NEWS: CCA and WCPA Still Squabbling
- Split in curling looks like it can be healed
Cause for cautious optimism on main player issues
Mon, Jan 20, 2003
Paul Wiecek, Winnipeg Free Press
"Will there be peace in our time?"That's been the burning question in
curling circles all season as fans, players and organizers alike wonder
whether the Canadian Curling Association and World Curling Players
Association can negotiate an end to the current schism.
It has become a given that both parties want an end to the split, which for
the second year sees the country's top teams boycotting the Brier to curl
instead on the four-event Slam.
But exactly what are the issues? And where is the negotiating process at?
Here's what we know: The players presented a detailed written list of
demands to the CCA in early December.
The demands were then referred to the CCA's board of directors, who were
instructed to forward their thoughts back to CCA head office by last
Wednesday. A counter-proposal is now being prepared.
So what do the players want? And, while it's too late for this year, what
are the chances a deal will be done in time for the 2004 Brier? We sought
out the CCA's Dave Parkes and the WCPA's Jon Mead for answers.
Parkes, a Manitoba native, is the CEO of the CCA and the man who's been
appointed their chief negotiator. He's likable and even the most virulent in
the anti-CCA camp seem to respect him.
And then there's Mead. The Brier-winning third for Jeff Stoughton, he's also
the sales manager for Asham Curling Supplies and a WCPA vice-president.
Mead's level-headed and honest, conceding the Slam has made mistakes but
also stressing he's convinced it will all lead to the growth of the sport in
While neither man would reveal exactly what's in the players' proposal --
both are understandably reluctant to negotiate through the media -- four
central player demands have clearly emerged.
What follows are those demands, where the CCA and players sit on each one,
and an analysis of the immediate prospects for a resolution. z The players
want the right to wear sponsors' crests on their provincial uniforms at the
Mead: "We want to be able to give our sponsors some bang for their buck."
Parkes: "Cresting is clearly an issue we might be able to move on."
The skinny: This one's a no-brainer. The only outstanding issue is that the
CCA wouldn't be able to allow such crests until the 2005 Brier because of
current contracts. It's hard to imagine the players would allow a one-year
delay to be a deal-breaker.
z The players want purse money at the Brier.
Mead: "If the event's making a million dollars, we feel there should be
prize money... The team that wins deserves a lot more than the team that
Parkes: "Purse money at the Brier is a huge philosophical issue as well as a
business issue. Whatever we do will be good for the sport and not just a few
The skinny: This one sounds like a throw-in. Even Mead acknowledges that
while there's no purse money, winning the Brier is already worth huge bucks,
with all the other opportunities -- and Sport Canada funding -- that goes
with it. If the players insisted on it, it's hard to imagine the CCA
couldn't find $100,000 in purse money to placate them. Either way, this one
sounds like it will go away.
z The players want a standardized provincial playdowns system, with berths
to the defending champs and/or top cashspielers.
Mead: "We'd like our events to stop conflicting with CCA events... and come
up with a system that allows players the opportunity to spend more time
sharpening their skills on the tour."
Parkes: "We've been working with the provinces to try and come up with a
system that makes sense across the country."
The skinny: Quebec's already changed their playdowns system, Saskatchewan's
talking about big changes, while Ontario and Manitoba are looking at
tweaking. Even in Alberta, where the southern and northern curling
associations don't get along, they're at least talking.
This could take a year or two to finally hammer out, but it would be hard
for the players to blame the CCA for not trying. The question for the
players will be whether a commitment to change is good enough.
z The players want Olympic Trials berths for at least some of their Slam
events. Mead: "You can't argue with the results of the last two Trials
(where many teams had earned their berths via World Curling Tour events).
The teams that were there were, for the most part, the teams that should
have been there."
Parkes: "That's an area where I think the players are going to have to wait
and see what's in our counter-proposal."
The skinny: The CCA is believed to want the 2003-05 Brier and 2003-05 Canada
Cup to be Trials berth events. And there are also hints that they might be
looking at staging another Trials qualifier or two. That wouldn't leave many
berths for the Slam if the Trials are kept to a 10-team field, and they
almost certainly will be.
The Slam needs the credibility Trials berths would give it. But the CCA
seems to be increasingly leaning another way. This one could be a problem.
So put it all together and how likely are we to get a deal done?
"I'm as optimistic as I've been in three years," says Parkes. "but I
wouldn't bet the farm on it.
"Our counter-proposal will be fair and in the best interests of the sport.
And hopefully that's good enough. But if it isn't, we're not going to bend
over so far backwards that we break."
And from Mead: "(Slam underwriter) IMG isn't concerned with exclusivity and
they'd like to see us back out there playing in everything again. They see
there's more to be gained from that. But they'll take their lead from us.
"As a group, we'll have to sit back and say, 'We didn't get everything we
wanted, but we did get a lot. Is that enough?' "
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