Monday 27 June 2016
The World Curling Federation Sweeping Summit was held between 23 and 26 May at the North Grenville Curling Club in Kemptville, Ontario near Ottawa, Canada.
This event brought together an impressive group of world class athletes, high performance experts, curling administrators and curling equipment manufacturers to conduct testing and research into the unusual and over-effective impact of sweeping reported during this past season.
The Athlete group included Olympic Champions, World Champions and World Championship competitors.
Testing was conducted under the supervision of the National Research Council of Canada, using scientific methodologies and high-tech recording equipment.
The objectives of the Sweeping Summit were to:
* determine which existing combinations of materials, construction and design allow sweepers to have a directional influence on a swept curling stone;
* determine which combinations of materials, construction and design, enforceable sweeping technique(s), or both “eliminate or significantly reduce the ability for a curling broom to have directional influence on a swept curling stone”; and,
* recommend applicable standards for sweeping equipment and rules for sweeping to the WCF General Assembly.
The Sweeping Summit objectives took into account feedback from almost 5000 responses to the WCF Sweeping Survey about what influence brushing should be allowed to have on a swept curling stone. The outcomes from the survey clearly identified that:
- the delivery should be the most important aspect of a successful curling shot;
- sweeping should never be able to slow a stone down or make a stone “fall back” against the curl; and,
- sweeping should have only marginal ability to directionally impact a stone.
The Sweeping Summit tested almost 50 brush models supplied by six equipment manufacturers, both in their original forms and with alternative combinations of fabrics and constructions. These new concepts were provided by manufacturers with the aim of determining sweeping devices which produced little or no directional influence.
The public debate which occurred this past season included the suggestion that the unusual impacts of sweeping being observed were caused by a particular sweeping technique and if sweepers were made to sweep at 90 degrees, fully across the face of the stone, the undesirable effects would cease to be an issue.
Although the full data set from the Sweeping Summit is still being correlated by the NRC, it was quickly determined that certain combinations of materials and constructions proved to be far too effective in the hands of top sweepers of either gender.
Testing confirmed that regardless of the technique, even with sweeping at 90 degrees, certain brushes had the ability to manipulate the stone in ways that ran counter to the views expressed in the Survey, including slowing it down.
Sweeping Summit Recommendations
Following the conclusion of the Sweeping Summit, the participating athletes made the following unanimous recommendations to a joint meeting of the WCF Competition and Rules Commission and the WCF Athlete Commission:
1. Only WCF approved sweeping equipment should be allowed for use at WCF Championships and events.
2. A single fabric from a single source should be used on all brushes approved for use at WCF Championships and events. The preferred fabric identified at the Sweeping Summit is a woven product with no external waterproof coating or artificial texturing.
3. The brush head construction should include a hard plastic base of minimum and maximum dimensions, foam of a specific density and thickness and no other internal components or features, such as foil, inserts or ridges.
4. Three specific fabric type brush head constructions were extensively tested and unanimously recommended.
5. Each player should have their own brush and swapping of brushes between players should not be permitted.
6. Only one brush head should be allowed for use on each broom in each game, unless replacement is approved by competition officials in cases where environmental challenges produce less than ideal playing conditions.
7. The only sweeping technique requiring enforcement should be the rule prohibiting depositing debris in the path of the stone, or “dumping”.
After discussion and deliberation, the recommendations from the Sweeping Summit were supported by the two Commissions and forwarded to the WCF Board for consideration.
Following several weeks of consideration and consultation with stakeholders, including curling equipment manufacturers, the WCF Board also supported these recommendations in principle.
Further discussions are ongoing and work continues to develop the detailed proposals which will be voted on at the WCF Annual Congress in Stockholm in September.
Equipment produced under these recommended standards has been demonstrated to be capable of having a reasonable impact when used by elite athletes with a high fitness and skill level and this equipment is specifically intended for use in WCF Championships and events. It is also likely these standards will adopted by other competitions contested by the same elite athletes.
The recommendations from the Sweeping Summit were developed following performance tests conducted in controlled conditions and the keen observations of the resulting effects by some of the best curling athletes in the world.
There were a number of fabrics tested which performed within acceptable margins but the single recommended fabric produced particularly consistent results, regardless of which of the three recommended head constructions or techniques were used.
The recommendation for a single fabric from a single source is intended to add an additional measure of security to protect the integrity of the field of play in elite competition. By requiring all teams to have the same fabric on their brushes and for construction of the brushes to be within a particular set of specifications, any difference in sweeping performance becomes the difference in the athletic ability and skill of the sweepers.
The immediate focus for the WCF will be to continue to work collaboratively with the manufacturers to understand the implications of these recommendations in terms of creating equipment for elite level players in time for the 2016-17 season.
The NRC will produce reports on the testing outcomes from the Sweeping Summit and those reports expected in the next month may assist organizers of other competitions and events, from elite level tours to clubs, in choosing how best to apply the WCF standards for brush heads to their events or leagues.
That being said, ensuring equipment used by curlers at every level of play provides appropriate effectiveness, enjoyment and safety is important to the WCF.
Therefore, based on the preliminary results from the Sweeping Summit which are still to be confirmed by the NRC, the WCF has begun consulting with curling equipment manufacturers to determine what steps, if any, should be taken regarding curling equipment intended for recreational use.
After the work of the NRC is completed and the full test results are presented to the WCF Board and Members for consideration, a report will be made public.
This past season demonstrated the need for clear standards and specifications for curling equipment and the importance of having in place an efficient and effective system for quality assurance and testing.
To that end, collaboration with curling equipment manufacturers has begun to develop a licensing arrangement for those manufacturers who wish to have their equipment approved for use at WCF Championships and events.
Approval of Recommendations
Under the terms of the WCF Constitution, it is the Member Associations at a General Assembly that have the authority to make decisions regarding Rules of Curling. The next General Assembly is in Stockholm Sweden in early September.
This timeframe would not allow sufficient time for manufacturers to produce equipment complying with these recommendations prior to the start of the 2016-17 season, thereby impacting WCF Championships and potentially other elite curing events.
Therefore, the WCF Board has taken the extraordinary step of advising the Member Associations of these recommendations, their intended impacts and the undesirable consequences of waiting until the General Assembly in Stockholm.
After asking for and receiving no objections from the Member Associations to proceeding at this time, the Board has taken the decision to proceed with establishing standards based on these recommendations so manufacturers can begin producing WCF approved equipment in time for next season.
The WCF Board would like to put on record its deepest gratitude and appreciation to all those involved in the Sweeping Summit.
The single-minded focus of this group to find a solution to the challenges faced by the sport over the past season has made a significant contribution to ensuring the fundamental principles of curling as a sport which demands a high degree of athletic performance and mental skill, are protected.