WCF scraps World Cup and rips up lucrative contract with Kingdomway
The World Curling Federation, the sport's international governing body, announced today that it has been forced to suspend the 2019-20 Curling World Cup season because Kingdomway Sports, its Chinese funding partner, has breached the terms of its contract.
The WCF partnered with Kingdomway in September 2017 in a four-year deal worth around $13.7 million to the federation.
The plan was to launch a World Series of Curling comprising four events located in China, Europe and the Americas, with the grand final to be held back in China in Beijing.
The series, later renamed as the Curling World Cup, debuted in 2018-19, but will not return for 2019-20, and the Kingdomway contract, which WCF president Kate Caithness told Sportcal last year was a "game-changer" for the sport, has been terminated.The WCF said: "The funding partner for the series breached the agreement by refusing to make all payments as outlined in the contract. Despite its best efforts the World Curling Federation has not been able to resolve this matter and has terminated its contract with Kingdomway Sports. As a result, the federation, regrettably, cannot deliver the events on its own to an appropriate standard.
"The first season of the Curling World Cup added an exciting dynamic to the curling calendar, achieving promising worldwide television and media coverage. The concept has been received positively by athletes, coaches and fans alike. It has also been a platform to test new rules in elite competition with direct engagement from the top athletes competing in the three Olympic disciplines of women’s, men’s and mixed doubles curling.
"The World Curling Federation is disappointed it can’t deliver a second season of the Curling World Cup at this time and is grateful to everyone who worked on the first season. However, the federation firmly believes in the concept and will work hard with stakeholders to identify new funding partners to return the Curling World Cup to the international curling calendar."
Events were staged in 2018-19 in Suzhou (China), Omaha (USA) and Jonkoping (Sweden), with the final staged in Beijing last month.
Kingdomway Sports, based in Xiamen, works with the Chinese Curling Association, Chinese Winter Sports, the governing bodies of Chinese soccer and basketball and the Brazilian soccer association.
Speaking exclusively to Sportcal during the PyeongChang 2018 winter Olympics, Caithness said of the Curling World Cup: “It will be like golf’s Race to Dubai, the ‘Race to Beijing’. There will be eight top men’s and eight top women’s teams, plus a mixed competition. It’s made for TV to get more visibility for the sport.”
The WCF had staked a lot on the relationship with Kingdomway, particularly as an entry point to the lucrative Chinese commercial market in the lead-up to Beijing's hosting of the 2022 winter Olympics.
Kingdomway's deal with the WCF came at a time when the Chinese government began a clamp down on overseas investments to combat the surge in capital outflows from China in 2016 that placed downward pressure on the yuan and China's foreign exchange reserves.
The government formalised a framework that encouraged deals that fit the country’s strategic priorities. Deals in sport, as well as entertainment and luxury real estate, are now considered ‘restricted,’ meaning special approval is needed from Beijing.