Following months of rumours and speculation the following statement was released this morning on behalf of the English, Welsh and Irish Curling Associations.
Following a weekend of meetings the Curling Associations of England, Wales and Ireland have announced that they are to merge. The strategic goal of the new alliance will be “To deliver a World Class athlete and development programme for some 10-12 curlers”. The full details will be unveiled over the course of the next month as the logistical issues of merging the 3 nations are fully resolved. Team selection will, for the initial 3 years, involve one member of each nation in each team with the 4th player and any alternate players being selected on an agreed rotational basis. The changes will be in place in time for next season as the new Olympic cycle begins. The new body will be known as the Curling Association of Great Britain and Ireland and will be funded by Sport England, Sport Wales and the Irish Sports Council in association with the British Olympic Council. Athlete recruitment will begin immediately and no previous curling experience will be necessary. A provisional budget of £20 million for the Podium Athlete Programme has been approved for the 3 year period to 2018 with an additional £22 million invested in coaching and administrative positions. The Athletes will be based in Canada for the duration. Speaking shortly after the North West Castle Summit the Chief Executive of the new association, Fi Pollora (a former Italian show jumping internationalist) said “This is an exciting time. The uncertainty over the Independence issue in Scotland has forced our hand to an extent, and we certainly could not afford to let the curling programme drift. We will be actively cross recruiting athletes from a variety of other sports over the next few months and thereafter we will ensure they get as much, or as little, curling as they need in order to achieve our stated curling goals and achievements over the next Olympic cycle. We already have a team of World Level coaches who have identified the key physical attributes required for the athlete programme and, in a world first, the coaching staff will include a world leading geneticist who has carried out detailed genetic sampling on podium athletes across a number of disciplines including curling. Our mission statement will ensure that we have podium capable teams in the appropriate time frame. We already have agreement from the World Curling Association that we will compete from here forward in European and World Events as ‘Great Britain and Ireland’ and that there will be 11 teams and 13 teams respectively in the next European Curling Championships and World Curling Championships. In the event that Scotland does remain in the UK we have agreed that there will be an Olympic Play-Off between the two entities in 2017 if Scotland continues to have international level teams”.