Curling pulls plug

ANGELA MacISAAC -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

CBC Sports announced on its website yesterday the Canadian Curling Association has pulled out of its four-year contract with the television network after a controversial winter of coverage.

Dave Parkes, CEO of the CCA, said he wasn't happy with the product.

"We've served a letter to terminate the agreement we had with them," Parkes said last night.

"It's for non-performance basically and an inability to fix things over the ensuing months from April until now."

Nancy Lee, head of CBC Sports, revealed on the website she was notified yesterday morning the CCA has requested proposals from networks to pick up the 2005-06 season, an offer that will remain open until tomorrow.

"We advised them strenuously that they were repudiating on our contract and, as a result, we would be seeking legal recourse," Lee said on CBC Sports online.

"As far as we're concerned, we have three more years of a deal. You don't get up and walk away from a signed legal document. It's very disappointing that despite all of the efforts made by CBC, the CCA is unwilling to fulfil its commitment to us."

The CBC, according to its website, was willing to revert to its coverage schedule of previous years when it showed the championship rounds of the Brier and the Tournament of Hearts, while allowing another network to broadcast the round-robin portion.

But Lee noted that was the clincher in the CCA deal last summer -- one broadcaster for an entire event.

"We were open to end the business case for Country Canada," she said of the broadcaster's cable network. "That showed incredible flexibility from us and we didn't have to do this. They didn't go for it and we don't understand why."

The CCA signed its deal with CBC last summer, taking its normal network coverage away from TSN. Fans -- through Internet discussion boards and letter-writing campaigns -- revolted when they learned they would have to subscribe to Country Canada, in order to view the evening draws of the Tim Hortons Brier and the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

"Curling fans had a difficult time adjusting to our broadcast schedule and that's to be expected," said Lee. "But it was passed by the (CCA) board unanimously, so there were no surprises for the board."

Sources said the CCA and CBC were working together to iron out the kinks during the National Curling Congress last month in Ottawa.

Parkes said he would be willing to accept a new proposal from CBC -- something Lee said isn't going to happen -- and insisted the network wasn't as flexible as it seems.

"A partial truth does not a full truth make," said Parkes. "I'm not going to negotiate in the media but so far they've shown themselves not that willing to strike a reasonable agreement with us."


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