Sixty-five per cent of all respondents in a World Curling Federation (WCF) athlete survey agreed, or strongly agreed, that eight-end matches, less than the standard 10, were appropriate for championships.
As part of its Maximising the Value project, the WCF surveyed its athletes on the number of ends in a game and the pace of play, to understand the views of vital stakeholders.
Prepared by the WCF Athlete Commission, the survey was predominantly targeted at athletes who have competed at World Championships or Winter Olympic Games since 2012.
During May and June of this year, 290 curlers from 46 Member Associations completed the survey.
It primarily set out to gauge elite athletes' views on the number of ends played in games at World Championships and the Winter Olympics.
Currently, 10 ends are standard at these events.
The sample size ensured the majority of respondents had played at competitive competitions under both eight- and 10-end rules.
Asked if 10 ends were appropriate for championships, 51 per cent of all respondents agreed, or strongly agreed, and 49 per cent disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
When the same respondents were asked if eight ends were appropriate, 65 per cent agreed, or strongly agreed, and 35 per cent disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
Asked if longer games – 10 ends – "enable the most athletic and talented teams a greater chance of success", 60 per cent agreed or strongly agreed and 40 per cent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
When considering athletes who had competed in the last eight years only, results varied.
Asked if 10 ends were appropriate for championships, 44 per cent agreed, or strongly agreed, and 56 per cent disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
Asked if eight ends were appropriate, 67 per cent agreed, or strongly agreed, and 33 per cent disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
When asked if longer games - 10 ends - "enable the most athletic and talented teams a greater chance of success", 57 per cent agreed, or strongly agreed, and 43 per cent disagreed, or strongly disagreed
Considering gender alone, a higher percentage of female athletes preferred eight ends - 70 per cent - than their male counterparts - 64 per cent.
Furthermore, a higher percentage of male athletes - 73 per cent - felt that the 10-end games "enable the more athletic and talented teams a greater chance of success".
Only 40 per cent of female athletes agreed with this.
The pace-of-play portion of the survey set out to establish if elite athletes preferred a thinking-time allocation for the entire game, or per end.
End timing was tested at the Curling World Cup in 2018-2019.
Thinking time per end sought to provide a definitive window in which a game would start and finish, for broadcasting clarity.
Responses showed a clear majority - 84 per cent - of athletes in favour of the current system of thinking time per game, allowing them to have more control over how they manage their time.
When asked about shortening the time allocation, 77 per cent disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
Another topic covered was athlete and coach interaction.
Currently, in competition, athletes can call one time-out per game and another during each extra end.
Coaches being given the authority to call time-outs, as well as the athletes, was a suggestion within the survey.
Also suggested, rather than a limited number of time-outs, was either allowing coach interaction between every end or at any time during the game, within the time allocation.
Women's, men's and mixed doubles athletes were 56 per cent in favour of coaches calling time-outs.
Wheelchair athletes were more in favour of this suggestion, at 65 per cent.
For interaction between ends, women's and men's athletes agreed, at 69 per cent.
Meanwhile, slightly less mixed doubles athletes agreed, at 56 per cent.
Wheelchair athletes less so, at 35 per cent.
Seventy-eight per cent of all respondents disagreed with coach interaction at any time.
The WCF Athlete Commission will take the findings to the WCF Board and Competitions and Rules Commission to determine the implications of the results as part of the Maximising the Value project.
The project acknowledges strong, evenly split views are held on reducing the number of ends.
It recognises that the introduction of mixed doubles at the Winter Olympics has heightened the discussion around the pace, as well as the length, of games.
During its Congress last month, the WCF set out the objectives, stakeholders, considerations and time-frame for the project.
"Understanding all the varying opinions regarding the pace and length of games, and the implications of any changes, is a priority for the future of our sport," WCF President Kate Caithness said.
"It is important that we start the process, hearing the views of all our stakeholders, beginning with the athletes."
WCF Athlete Commission chair, Nolan Thiessen, added: "The voice of the athletes is valued and needed in any discussions about the sport of curling.
"The survey this year has been a crucial tool in that pursuit.
"It has allowed the Athlete Commission to obtain a wider range of thoughts and opinions.
"The insight provided will be valuable in further discussions with the sport's stakeholders and a crucial tool in the process of valuing the sport to its fullest potential."