An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

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Alex McFarlane
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An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Alex McFarlane » Fri Nov 25, 2011 12:34 pm

An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi, ECF Prsident

Mr De Mooi,

I trust that by now you have seen the Press Complaints Commission ruling (113697) in McFarlane v Sunday Times.

I would have approached you directly but you have not rescinded your request that I should not make direct contact with you. You made that request after I asked if you thought it appropriate for you to be promoting the chess column of one RD Keene, the same person who had described us as brutish, bigoted and worthy of police investigation. The same RD Keene who has said that he stands by everything said or written which presumably also includes the accusations of homophobia which appeared in the Sunday Times and to which the aforementioned Keene had a bye-line. I do not think it appropriate that a letter of this nature should go through the CEO of the English Chess Federation.

I quote from the PCC Report
“Although it was accepted by both parties that Mr de Mooi had not used the term “homophobia” in his interview with the newspaper, the Commission considered that the term was a reasonable description of the allegations that had been made. The claims had clearly been presented as such”

In addition I give the following from the person handling the complaint.

“The Commission’s decision was based on the fact that the accuracy of the published comments had not been disputed by CJ de Mooi, to whom they were attributed.”

I also give your statement made shortly afterward
“As I have already stated, I no doubt overreacted to Lara’s comments (and I have expressed my admiration for her and the fellow arbiters) and should have referred the matter to the board (a short delay for a call to the Home Director) before discussing it with other people.I was upset (although at no time have I used emotive terms such as ‘homophobia’ or ‘discrimination’) but that does not excuse my error of judgement.
I was extremely sorry to hear that Lara has been receiving very unpleasant emails (I have personal experience of this and know how distressing it can be) and deplore such actions. I am unaware how anyone got her contact details and this represents an intolerable invasion of privacy.
If it is considered someone else can do a better (or at least less harmful) job, I am happy to step aside but the decision on my resignation is still pending. I truly regret any distress my actions have caused and it’s never my intention to be offensive.”


You should also be aware that I asked all members of the ECF Board for support in this matter. It would seem that your lack of support doomed our complaint to failure. That may or may not have anything to do with the recorded interview that the Sunday Times claims to have of you and its reporter, Ms Kinchen. I obviously do not know for certain if such a recording exists and even if it does if it contains anything detrimental to your position. All I do know for sure is that I was refused a transcript of the conversation as the paper claimed it was concerned that I may use it in legal action against you.

In light of the PCC decision can I ask if you accept that, as they claim, you made unwarranted accusations of a homophobic nature against one or more of the people involved? I see little or no difference between actually using the word homophobia and strongly suggesting it.

If you do not accept that you made any such allegations then can I request that you make a statement to that effect and take legal action against the Sunday Times and the two people named in the bye-line. This I consider to be the very least you could do given that you admit to having caused distress to us by your actions.

If you did make allegations of the nature suggested then do you not think that it is time that you admit that you did so and apologise both privately and publicly to the people concerned? Your statement above expresses regret but at no point have you ever apologised to Ms Barnes, David Welch or myself for your actions. If the situation is as stated by the PCC such apologies are long overdue.

Further, if you did make such allegations against people who were at the time working on behalf of the ECF, the organisation of which you are currently President, do you consider it appropriate that you continue to hold that office?

I, and a large section of the chess playing public, eagerly await your comments on the PCC decision. Continued silence on your part will not reflect well on you or the organisation that you represent.

You have a final chance to do the honourable thing by doing what is right. You and the ECF must now either fight alongside us against press misrepresentation or admit that you are entirely responsible and take appropriate actions to try to resolve the situation.

I don’t think that any of the injured parties are looking for financial compensation from you personally (though from the Sunday Times might be a different matter), but a significant contribution to the running costs of the 2012 British would not go amiss.

If you continue to remain silent on the matter then I will assume that you either made the allegations as suggested but are unwilling to say so publicly or that for some mysterious reason you are unwilling to support a campaign to have Sunday Times accept responsibility for sloppy journalism. In either event, I would then seek the support of the chess playing community in calling an EGM of the ECF with the purpose of having you removed from office.

Alex McFarlane

PaulTalbot
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by PaulTalbot » Fri Nov 25, 2011 5:35 pm

I would just like to add my support to everything Alex says in the letter above.

Alan Burke

Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Alan Burke » Fri Nov 25, 2011 6:11 pm

I also support Alex on this matter. Why is it that some people can't just hold up their hand and admit they were wrong instead of trying to fudge the issue and hoping that everyone will not bother about pursuing the matter ?

Such an admission would give them far more respect from the public at large rather than them thinking they could get away with anything they wished just because of the position they were in.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:39 pm

My first post is going to be a contentious one.

CJ is not the worst offender in this sorry business - he has at least issued some sort of an apology and his main crime since has been silence.

The main `villain` here is Raymond Keene who prints slanders, going further than CJ did and then refusing to retract these comments.

I am also disgusted by the behaviour of the board who have refused to condemn Keene (hardly difficult) or offer Alex and Lara anything more than token backing. Am I the only one who thought Andrew Farthing had a nerve turning up at Scarborough when his prevarication has allowed this issue to drag on longer than it should have.

