Scott tourney juggles TV, sponsors

STEVE GREEN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:08 AM ET

The uncertainty over the television package for next year's Scott Tournament of Hearts is a double-edged sword to the host committee.

Last year, the CBC and Canadian Curling Association signed a four-year deal for the major championships, but fans quickly soured on it. Prime-time games were put on the specialty channel Country Canada, forcing some viewers to pay for a digital box and the channel itself, or wait for games to be shown on tape delay on the main CBC network late at night. Some weeknight games were shown on The Score.

The CCA walked away from the deal this year, leaving the CBC hinting at legal action. TSN and The Score have since reportedly pulled out of potential deals to avoid being caught up in any lawsuit.

Dave Parkes, chief executive officer of the CCA, said there was no news on the TV situation and declined comment about any pending litigation.

Hearts host committee chairperson Peter Inch sees the situation as "a positive and a negative."

"The negative part is it does hurt when you're trying to get sponsors, because part of the deal is you try to give them national exposure and you assume that will be on the (main) CBC," he said. "The positive side is if there's no TV, then the only way people could see it is to buy a ticket."

Still, Inch is happy with the way local sponsors have responded. Mailboxes Etc., has bought one of the $50,000 diamond sponsorship slots and Inch said the other should be lined up by month's end. As well, there are still some of the 10 platinum ($22,000), eight gold ($15,000) and eight silver ($10,000) slots available, with the majority being a combination of cash and services in kind.

Inch admitted there was concern a lot of the local sponsorship money could have been siphoned off by last May's Memorial Cup and the recent World Transplant Games. "That was a fear, no doubt, especially when we started out early. People were saying, 'Let's wait and see,' but we had a great Memorial Cup and a great Transplant Games and they realize these events are great for the city. Now that we've had a bit of a break, they're saying, 'What's next?' "

Inch said about 1,100 full-event packages -- more than half the target of 2,000 -- and 45,000 total tickets have been sold out of the overall goal of 158,000 tickets.

"Ticket sales slowed up (in the summer), but it's pretty hard to think of a winter sport when it's 32 degrees outside," he said.

As well, Inch said about 500 volunteers have been signed up, with another 75 to 100 probably needed. A volunteer rally will be held Oct. 2 at the Western Fairgrounds.

Canadian champ coming

Meanwhile, local curling fans will get an early chance to see one of the teams competing in the Hearts as Jennifer Jones is bringing her Team Canada rink of Cathy Overton Clapham, Jill Officer and Georgina Wheatcroft to the ninth annual Southwestern Ontario Women's Charity Cashspiel Oct. 14-17.

Jones will be conducting clinics at the St. Thomas and London curling clubs just before the cashspiel, which has raised more than $123,000 for breast cancer research.

Among the other curlers entering are defending champion Sherry Middaugh of Coldwater, former winners Anne Merklinger of Ottawa Rideau and Deb McCormick of Madion, Wis., 2005 Hearts runner-up Jenn Hanna of Ottawa, 2005 Newfoundland and Labrador champion Heather Strong, and 1999 world junior champion Silvana Tirinzoni of Switzerland.

Joining them are a host of local rinks led by Olympic trials qualifier Jo-Ann Rizzo of Brantford, who has Kim Tuck and Sara Gatchell of Strathroy as her front end.


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