The Tournament reborn in Britain

U.K. producer says she was an easy sell on the format rights to the short-lived CBC mockumentary series

Following a format deal with the makers of CBC’s The Tournament, BBC recently debuted its six-part The Cup, a like-minded mockumentary that replaces peewee hockey with soccer, but keeps the universal theme of parents behaving badly on the sidelines.

The reviews have been great, and producer Sue Vertue (Coupling) of Hartswood Films says she was an easy sell on the project, following a talk with Bruce Hills, COO of Just for Laughs, which owns the format.

‘When [Hills] told me the basic idea, it seemed a perfect show to adapt for the U.K….we’re as passionate about football as the Canadians are about ice hockey,’ she says.

Created by Howard Busgang, Wendy Hopkins and Marty Putz, The Tournament ran on CBC for two seasons, garnering multiple Gemini nods and one win. It followed the antics of small-town hockey parents cheering on the Farqueson Funeral Home Warriors, and also aired in the U.S. on the then-Outdoor Network as a complement to its NHL schedule.

‘I don’t think there’s a bigger sport than soccer in any European country,’ says Hills. ‘It’ll be easier for us to develop it and sell the format to other countries now, what with the success of and existence of the soccer version.’

The Cup was shot in six weeks, with five days dedicated per episode and a small crew shooting in hand-held doc-style.

Hills says ‘some scenes were shot pretty much identically’ to the original.

‘At one time we thought a funeral home sponsoring a kids team was a bit far-fetched, as sponsorship isn’t such a big thing over here,’ Vertue explains, ‘but then the writers found one so we left it.’

Other elements were dropped. The Tournament‘s subplot that saw parents renovate ‘a long porch to reach another borough wouldn’t work for us here, as anyone can play for [any soccer team regardless of where they live],’ says Vertue.

Hills plans to continue selling the format around the world. Fox showed interest in 2006 and asked for a pilot script that replaced hockey with baseball.

‘A baseball negotiation is currently in the works for the States,’ he says, ‘but nothing is confirmed yet.’