January 13, 2009

Vernon: the next chapter

The Royal Club Board Minutes for December have now been published (they can be downloaded here). Significantly, they contain the following statement about the Vernon enquiry:

"Board members expressed frustration that despite constant pressure from the Chairman on the Independent Investigator slow progress is being made. The lack of progress is down to some witness statements having not been signed off. It was agreed that Michael Nicholson should be instructed to finish the report without the missing witness statements."

Word on the rink is that all the material that Nicholson needs is now in his hands, and that the Board will meet soon to discuss the report when it is received. Let's hope so.

It was back in October 27 of last year that the Royal Club issued its last statement about the Vernon investigation. Bob Tait indicated then that the remit for Michael Nicholson, the independent investigator, had been agreed and signed by all the parties, and that work on completing the independent investigation was ongoing.

In summary, the remit was, "To conduct an investigation into the events that resulted in the Scottish team at the Ford World Women’s Curling Championships in Vernon in March 2008 playing 2 games with 3 players, and the events in Vernon following each of these games. To provide the Chairman of the Board of the RCCC a written report on the facts found by the Investigator and to make recommendations on actions, if any, to be taken. The Investigator will not recommend specific disciplinary sanctions. The report and any appendices will be sent to Bob Tait, Chairman of the Board of the RCCC by a date to be agreed with the Investigator. The report and any appendices will also be circulated by the Investigator to Alan Cowan of Simpson Marwick for Gail Munro and Lyndsay Wilson; and Derek Brown. The report and any appendices will also be placed on the RCCC web-site and circulated to all Scottish team players at the event, the Team Coach, Support staff and the RCCC representative at the event no earlier than 48 hours after it was sent to the parties."

The full text of the October 27 announcement is on the RCCC website here.

I am hopeful that we will all soon find out what really happened in Vernon. Bob Tait has indicated that the report will be placed in the public domain, on the Royal Club website. For only by being open and honest can our sport's governing body minimise the public relations disaster that it has already suffered from the delay in getting to this stage.

I believe that Chairman Bob Tait is as frustrated as anyone over how long it has taken to get to this stage. Certainly the statement in December's Board Minutes would seem to indicate this. It has not been a good start to his leadership term and as long as it continues the less opportunity there is for him to begin to repair the Royal Club's reputation.

The question for me is what will happen now? Will the conclusions in the Nicholson report lead to resignations, or will there be a resumption of the complaints procedures which are currently on hold? I fervently hope that there will be no attempts at a cover up. There is no doubt in my mind, from talking to curlers in all walks of the game, that many would like the Vernon issue over with and that we just move on. They are fed up with it. But that's the danger, that the whole matter just gets quietly forgotten about.

I have promised that the Scottish Curler will NOT let the matter be forgotten, although I am as disturbed by the whole issue as any lover of our sport.

Let's not forget the seriousness of what happened. Scotland was made to look the laughing stock of the curling world in Vernon last year. Why did it happen, and what procedures can be put in place that this never happens again? Is it wrong to expect answers to these two questions? And of course we are now very close to finding out who will be representing Scotland at the World Championships this year. Could the same thing happen again?


Timothy said...

What a mess. If I qualfied for the worlds (at my expense) and some "bighead" tries to muck up the team, I would be a little miffed. If a certain "coach" tried to pull a stunt like that in the States or Canada, they would have boot in their backside.

This is the price you pay if the process gets "nationalized" with "allstar this" and "allstar that". At this rate, why even try to get a team together for the nationals when the "centralized committee" calls the shots? How much longer before every national/Euro/Olympic team gets "cherry-picked".

Sadly, this trend will only increase (IMO). With China as a model, more countries will pursue hand-picked team for subsidized support....and a lot of people will be on the outside looking in (and your talent base will shrink).

Anonymous said...

The Spirit of Curling

Normally I am not easily drawn into commenting on controversial
decisions but would like to follow up on your comments on the spirit of
Regarding Vernon, Gail McMillan qualified as Scottish Champion. Clearly
that is uncontested but I wonder what provision was put in place to
accommodate a non Sports Scotland team winning and what special
provision was put in place to bridge the obvious gap between her team and
her appointed 'coach' prior to the European Championships. I think this
was the clash of a 'professional' sportsman and an amateur (in the nicest
sense) team.
You do not go about removing the skip during a major championship and
dignity & respect was not shown by this judgment. If it had you would
not have had a situation where a team took to the ice with 3 players
because this in itself indicates a lack of support by the team as a whole.
I would rather play according to the spirit of curling as fully supported
by the vast majority of the RCCC (if not the 'professional' full time RCCC
officials & coaches from other bodies). Everyone has a run of bad games
and let's bear in mind they were loosing by odd shots, Gail should not be
held to account for decisions that someone else made.
Let me finish by stating that from what I do know of this issue,
communication by the appointed management was very poor and I am not
talking about Rhona. Also much canvassing 'offline' was done to win the
girls favour to force a change which was as damaging as it was divisive.
If they are looking to apportion responsibility for this debacle it does not lie with the skip or the team members.

Gary Cummings