'Four-letter fury' when ice stars clashed

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WITH tales of strife among star players, furious bust-ups with coaches and four-letter tirades, it could well have been the mega-rich world of the modern footballer.

But a court heard yesterday that women's curling had been rocked by a dispute involving the skip of a Scottish team at a world championships, the national coach and an Olympic gold medal hero.

The skip was Gail Munro, whose dismay at being dropped during an ill-fated tournament turned to outrage after the coach, Derek Brown, announced to the world that she had refused to play for her country.

His comments had been based, he told a judge, on reports he had received from another of the backroom staff, Rhona Martin, the woman who had shot to fame in skipping the Great Britain team to Olympic glory in 2002.

Miss Munro, of Stranraer, is claiming 50,000 damages from Mr Brown, alleging she was defamed by his assertion that she had turned her back on her country. He argues that what he had said was true.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh heard that Miss Munro's rink had won the Scottish title in 2008, and thus qualified to represent Scotland at the World Championships in Canada.

Mr Brown, 44, now working for the United States curling association, was national coach at the event and Miss Martin was team coach.

Giving evidence, Mr Brown said the team performed badly in Canada, losing eight of its first nine games. He decided to drop Miss Munro and bring in the team's reserve player.

"Gail was extremely upset. She disagreed with the decision. She was quite loud. She left the room," he said.

Another of the four-strong team, Lyndsay Wilson, a long-time friend of Miss Munro, had offered to step down to let Miss Munro play. She said if Miss Munro was not playing, she would not play, and she walked out of the room.

"I was a bit stunned to say the least… a bit shocked with the attitude and the refusal to play," said Mr Brown.

That night, he heard a commotion in the hotel corridor and opened his door to see Miss Munro at Miss Martin's door.

There was "a heated discussion".

Next day, Miss Martin reported that Miss Munro had been asked to return to the team, but had stated that there was "no f****** way she was going back on the ice".

Mr Brown said he had asked about his phoning Miss Munro, but Miss Martin had said he could phone if he wanted but Miss Munro would tell him to "f*** off".

The team played its next two games with only three players, and won both.

Mr Brown said banners in the arena for Scotland and Team Munro were removed, he believed by Miss Munro and Mrs Wilson.

"They were present during the games. They were not supporting the Scottish team and did not applaud when shots were played or when Scotland won the game," claimed Mr Brown.

At a press conference, Mr Brown said the skip had been dropped for performance reasons, another player had refused to play and the skip was then given the opportunity to return to the ice, but had refused.

An irate Miss Munro had confronted him, insisting she had not refused to play. Later, Miss Martin had informed him that she had not "officially" asked Miss Munro to play and that he perhaps ought to have spoken to her himself.Mr Brown agreed with Roderick Dunlop, QC, for Miss Munro, that Scottish curling's governing body had investigated the matter and had cleared Miss Munro of any wrongdoing.

He also accepted that it had been up to him to offer any opportunity to Miss Munro to return to the ice, but had not spoken to her.

Mr Dunlop asked: "You did not think it appropriate to speak, even briefly, to Miss Munro before making this very damaging comment to the world's press?"

Mr Brown said: "I had been left in no doubt by Rhona what Gail had said, and if I called Gail, what Gail would tell me. "

The hearing continues.

PROFILE: Although her international career was cut short after Scotland's poor performance at the world championships in 2008, Gail Munro had previously established herself as one of curling's leading figures and comes from a family with a history of success in the sport.

Munro won the Scottish Ladies Championships in the same year along with Lyndsay Wilson - following in the footsteps of her sister, Fiona, who took the title in 1981.

Her elder brother, Hammy McMillan, is a previous winner of the sport's European and World titles and also plays at Stranraer.