Scottish curling’s grass roots, already struggling with recent facility closures before the COVID-19 pandemic, got a recent boost when the government pledged U.S. $2.7 million in direct support.
The windfall could mean the difference between some of the nation’s rinks surviving past the pandemic and into the next 2021-22 curling season.
“I was delighted to hear that the work had paid off,” said 2014 Olympic finalist and two-time world men's champion skip David Murdoch. “The last few months have been extremely difficult for all our rinks. They’ve had had incredible pressures of finance, dilemmas of feasibility of opening, and a yo-yo of open or close restrictions.”
The Scottish Ice Rinks Association (SIRA) teamed with Scottish Curling to start lobbying the Scottish government in November of last year. A media campaign produced local and national stories, and Scottish curling stars such as Eve Muirhead, Bruce Mouat and Rhona Howie (née Martin) actively promoted the campaign.
“We know our clubs and rinks are vitally important to our sport and doing anything we can to sustain their existence is instrumental to our sports growth,” said Murdoch, the Olympic Head Coach for British Curling.
“Coming from a small town in Lockerbie where the rink is a vital part of the community, and has produced so many champions, we must always support our facilities. We have to do our best to encourage everyone to return to these rinks once we’re through this pandemic.”
Scotland, the birthplace of the Roaring Game, has 22 curling ice rinks and some of them are shared i.e. multipurpose facilities.
Recent openings like 2017’s U.S. $4 million National Curling Academy in Stirling were offset by closures, including the shocking end of Renfrewshire’s quality eight-sheet rink at intu Braehead, a leisure and shopping complex.
The closure announcement came in November of 2019 and was set to take effect after the world men’s championship in March 2020 at the nearby Emerites Arena, which was eventually cancelled due to the pandemic. Seven hundred curlers representing 40 clubs lost their facility and now Glasgow–Scotland’s largest city–is without a single curling rink.
Mike Ferguson, who owns the Forfar Indoor Sports facility, is also the chief of SIRA and was featured in some of the campaign’s media coverage.
”We are delighted our joint campaign with Scottish Curling has had the desired effect with revenue supported funding announced by the Scottish Government,” said Ferguson. ”It really could not come at a better time for our members and I sincerely hope we can work with the authorities to help administer the quick release of funds. My thanks to those rinks who helped generate support, provide figures and backed the campaign.”
Murdoch's base of operations, the National Curling Academy, is the sole rink facility that remains open throughout the Scotland’s current lockdown, which is scheduled to end on January 31. The rest of the United Kingdom will remain in lockdown through mid February.
The NCA has elite sport exemption, and the athletes are training daily.
Murdoch was recently interviewed on From The Hack (starts at 36:49).