Lethbridge Herald

Curling Canada ups prize money


The head of Curling Canada is bullish about its financial position. There’s enough money to both tend to the sport’s grassroots and significan­tly enlarge the prize pot of major events, says chief executive officer Kathy Henderson.

And that’s with a TV contract about to expire.

Henderson, who took over as CEO from Greg Stremlaw in 2016, confirmed 2020 is the last year of the current television rights contract with TSN.

She won’t comment on extension negotiatio­ns. But she’s confident enough in Curling Canada’s bottom line to pump up prize purses at the men’s and women’s national championsh­ips, the Canada Cup and Continenta­l Cup by 43 per cent to a total of just under $1.1 million.

“The organizati­on has been doing quite a bit better financiall­y over the last few years,” Henderson told The Canadian Press. “What we were able to do is to sit down as a team and start to prioritize investment.

“We’re in the not-for-profit business, which doesn’t mean we don’t make a profit, but we have to invest it back in the sport.”

Next month’s Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw will be the first to offer the same prize money as the men’s Tim Hortons Brier to the tune of $300,000 per tournament.

The 2020 Home Hardware Canada Cup of Curling increases to $265,000 from $140,000.

The OK Tire and BKT Tires Continenta­l Cup of Curling that wrapped Sunday in London, Ont., and was won by Team Europe will jump from $130,000 to $202,500 for 2021.

“The bigger the carrot, the harder people work,” Henderson said. “I think it improves the product. When the stakes are high, it’s just a little more exciting.”

Prize money is the buzz in Curling Canada’s recent announceme­nt of a $3.5-million investment in highperfor­mance because the women’s Tournament of Hearts money lagged behind the men for so long.

“When I first got to Curling Canada one of the first things I said was ‘I want to equalize the prize payouts between men and women,’” Henderson said. “There’s always that argument that ‘well, the Scotties isn’t as big as the Brier’ right? I said ‘then let’s invest in the Scotties to make it as big as the Brier.’

“It’s not quite at the gate there, but in terms of the audiences and it’s prestige and it’s value to sponsors, it’s very much getting there. As a female who has worked in sports for a number of years, that felt emotionall­y like a really good statement to make. But as a business person, it actually felt like a better statement to make to say ‘I’ve improved the business propositio­n of both these things.’”

According to Curling Canada’s 2019 annual report, the organizati­on’s accumulate­d year-end surpluses increased almost $2 million between 2017 and 2019 jumping from $4.89 million to $6.84 million.

“I say it with no disrespect to the people that came before me because the organizati­on was healthy,” Henderson said. “We made a number of fundamenta­l business changes when I arrived.

“We took a look at a price-up, spend-up strategy. You make the investment to improve the product, right? Then people value it more and are willing to pay a little bit more for it. They’re more entertaine­d, they’re having a better time.

“We were able to invest a lot in our financial resiliency, which is our reserve. We’ve diversifie­d our revenue a little bit.”

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