U-turn after Scottish curling champs said to be ‘snubbed’ in favour of celebrity team

Team Jackson won the Scottish championships for the first time on Saturday.
Team Jackson won the Scottish championships for the first time on Saturday.
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It is usually regarded as a gentle sport, enjoyed by young and old alike.

But a major row has now rocked the Scottish curling world after a team which won the national title was passed over to represent Scotland in the world championships in favour of “celebrity” squad Team Muirhead.

A team led by 18-year-old Dumfries player Sophie Jackson won the Scottish national trophy on Saturday, but was told by sporting body Scottish Curling that due to prior qualification to the World University Games in Russia, Team Muirhead, led by Olympian Eve Muirhead - which came second in the Scottish national competition - would represent Scotland in the Women’s World Championships in Denmark.

However, Team Jackson, who were Scottish junior champions in 2016 and 2017, requested a review of “the situation”, demanding that they should be allowed to go to the world championships, which is two weeks after the WUGS.

Scottish Curling has now reversed its decision, saying that it had been a “complex issue to resolve”, adding that it had “found in favour” of a ruling within Scottish Curling regulations stating that the “winning team shall represent Scotland in the world curling championship”.

It said: “After a careful review by the board of Scottish Curling we are pleased to confirm that Team Jackson, winners of the Scottish Curling Championship, will represent Scotland at the World Women’s Curling Championship in Silkeborg, Denmark 16-24 March 2019.

“Team Jackson had previously committed to represent Great Britain at the World University Games (WUGS) as their priority goal for the season and this gave a challenge regarding preparation for playing at the World Championship.”

It added: “Team Jackson sought a review of the situation regarding their representation at the World Championships. This has been a complex issue to resolve and we did not want to rush the judgement.”

The earlier decision sparked anger in the curling community, with some paid-up members of Scottish Curling believed to have handed in their membership over the issue, while others called on Scottish Curling management to quit.

A three-time Olympian, Eve Muirhead represented Great Britain at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018. In Sochi, she became the youngest ever skip, male or female, to win an Olympic medal after the team scooped bronze.

Her team was beaten 11-7 in Saturday’s final at the Dewars Centre in Perth by Jackson and her teammates, Naomi Brown, Milli Smith and Sophie Sinclair. After the match, Muirhead said she had not regained full fitness after an hip operation last year.

Margaret Pottie, who was president of the ladies branch at sporting body Scottish Curling from 2017 to 2018, said: “As a past president of Ladies Branch, I am shocked at this decision. It states clearly in the back of the programme brochure that men and women’s winners of the Scottish Championships will represent Scotland in the World Championships. That’s the competition we went to see and that’s what is expected. How can this decision be justified.

“I am sorry that Eve has been put in this position, but Sophie won and deserves to represent Scotland in Denmark. I am ashamed of being a member of Scottish Curling if this is the decision being made.”

Godfrey Bedford, who curls at Jackson’s home rink of Dumfries, wrote on Scottish Curling’s Facebook page: “If this decision goes ahead, I will propose that our club resigns from curling scotland and would expect many others to disaffiliate. Sophie beat Eve 3 times fair and square. This is ridiculous.”

Ms Muirhead, who has also played the bagpipes at four World Championships and is an ambassador for Piping Live, received an Honorary degree from the University of Stirling last year and has also been honoured with a portrait at Edinburgh’s National Portrait Gallery.

In a statement issued on Scottish Curling’s website, the organisation said that Team Jackson had met with the performance director and head coach of the British Curling performance programme along with the chief executive of Scottish Curling, to discuss “the next steps for them”.

A line in a press release issued on British Curling’s website after Saturday’s competition stating that Team Jackson’s “next competitive outing” would be at WUGS, while Team Muirhead would represent Scotland at the World Championships was removed earlier this afternoon.

In the men’s final at the Scottish championships, Bruce Mouat’s team beat the team skipped by Muirhead’s brother, Glen. They will represent Scotland at the World Men’s Championships in Canada in March.