoming Scottish Curling AGM to reverse that decision and we wanted to take this opportunity to share some thoughts and concerns about the issue and the implications were that proposal to be adopted.
We are also both acutely aware of the traditions of curling and the huge significance of those. In many ways neither of us like going against tradition, but our responsibility is to ensure the best platform for international success by Scottish and British curlers. That success isn’t just about the elite players and teams benefiting of course, it provides the essential visibility for curling - predominately during the Winter Olympic Games - that gives curling clubs the chance to recruit new members and benefit from the spotlight that is on the sport.
Our responsibility is wider of course, it is also to the players themselves. To enable them to flourish at the highest levels of the sport, they need to travel, to compete, to train and to make a level of commitment that is huge. Some commentary in recent times has suggested we expect curlers to be “full time” curlers. That is categorically not the case (have a look at the current teams and see what they do outside of curling - work and study), but we do expect that curling is their number one commitment. We will always support players with the “Plan B” career development, but commitment to curling has to be their top priority.
All of this is expensive. We are very fortunate that UK Sport invests into British Curling - but let us be clear, they invest for the purposes of securing Olympic and Paralympic medals only. That funding cannot be used for other purposes, so it either gets used effectively to enable our best curlers to prepare and practice at beating the world’s best, or it will go to another sport. It cannot be used to support club curling development. We also need to be open - ongoing funding is effectively threatened by tradition for tradition’s sake. UK Sport see huge risk in the current approach and they do not like investing into high risk sports. We can’t ignore that and we just need to be honest about it.
We also have a responsibility to the future generations of curlers. There has been comment that moving to selection will kill the aspirations of future curlers, a suggestion that we wish to challenge completely. Selection conducted objectively, fairly and using quantifiable data, is arguably the best and safest method to ensure that the best talent gets the opportunities it deserves. That is the basis on which selection would be conducted - simply the best team at that point to represent Scotland. So if you are the best you have nothing to fear. If you are not the best at that time, then hard work, commitment, engaging with the support systems fully gives you a chance of being selected in the future. Selection rewards talent and commitment.
We must also comment on the Scottish Championships. To us, it is vital that the Scottish Championships remain the premier event annually for Scottish curlers. The event has changed - reflecting changes that are seen in so many other sports, but we can work together to ensure it has a profile, an atmosphere and an entry list that reflects the status of the event. British Curling is committed to the Scottish Championships and we will ensure all supported teams enter and compete.
So the decision taken by the Scottish Curling Board to move to selection is one that we applaud and support. It is a significant move in protecting the future of elite curling in Scotland and with it protecting so much of the rest of our sport that affects everyone involved in the game. It is of course sad to see traditions set aside, but in every walk of life, in every sport, traditions have to change and move in order for a sport to remain relevant. The world moves on rapidly - Scotland has no right to assume that it will maintain its place at the top table of curling internationally. We may have invented the sport, but other countries are working tirelessly to reinvent the top order and knock us off the top tier. Their curlers are full time. They have greater investment. Most of them select the best team for each event. They know that in curling - like in almost all other Olympic sports - it makes sense.
We urge you therefore, in the widest interests of curling, to support and back the Board of Scottish Curling with the decision they have taken.
British Curling will continue to work to enable Scottish and British Curlers to achieve on the world stage. Our main target is to see Team GB on the podium at the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics in 2022 and we will strive to fully support the athletes and teams who we believe are capable of achieving that.
Rob Niven - Chair
Nigel Holl - Executive Performance Director
Image: WCF / Richard Gray