ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

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Hok Yin Stephen Chiu
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ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Hok Yin Stephen Chiu » Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:59 am

This thread seeks to address some of flaws in the rationale found in the Paper C29.12 tabled to Council (less on the finances, but will potentially overlap with ongoing discussion)

Paper: (https://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-cont ... he-ECF.pdf)

It is probably one of the more irresponsible papers that has been tabled to Council to my knowledge, and giving the proposers the benefit of the doubt, it is probably unintentional.

The paper refers to the target of 500 more members per annum, for the forthcoming three years. Then, adds it may not happen automatically. This is a fair comment. But the next bit is a quite leap, that the ECF requires a paid Development Manager to grow this membership, who will be a paid a bonus. The basic fee is £5,000 pa, with £2,500 in expenses, and £2,500 in bonus, rising to £5,000 in expenses and £5,000 in bonus for future years. The bonus will be paid if first year membership exceeds 500 per annum.

There is a significant issue:

Having individual bonuses linked to a non-deterministic performance indicator is outright thoughtless

(As an aside, the ECF could risk failing to break even, but let's be generous and say the target is hit) There is a far more pertinent issues:
  • The idea that new membership growth can be attributed to just one individual is as simplistic as it is wrong
  • It is irresponsible, because the bonus payments will formally mis-attribute credit of future membership growth, to one individual, instead of the collective achievement of the Board and other officers. This type of idea would be thrown out at conception in any other organisation.
  • Not only is it irresponsible for actively mis-attributing credit of people's work - by singling out responsibility for membership growth to one individual, will over time lead to other Directors being more likely to defer to the Development Manager on any growth-related issues. But, this is precisely one of the few topics which requires collective thought/discussion/action/responsibility from the Board, not a one-person job.
  • It is also irresponsible, because it gives the impression to Leagues across the country that you need to throw money to pay for a Development Manager to drive growth. Most League do not have this money for such a post, but if the ECF gives this impression, it will unwittingly encourage inaction, where Leagues simply keenly await further instruction from the ECF. What Leagues need is grassroots initiatives appropriate for their local area, [editted] not to await the ECF's new manager to generate a new wave of members
  • The biggest issue with this proposal is not the money, but the unintended consequence where it implicitly encourages people, clubs, and Leagues off-load creative thinking on membership growth to the ECF's Development Manager, which is outright bonkers
  • The job description of the role is also vauge, if the Board knew of the job should entail, they would've said, we want someone to do (A) (B)
    and (C), instead, we are engaged in wishful thinking, gambling that some individual with the right ideas will appear.
(I don't wish to use the Coventry League as an example all the time, but we are reaching our Centenary year, and in discussions on Widening Participation one of the idea is to set a target of gaining 100 new members across our League (admittedly, I don't really care if they are ECF members of not, as long as people are getting involved and becoming club members). Sure, if each club only gain 5-10 members, we won't get there, but it is about creating grassroots, voluntary initiatives, and then sharing the ideas at the end of the season, which will help drive continuous improvement on the matter. If our nice little League can think ambitious without throwing money about [just yet], then perhaps the ECF could do the same!) But, hey, if the Coventry League are just half as successful as we plan, and make our new members also buy ECF membership, I'm sure the new Development Manager's bonus will be delighted! Does anyone else, think the bonus system is badly thought through?

Regarding the International Budget, this is ripe for sponsorship to fund various 'international' initiatives. I often disagree with my hard-left student union, but they are right on club spending - club funds should not be spent on anything that does not benefit the majority of the members directly. The international budget, is not the home budget or the junior budget; if the proposals asked for £27,000 for the Home and Junior budget, it would be a completely different matter!

If the University of Warwick Chess Society can get 3 years of sponsorship with Optiver (Optiver also sponsor the GM, Anish Giri), and we use it to fund our trips to the British Universities Championships, and last year at the European Universities Championships, then, the ECF ought to work harder on sponsorship, if they want to be sending GM (and other stars) out and about to various chess tournaments.
Last edited by Hok Yin Stephen Chiu on Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Roger de Coverly » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:24 pm

Hok Yin Stephen Chiu wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:59 am
(admittedly, I don't really care if they are ECF members of not, as long as people are getting involved and becoming club members).
The ECF should perhaps clarify its thinking on this. Is it looking to convert people who already play some form of competitive chess into ECF membership? Or is it seeking to attract entirely new players? If it had to choose one or the other, which is its choice?

