Thursday, January 9, 2014

What's behind the CCA-OCA rift?

The Ontario Curling Association is under investigation by the Canadian Curling Association.

That much we know.

We are also aware that as such, the OCA has been suspended by the national body, after being voted as “a member not in good standing.”

But beyond that, no one is commenting on the why or the when or the how. In a sport where there are almost always loose lips and rumours usually fly, this one has been buttoned up quite tightly. 

We do know the basics of the what. In early January, it was revealed that the OCA had been handed sanctions by the CCA during a Nov. 14 board meeting. The group determined that for a reason it isn’t willing to share, the OCA and its member clubs would be prevented from receiving any benefits that trickle down from the top.

“I can confirm that the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) did pass a motion declaring that the Ontario Curling Association is a Member not in good standing with the CCA,” wrote Greg Stremlaw, the CCA’s chief executive officer in an email to the OCR. “This comes as a result of an ongoing investigation into recent conduct of the OCA, and is compliant with CCA By-Laws that were approved by the Member Associations. The investigation continues, and no further comment will be made until the completion of the investigation.”

The OCA was equally hush-hush about the current situation and wouldn’t reveal just what’s led to the situation.

“The OCA takes this serious and are working very hard to resolve this as quickly as we can,” said Ian McGillis, the association’s president. “It has no impact on our curlers and they will be able to attend all events. Other than that I will not comment at this time about this issue.

While elite players may not be affected, the sanction does indeed hurt the club curler as well as clubs. In fact, several Ontario clubs are in limbo as a direct result.

For example, funds for club development projects have been suspended. Bruce Orrell, president of the York Curling Club said that he was notified the money it received from the CCA’s development fund used to help expand the club has been frozen until further notice.

He was not given any reason for the suspension other than the OCA had been voted as “a member not in good standing.”

While no one is saying just what the alleged infraction is, there has been speculation with some suggesting it’s a financial issue. The CCA receives funding from the member associations based on number of curlers within each jurisdiction. In the past, it’s been suggested that clubs fudge the actual numbers to pay a lesser fee, meaning less money moving up the chain.

As well, in the CCA’s by-laws, one of the rules to being in good standing is: “Each Member Association shall pay an annual membership fee as determined from time to time at an annual General Meeting.”

But another source said that it has nothing to do with money and is about governance, that the manner in which the OCA is run is at the heart of the matter.

The by-laws also state that any association that is under investigation is also not in good standing, meaning that being investigated on any matter would trigger the same situation.

Rumour has it the OCA made some public allegations against the CCA, which didn’t sit well, causing a rift between the two bodies. There were allegedly also matters involving sponsors, which caused problems. 

As well, there have been rumours circulating about the outgoing executive director of the OCA, Doug Bakes. Reportedly, a group of stakeholders met with the OCA board this summer to raise issues concerning Bakes, who will step down from his job this June. It's possible this may also be part of the situation

At the end of it all, the CCA board decided to make the biggest provincial curling association a member not in good standing.

Just exactly what is that? According to Stremlaw it means the national body has the right to sanction any provincial member when it breaches the agreed-upon code.

“A member not in good standing is just that whereby rights, benefits and/or privileges can be removed by the national governing body,” wrote Stremlaw, “and a Member Association placed as a member not in good standing until such time as meeting the definition and requirements of good standing and in a manner to the satisfaction of the CCA Board of Governors.”

The action against the provincial body won’t affect any teams headed to a national championship. Nor will it hamper any provincial championships scheduled.

But the seriousness of the motion would seem to indicate this is more than just a small infraction. It’s the first time under the current guidelines that a provincial body has been deemed not in good standing. And it may be some time before the OCA gets back in the good books as the investigation rolls on.

For now the matter will remain behind the association doors and while that happens, Ontario curling clubs and curlers will suffer.

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