After months of deliberations, Grade 2 bands in Ontario will be allowed to “challenge up” at select contests, going head-to-head against bands in the top grade – but only if there are three or fewer bands competing in Grade 2, and only where the Grade 1 event is an MSR.
But at many, if not most, Ontario contests that will be a moot point, since there are only two Grade 2 bands – 400 Squadron and the Ottawa Police – in the jurisdiction.
Concerns were reportedly raised about the extra time that it would take to have Grade 2 bands added to the Grade 1 mix. There are only three accredited Grade 1 bands in the PPBSO circuit.
“In my view, this is a very positive development, particularly in light of the fact that there are only two Grade 2 bands resident in Ontario right now,” said Andrew Hayes, pipe-major of the Ottawa Police Pipe Band. “The opportunity to challenge up against the Grade 1 bands will be exciting for our members, and will give us a reason to attend the Ontario games leading up to our trip to the World Pipe Band Championships this summer. In my view, this should also motivate the Grade 1 bands, and this can only be viewed as a positive decision that will enhance the vibrancy of the Ontario pipe band scene.”
In a statement to all Ontario-based Grade 1 and Grade 2 bands, PPBSO President Duncan MacRae wrote, “The PPBSO Board has decided to proceed with Grade 2 bands challenging up for the 2013 season. The competitions will be at games with Grade 1 MSRs only with score sheets and a ranking provided.”
At least two Ontario competitions will likely see Grade 2 bands challenging up, with Cobourg and Kincardine offering an MSR in Grade 2, although the Cobourg Highland Games may attract out-of-province bands with the Scottish Grade 1 powerhouse Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia scheduled to make the trip to perform in concert and compete the next day.
Hayes added that his band is planning to travel to compete in Grade 2 at the World Pipe Band Championships in August.
Sources have said that one PPBSO-member Grade 1 band was not in favour of the Grade 2 challenging up rule because it might affect their reputation and confidence if a Grade 2 band were placed ahead of them. The three Grade 1 bands in Ontario are the 78th Fraser Highlanders, the Peel Regional Police, and the Toronto Police.