World Curling looking to expand with two new roles

© WCF / Logan Hannigan-Downs

Sparked by a special seminar held in Toronto in January, during which World Curling Federation senior staff, key volunteers, Board members, along with some important stakeholders, became heftily involved in developing six “Big Ideas” for the Federation’s future, the wind of change is certainly blowing through WCF business and activities.

And one of the most obvious pieces of evidence that change is happening has been the publication of a recruitment advert for two brand-new World Curling Federation positions, an Athlete Support Officer and a Business Development Manager.

World Curling Fedetation Secretary General Colin Grahamslaw explained the reason behind the opening for these two positions, saying, “These roles do come out of the summit in Toronto.”

Regarding developing some of the ambitious ideas brought up there, he added, “One of the key things is to ensure that we have the resources in place – both financial and in personnel – to support the projects.”

“So, if we look at the Athlete Support Officer, a key area is looking at our Athlete Commission and how it communicates with and represents athletes. Also – how can this Officer help the Commission speak to a wider group of athletes than it does right now? More generally, how can this Officer support the projects that the Athlete Commission wants to look at?”

Colin Grahamslaw gave a specific example that is currently on the radar screen, saying, “How do we co-ordinate the international curling calendar? If you look at sports like tennis or golf, there is a very clear structured calendar, in terms of level of events, in terms of the way the events are planned through the season, so the athletes know what to expect when they go to an event, the standard of opposition, the standard of services at the event.”

In making all the Federation’s ambitions happen, it’s clear that partnership working will be the name of the game.

Colin Grahamslaw says, “We don’t own many of the events on the calendar, but we own the ranking system, so how do we link the calendar and the rankings together? It’s not about the WCF running all the events, it’s about creating a systematic calendar that works for the sport and for our partners of course.”

Turning to another aspect that will be a major responsibility for the Athlete Support Officer, he says, “This role will also help the Athlete Commission in one of their major duties, which is athlete education. To ensure that every athlete has proper education on anti-doping, match manipulation, safeguarding and developing skills beyond that… We could well end up creating an athlete’s licence, through which we’ll know that every athlete has had the education they need to make the best use of their time in the sport.”

He added, “We could also well end up with an event licensing system, to help ensure that there is a clear structure in place.”

Summarising the role, he says, “This is someone who will focus on helping the athlete community to achieve what they want in the sport.”

Colin then turned attention to the Business Development Officer role.

“This is about how the sport operates commercially, how we develop new funding mechanisms and new partnerships. Not just sponsorships, not just broadcast revenues, but how do we work on joint ventures?”

He also spoke about specifics the Federation is currently looking at, “Maybe this role will be about developing technology that will enhance fan engagement and spectator engagement – how we connect spectators in the venues better with the game on the ice.”

He went on with some possible examples, “We can make use of the data that we generate. We can add value to the spectators’ experience… Maybe an earpiece so you can listen to the commentary in the venue or something on your phone that gives you more stats, more details. Or maybe a chip in the handle to give you more details.”

“It’s about developing technology; perhaps it’s about developing fantasy games that could allow fans to engage with each other. Perhaps it’s about new events that are there to generate income, it’s about looking at what we can do better.”

He went on to use the recent changes to World Curling TV broadcasting as an example of how things might move – and improve – in the future. About the new Recast model he says, “This season we will have generated more than £GBP 100,000, and that’s allowing us to cover more sheets. And generating income helps justify our investment, as well as improving the quality of the product that we can offer.”

While these two roles will take the Federation and the sport into new territory, it is fair to say, they are only early indicators of the direction of travel.

As Colin says, “We’ve got to look at the whole curling eco-system and how do we help it.”

He also highlights another major project that’s on the horizon, “We have a big piece of work on facilities. We need a comprehensive facilities’ strategy that perhaps allows venues to become part of a network of training centres or centres of excellence, that can be used for training courses or events. Ultimately, this could mean WCF owning and operating its own facilities.”

Looks like there are exciting times ahead, as curling – that most traditional of sports – adapts and adopts to successfully face the challenges that lie ahead, while holding on dearly to everything that makes it so special to so many.

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Perth, Scotland

10 May 2023