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Winter Olympics: Calls for Video technology in Curling – an unlikely battleground?

‘Super Saturday’ at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang saw the Great Britain team win 3 medals, including a second Gold for Lizzy Yarnold, taking their overall total so far to 4. This equals the biggest ever GB medal haul at the Winter Games and leaves them one short of the medal target set by UK Sport, the body which allocates funding to Olympic sports.

There remains a number of strong medal contenders still to compete including Dave Ryding in the slalom skiing event and the men’s four-man bobsleigh team.

Perhaps the best shot for a record-breaking medal lies with Great Britain’s curling teams. Great Britain has a strong track record in the sport with the men’s team taking silver and the women’s team taking bronze at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Both teams are in a strong position to make the semi-finals of their respective competitions at the end of this week and it is hoped both will equal or better their results from Sochi. However, for the women’s team progress has not been without controversy.

During Sunday’s pool match against Sweden the match was tied at 6-6 with one stone remaining for each team. Team GB’s skipper Eve Muirhead’s stone then had her final stone removed as a result of an alleged violation of the rules known as ‘hogging’ the stone; such being the name given to a foul stone which has not been released prior to the ‘hog line’.

Rule 5.D of the World Curling Federation Rules of Curling states:

“A stone must be clearly released from the hand before it reaches the hog line at the delivery end. If the player fails to do so, the stone is immediately removed from play by the delivering team.”

Muirhead appeared surprised to see the red light of her stone come on telling reporters after “It was the first stone I’ve probably ever hogged in my life”.

Other suggested Muirhead may have touched the stone twice in violation of Rule 8(a)(i) which states:

“Between the tee line at the delivery end and the hog line at the playing end: October 2017 WCF Rules of Curling Page 13:

(i) If a moving stone is touched, or is caused to be touched, by the team to which it belongs, or by their equipment, the touched stone is removed from play immediately by that team. A doubletouch by the person delivering the stone, prior to the hog line at the delivering end, is not considered a violation.”

However, it is clear from this rule that if the double-touch took place prior to the hog line no violation occurred.

Replays appeared conclusive that both the stone was released prior to the hog line and that any double-touch, which itself was not conclusive, must also therefore have occurred prior to the hog line.

Unfortunately for Muirhead and Team GB the World Curling Federation does not allow for a video review of such situations instead relying on the existing electronic hogline technology in place which means the stone flashes green if released prior to the hog line.

As a result Muirhead’s stone was removed from play allowing the Swedes an easy opportunity to seal victory.

Whilst it would appear, and it is hoped, the outcome of this particular match will not prevent Team GB from progressing to the semi-finals of the competition one must question what would be the outcome if the same event were to occur in a medal match.

Given the infrequency of these situations it is hoped the World Curling Federation will review the situation and consider including a right to appeal, perhaps similar to the ICC’s Umpire Decision Review System, for future World Championship or Olympic events.

Until then, the debate concerning the use of technology in sport continues.

© Copyright 2018 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP

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About this Author

Tim Lowles, Squire Patton Boggs Law Firm, Sport Litigation Attorney
Senior Associate

Tim Lowles is a Senior Associate in our Litigation Practice Group. Tim advises upon all aspects of commercial litigation with a particular emphasis on sport, contentious media and reputation management issues for companies, institutions and high profile individuals. He has been involved in a number of reported cases and was a member of the team which represented the Core Participant Victims in the Leveson Inquiry.

Tim has advised a number of household names from the sporting world on various issues ranging from contractual disputes to...

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