The question of length of game in ends was raised by the Members at the 2019 Annual General Assembly.
In response the Board set up the Maximising the Value (MTV) Working Group to consider not only the issue of the appropriate number of ends in a game, but also all of the other issues that have an impact on the presentation of curling at an elite level. This included issues such as pace of play, predictability and length of games.
Since that time, the group has considered many concepts with the goal to broaden the appeal for audiences, broadcasters and sponsors.
The group has also engaged with the sports stakeholders using a major fan survey conducted by Two Circles — a professional research company —during the World Men’s Curling Championship 2021.
The feedback from the various stakeholders pointed to a number of areas that needed to be addressed:
- The pace of play — the need to make the game exciting over its full length, whether that is eight or ten ends.
- The length of the game — the need to fit into a clear broadcast window which in most territories would be around 2.5 hours. This needs to ensure the agreed window, not exceed it.
- Predictability – whether this was about the ability of teams to come back from a deficit in the last few ends or that the team with the hammer is the overwhelming favourite in an extra end.
- Blank Ends – from the fan survey the feedback on blank ends was not positive.
The original question of addressing the number of ends in a traditional curling game is still divided, with strong support for both eight and ten ends.
Trial Rule Proposals
It was the intention of the MTV Group to partner with non-World Curling Federation elite level events to trial rule and format enhancements. This proved impossible over the last season, with most events around the world being canceled in the wake of the pandemic.
At the 2021 Annual General Assembly, the group is therefore proposing a number of trial rule changes. These rule changes are set to be trialled at the World Women’s and World Men’s Curling Championships during the 2021–2022 season if approved by the Members. This trial over three events allows their impact on ten-end games to be fully assessed.
Editor’s Note: This trial originally proposed to include the World Junior’s. However, at the General Assembly, the Members voted to remove the World Junior’s from the trial for the 2021–2022 season.
These championships do not have Olympic qualification implications. The senior events are held post-Beijing, reducing athlete reluctance to play under a different system than the one contested at the Olympics.
The three suggested rules are:
- Thinking Time per end will replace the current Thinking Time rules: Four minutes per end for the first five ends, then four minutes 15 seconds for the remaining ends will be allowed. If a team runs out of time during one end, the other team will be allowed to deliver their remaining stones, provided they can do so within their remaining time, then the end score will be calculated. If they also run out of time, then the score will be calculated at the point where the second team runs out of time.
- No tick shot rule: If a stone is touching the centre line within the free guard zone it may not be moved off the centre line by an opponent’s stone until after the fifth stone of the end has been played. If it is moved, then the delivered stone will be removed and the moved stone replaced by the non-offending team to the position prior to the violation.
- No extra ends in the round robin stage: A team winning a game will receive three points for the win. If a game is tied, each team will select one player to play a draw to the button; the team closest to the button will receive two points, and the other team will receive one point. The standings for the round robin will be calculated first on the total number of points gained by the teams. If two or more teams have the same number of points, the team with the greater number of wins within ten ends will be ranked higher. If the teams are still tied, then the normal World Curling Federation ranking rules will apply.
Rule Proposal Rationale
The rationale for these changes is that by introducing thinking time per end, teams will not be able to “bank” time and this removes some of the blank ends that are seen in the game. Additionally, the changes to the tick shot rule should assist in reducing the predictability by making it harder to remove well-placed guards.
Evidence gathered during the Curling World Cup indicates that thinking time per end also makes the overall length of the game more predictable, and using it in these events will allow this to be tested over ten ends, adding to the evidence already available over eight ends.
Finally, the removal of the extra ends in the round-robin stage reduces the occasions where the game runs over the broadcast window because of tie at the end of the game. Additionally, the shoot-out gives a fairer opportunity to both sides to win the game than the current situation, where the team with the hammer has a significant advantage.
We are proposing to use the following months to conduct that consultation exercise with Member Associations, World Curling Federation Athlete Commission, World Curling Federation Competition and Rules Commission, Marketing and Broadcast partners. We are also interested in hearing from curling fans in general about these ideas.
Annual General Assembly Members Approval
The World Curling Federation Constitution requires that rule changes be approved by the Members at a General Assembly.
In order to comply with this requirement, we are proposing the Assembly delegate the authority for the final decision on the details of these rule enhancements to the Board, once the consultation process has been completed to their satisfaction.
We are asking both the World Curling Federation Athlete Commission and Competition and Rules Commission to consider providing their support of this process, on the basis of their engagement in the consultation process.