One interesting consequence of compulsary ECF membership is that a lot of chessplayers are going to be reconciled with the ECF at a stroke. As the secretary of a reasonably well established club in the North I will ensure that all my members are made aware of the ECF's treatment of Alex and Lara who have done more chess in England than CJ and RK could every dream of. If Andrew Farthing is not willing to condemn Keene's slanders his position is untenable in my opinion.

For the record I have met Mr Farthing over the chessboard and he impressed me both as a person as a chess official and it is sad that he has now lost my confidence and possibly that of many others.
Last edited by Andrew Zigmond on Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Andrew Zigmond
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:55 pm

I'll say this as well. CJ overreacted and did nobody any favours, least of all himself but he was taking a stand against homophobia - even if on this occasion there was no homophobia intended or suggested. Having seen a photograph of a friend of mine bearing injuries received having been attacked over his sexuality I'm only going to criticise the ECF president so far for taking such a stand.
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David Sedgwick
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by David Sedgwick » Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:43 pm

Andrew Zigmond wrote:I am also disgusted by the behaviour of the board who have refused to condemn Keene (hardly difficult) or offer Alex and Lara anything more than token backing. Am I the only one who thought Andrew Farthing had a nerve turning up at Scarborough when his prevarication has allowed this issue to drag on longer than it should have.
You are entitled to your opinion as expressed in the first of the two sentences I have quoted. I could not disagree more strongly with your second sentence.

I'm delighted that we have a Chief Executive who plays regularly, competes in a lot of congresses, and is in general willing to talk to people whether or not they agree with his and the Board's approach on a variety of issues.

I can imagine what the reaction would have been on here if Andrew had withdrawn his entry for Scarborough. Look at the criticism being directed at CJ for allegedly going AWOL.

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Sat Nov 26, 2011 12:16 am

David Sedgwick wrote:
Andrew Zigmond wrote:I am also disgusted by the behaviour of the board who have refused to condemn Keene (hardly difficult) or offer Alex and Lara anything more than token backing. Am I the only one who thought Andrew Farthing had a nerve turning up at Scarborough when his prevarication has allowed this issue to drag on longer than it should have.
You are entitled to your opinion as expressed in the first of the two sentences I have quoted. I could not disagree more strongly with your second sentence.

I'm delighted that we have a Chief Executive who plays regularly, competes in a lot of congresses, and is in general willing to talk to people whether or not they agree with his and the Board's approach on a variety of issues.

I can imagine what the reaction would have been on here if Andrew had withdrawn his entry for Scarborough. Look at the criticism being directed at CJ for allegedly going AWOL.
I did say my opinion was contentious. I'm delighted that Andrew Farthing supports congresses (I actually played him in the first round of Scarborough 2010 without knowing who he was) but given everything Lara and Alex have gone through I'm not sure how he could look them in the eye. It's his refusal to condemn the Keene slanders that makes me deeply angry, surely this is as simple as condemning racism or homophobia?
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Andrew Farthing
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Andrew Farthing » Sat Nov 26, 2011 7:15 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote:Am I the only one who thought Andrew Farthing had a nerve turning up at Scarborough when his prevarication has allowed this issue to drag on longer than it should have?
I'd like to think so. It would be a sad state of affairs if people thought that I shouldn't play in a tournament because of a difference of opinion over my actions as an ECF official.

I played in Scarborough because I like playing chess, I like the tournament and the town and I am capable of distinguishing between the official and the personal. With only two exceptions that I can think of, in my year or so in this role my encounters with chess players who wanted to talk about ECF matters have been perfectly amicable, even when the person concerned did not agree with the ECF on the issue concerned. All I ever ask is that discussing ECF business should not be allowed to disturb my modest efforts over the board.

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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Trefor Owens » Sat Nov 26, 2011 7:18 am

I wonder whether or not this Open Letter will receive an Open Reply?

I have taken odds of 10 -1 on the 'official response' - well I haven't even won a tenner on Lotto since April so it seemed a pound well spent. :roll:

It does seem obvious that the matter won't disappear from the forum until CJ speaks: I think we would all like to see closure now.

It would be nice to put all talk of homophobia behind us and move on with some positive chess talk, or even just positive talk about anything.
Regardless of the truths behind the original argument/allegations, and I wasn't present so am neutral on this, I feel that this issue has now moved to a generic topic of lack of respect and communication between the ECF board and the ECF membership, surely both need each other? I guess we can only thank our lucky stars that the tabloid press allegedly spend more time rooting through Steve Coogan's rubbish or hacking phones rather than trawling through web forums - although chess on the front page of the Daily Redtops may well give local membership a boost?

