David Robertson wrote:The following is the text of the editorial due to appear in the forthcoming edition of CHESS. It is published here at the request of its author
The ECF website continues to trumpet the massive â€˜successâ€™ of the Chess Sets for Schools program. We have been told for many months now that Holloid Plastics have agreed to supply 250,000 chess sets to schools free of charge. MPs and Ministers have been enlisted to give their support and there have even been presentations in schools and in Parliament. Now the whole thing threatens to become a huge embarrassment as Holloid Plastics have yet to deliver the goods and Fergus Christie, the driving force behind the original concept has left the company which does not augur well.
There is nothing on the Holloid Plastics website about this project which I find mystifying; and if these sets really were going to be produced free of charge, why have I been approached as a possible supplier?
I find it disturbing that on public forums such as the hugely popular website moneysavingexpert.com, individuals are disparaging the ECF and even questioning whether this whole thing is a scam. Of course it isnâ€™t a scam; itâ€™s just an example of the shambolic way the ECF has been run by the cabal in charge. Readers will be familiar with the circumstances in which the four most able directors resigned earlier this year. Outgoing CEO Martin Regan first found about this scheme on the ECF website. He said: â€œ In my view the announcement was extremely premature and has led to some of the problems we now face. It never occurred to me that the scheme would be announced without the production having been securedâ€. The ECF President Gerry Walsh went ahead and now he is rightly worried. The Marketing Director Peter Wilson should resign.
Some of the ECFâ€™s web pages need to come down. Here are a couple of quotes from a photo report on a presentation made on June 20 2008 to a school on Teeside in the presence of local MP Vera Baird and Gerry Walsh.
Gerry Walsh said â€œThis national programme is picking up pace and Iâ€™m proud that one of the first schools to have taken advantage of it is in Teesside. The ECF supports all young chess players as well as taking our young champions to international tournaments. There are vital issues around the funding for chess, however, with its recognition as a sport still not finalised. Hopefully these new sets will mean we will have future chess champions from Teesside.â€
This is one the first such handovers of the national programme of chess sets for schools coordinated by the English Chess Federation and backed by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Excruciating stuff given the current state of affairs.
I WONDER, WAS IT THE LAST ??
I spoke to Julian van Wyngaarden the MD of Holloid Plastics at length and itâ€™s clear that the project is in serious trouble. However, despite dreadful mismanagement it can be rescued. Holloid would like to manufacture the sets but, according to Mr Wyngaarden, having already spent tens of thousands of pounds on it for what now appears to be no reward apart from increasingly bad publicity they would need some financial assistance to see it to fruition. After all, as he pointed out, there is no contract between the ECF and Holloid Plastics (can you believe it ??) He did not want to put a precise figure on the amount of money required but I can assure readers it is an amount that could readily be found from the ECF or the John Robinson Foundation. Mr Wyngaarden also said that chess boards were on the way from China. He confirmed the line put out by the ECF that there are some problems with the mould and tooling which are delaying the manufacture of the sets. Although he would not say this explicitly, I got the clear impression he requires some assistance before he is prepared to invest more time, money and raw materials.
Heads must roll for this but more importantly, the ECF should stump up enough cash to organise the production of the 90,000 sets required to satisfy the demand so far.