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Curling adminstrators seem to operate in a parallel universe from other elite sports

Let me invite you to picture a scene.

Readers of Terry Pratchett's Discworld will be familiar with the sort of scenario I have in mind, but for everyone else let's just say what is envisaged is a parallel universe which contains characters similar to a pair of namesakes in the one we inhabit.

So . . . Neil, the big Scottish fitba' chief executive, turns away from the mirror in his office having tilted the power-do to just the right angle and asks his secretary to send in his guest with the warning that it might be an idea to hold off on the biscuits and, more particularly, the tea and coffee for a bit.

The door opens.

"Ah, there you are," he begins.

"I'm so glad you were able to make it. I'm sure you're wondering why I asked you to come along so I'll cut to the chase.

"We had a discussion at the board the other week and, unbeaten as you and your boys are this season, we are just getting a bit worried that you are making our new league rather uncompetitive. The problem is that other teams are not really getting a chance to experience a higher level of play, so we've got a proposition to make in the interests of our game as a whole.

"We're not talking about doing this right away mind, maybe a couple of years down the line, but we wondered whether you might just fancy having a season where you don't take part in the league.

"All right, I can tell by the look on your face that your first reaction is not favourable but think it through. That season you could devote all your attention to the Champions League and give it a real go with a fully fit squad. Okay, the downside on that would be that you would be automatically ruled out of the following season's Champions League, but you could maybe still get into Europe through the cup.

"So, what do you reckon?"

I think we can leave this particular fantasy at this point, with a mental image forming of a man in a green trackie leaping across the desk.

Yet in our real world, that is exactly what the curling rink skipped by Eve Muirhead - they happen to be the reigning world curling champions - and their male counterparts, now skipped by David Murdoch - who have reached two World Championship finals in the last three years - have not been asked but been told to accept.

Both have effectively been penalised for representing Britain at this year's Olympics by being barred from contesting this season's Scottish Championships - it is being staged at the same time - and therefore this year's World Championships, in which the representatives are the national champions.

For Muirhead it is a particularly bitter blow because she and her team are being prevented from defending the world title they won last year, and she has made no secret of her view.

Either we are talking about elite sport or we are not and, be under no illusions, decent money can be made by those good enough to compete successfully, on the North American circuit in particular.

However, in genuinely elite sport, as alluded to in the scenario painted at the outset, it is unimaginable that those leading the way would countenance standing aside for a season to let rivals catch up.

Sticking with curling, there is also discontent within the sport in Scotland over the re-shaping of the men's rink for the Olympics, with Murdoch, highly regarded internationally, added to what was already a very successful rink. After Tom Brewster skipped them to three Scottish titles and two World Championship finals, Murdoch was initially brought in as a fifth player, then promoted to skip.

Doubtless all sorts of arguments can be made about the individual statistics of those involved, but the outcome in terms of results has at best been debatable.

The decision to bring in Murdoch will pretty much stand or fall come the Olympics and, such is the quadrennial competition's importance, what is happening with the British team looks like a contrast of philosophies.

In the women's event, the participating rink is built on the traditional dynamic of being drawn together under an inspirational skip, all four players knowing their roles with a quality fifth player nominated as an 'alternate'.

In the men's team, though, an administrator-led process has resulted in the team dynamic of a domestically dominant and internationally successful rink being jeopardised by all five players being told they may be interchanged at any stage.

As with the decision not to let the Olympians compete in the nationals, no-one makes such decisions thinking they are doing it for anything other than the best reasons, and administrators have a responsibility to change things on the playing and coaching front if things are going badly.

However, as we have seen in other sports, some administrators cannot resist interfering in their efforts to show they know better than those achieving success, even when it is unprecedented, as the Cardiff City manager Malky Mackay has recently discovered.

Here's hoping, then, that both rinks win Olympic medals and that these issues quietly go away.

If not, only in a universe running parallel to that of true elite sport would there be no consequences for those calling the shots off the ice.

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