Enjoy your chess
Trefor

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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Mick Norris » Sat Nov 26, 2011 8:42 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote: Am I the only one who thought Andrew Farthing had a nerve turning up at Scarborough when his prevarication has allowed this issue to drag on longer than it should have
I really hope you are and I hope that he continues to play chess at any events he wants to - after all, he was unanimously re-elected at ECF Council without one word being said against him, and he puts more time into English Chess than anyone else I am aware of

I think Andrew has made his position clear

http://www.englishchess.org.uk/?page_id=13807

I haven't heard anyone give Lara's current view, including herself of course, other than that she has accepted the post of Manager of the British 2012, which would suggest to me that she doesn't have as big a problem as Alex does

I have heard Alex's view, and I don't agree with all of it
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by John Upham » Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:39 am

Having sat on the sidelines for much of this affair there are two outstanding issues that publicly puzzle me. I think I know the answers to both of them but I will mention them nonetheless. I have other questions and will pursue those privately.
  • 1. Was CJdM fully aware of the levels of respect and regard that exist for Ray Keene amongst the English chess community? Has his opinion been modified since this affair?
  • 2. What stopped the ECF board making public their opinion (both collective and individual) towards Ray Keene? I'm guessing that an ECF advisor may have stated that the ECF has no power of sanction or veto over Ray Keene and therefore having an opinion is pointless.
I am willing to bet that neither of these questions will be answered publicly but am looking forward to the private versions.
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Alex McFarlane
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Alex McFarlane » Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:45 am

There is no denying that I have felt that the Board has handled this whole situation badly. Andrew Farthing is a recent newcomer to chess administration and as such has had to rely on the advice of others. It may have been unwise of him to have relied so heavily on the advice of one person during this period. My belief in Andrew’s abilities has been sorely tested in recent months but I hope he has learned from the experience and has come out of it a much stronger leader. Obviously, as long as the Board fails to criticise Keene for his statements then I cannot have total faith in it or its members (collectively). However, I think that at the present time the ECF would be struggling to find a better leader.
I’m sorry that this sounds like a half-hearted endorsement of Andrew Farthing. It should be considered as more than that, but until the Board publicly condemns Keene then I cannot give it my full support.

I have, already, had indications of sufficient support to call an EGM. I still regard calling such a meeting as a last resort. I eagerly await Mr De Mooi’s reply, either privately or in public. I will consider seeking formal support for an EGM on Tuesday evening if I have not heard from him before then.

If I may quote Mr De Mooi from the ECF website
“I do understand the criticisms levelled at me by some people for my more radical methods – one major issue seems to have been my habit of putting my own money into chess and into the federation but in the light of these concerns, I shall desist from doing so immediately.”

If he considers the limited amount of criticism of his fundraising requires him to desist then why is he refusing to make a statement as to his future intentions regarding this matter.

Lara is maintaining a dignified silence on this matter. As is clear from another topic, but for that silence the 2012 British would have been in jeopardy.
Mick Morris comments that I have a big problem, that may be so but it has not stopped me continuing as Chief Arbiter at the British Championships. It is important that the 2012 Championships are as successful as possible. This is the utmost concern of many people. We have only just avoided a North East boycott of the event, please don't throw further spanners in the works.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Sat Nov 26, 2011 9:58 am

Ernie Lazenby wrote: Lara now has a lot of work to do for next year so perhaps its best if we leave her to focus on that and leave the Chess politics to Alex.
I agree, but it seems that there is potential for chess organisation and chess politics to overlap again with regards to any prize-giving at the 2012 British Chess Championships. If those organising the event will accept advice, I'd suggest that be got out of the way early on (even if only provisionally and privately), or delegated/passed back to someone else, so it doesn't loom on the horizon and distract from all the other things that need doing. And having said that, I wish those organising the 2012 championships all the best as they prepare for the event over the coming months.

I was going to comment on both Alex's open letter and the PCC report, but have decided not to, though I do hope things eventually get sorted out amicably, or at least don't drag on for years as some chess disputes have.

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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Alex McFarlane » Sat Nov 26, 2011 10:14 am

Christopher,

I sincerely hope that this will not run for years.

It is difficult to word this diplomatically so I'll just come straight out.

Speaking for myself, if this was still an issue at the end of the 2012 Championships I would simply walk away from all ECF involvement (I would already have done so but for the 2012 venue). Without wanting to appear Reubenesque, I do not need the ECF to continue my arbiting career.

In emails I have been told that the ECF needs me more than I need it. I will leave that for others to decide.

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Re: An Open Letter to CJ De Mooi

Post by Roger de Coverly » Sat Nov 26, 2011 10:19 am

John Upham wrote: 1. Was CJdM fully aware of the levels of respect and regard that exist for Ray Keene amongst the English chess community?
If you don't read Private Eye or Kingpin and are unaware of the circumstances in which the BCF and Ray parted company, you see the Chess Correspondent of a National newspaper, a writer of books, a past TV presenter, an organiser of chess events and chess related dining. Also someone who had been present at high profile events, admittedly none involving the BCF or ECF as principal.
John Upham wrote: What stopped the ECF board making public their opinion (both collective and individual) towards Ray Keene?
That's the one we don't know. Andrew Farthing was asked in the Streatham blog whether the presence of Ray at the Sheffield opening indicated a resolution or just forgetting the issues between the BCF and Ray from more than twenty years ago, but declined to comment.

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