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Michael Farthing » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:28 pm

The development manager will not, as I understand it, be a director as Hok seems to think (apologies if I've misunderstood you).

I can't see a problem with the model. However, I don't think it will work and there are no details of what sort of actions the manager will take. Is he going to put adverts in local papers saying "Why not join a chess club"; offer free advertising on the ECF site to firms that sponsor an in-house club? provide newsletters to club and league secretaries with tips for increasing participation? Maybe a travelling grandmaster doing simuls? I really have no idea. We did have a publicity manager for a while who worked with local groups to put on chess events - it got quite a lot of stick, though personally I thought he made a good stab at it and he had some worthwhile ideas. Ultimately, though, it was not generating much change.

It looks a little as if the Board hopes to appoint a professional fund raiser who will (obviously :? ) know how to do it. In fairness, they do say that the appointment will only happen if they find the right person. I'm not convinced that the right person will give much time for a base salary of £5000.

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Hok Yin Stephen Chiu » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:46 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:24 pm
The ECF should perhaps clarify its thinking on this. Is it looking to convert people who already play some form of competitive chess into ECF membership? Or is it seeking to attract entirely new players? If it had to choose one or the other, which is its choice?
My comment was more in relation to my local League, less the ECF. Obviously, its clear the ECF would probably want everyone to be members, and certainly the League expect members playing in the League to be bronze, and in our Centenary Rapidplay to be silver. However, if we focus on getting more people playing chess at the grassroots, ECF membership is not such a great performance indicator.

E.g. Warwick University is large, and surprising diverse, but even several of the Committee are not members of the ECF, and nor am I really fussed (https://twitter.com/WarwickChess/status ... 5624425472).. over time, though we will encourage people to be ECF members by making people go to rapidplays, but oftentimes, it doesnt happen straight away..
Michael Farthing wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:28 pm
The development manager will not, as I understand it, be a director as Hok seems to think (apologies if I've misunderstood you).
I didn't wish to give that impression; I am conscious the Manager position is not a director, but, over time, if that someone somehow hits the 500 new members a year target and stay in that post, it is reasonable to predict that over time, the Directors will defer development related initiatives to the Development Manager, when in fact, we want all Directors to be actively thinking/working/discussing these issues regularly.
Michael Farthing wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:28 pm
I can't see a problem with the model. However, I don't think it will work and there are no details of what sort of actions the manager will take. Is he going to put adverts in local papers saying "Why not join a chess club"; offer free advertising on the ECF site to firms that sponsor an in-house club? provide newsletters to club and league secretaries with tips for increasing participation? Maybe a travelling grandmaster doing simuls? I really have no idea. We did have a publicity manager for a while who worked with local groups to put on chess events - it got quite a lot of stick, though personally I thought he made a good stab at it and he had some worthwhile ideas. Ultimately, though, it was not generating much change.
Indeed.
Michael Farthing wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:28 pm
It looks a little as if the Board hopes to appoint a professional fund raiser who will (obviously :? ) know how to do it. In fairness, they do say that the appointment will only happen if they find the right person. I'm not convinced that the right person will give much time for a base salary of £5000.
Again, I have the same concerns.
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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Roger de Coverly » Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:59 pm

Hok Yin Stephen Chiu wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:46 pm
Again, I have the same concerns.
I had the impression Tim Wall may have been pencilled in for this job having written the (unpublished) development paper, but with Alex H moving sideways, he's standing for Home Director instead.
https://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-cont ... m-Wall.pdf

Also in
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=9839&start=15
Tim Wall wrote: At the time, I was essentially arguing for the creation of the post of Development Officer, but since the post of Director of Home Chess will become vacant in October, it makes sense for me to aim to carry out the plans put forward in that paper from the Board. If that means that someone else is employed by the ECF to carry out the Development Plan reporting to the Director of Home Chess, that's fine by me.

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:49 pm

I'm sorry Hok but I have to disagree. I don't consider the paper to be irresponsible. Slightly overambitious perhaps but for the first time the ECF is focusing on the area that most needs attention; attracting new players to the game. I hate disagreeing with you as I see you as one of the new generation of chess visionaries that the English game needs (Peter Hornsby is another example). This is completely different to some contributors to this forum (three in particular) who are negative about everything the ECF does without offering anything positive or constructive of their own.

When the late Martin Regan was reflecting on his (ultimately unsuccessful) stint as CEO he made an interesting comment. Upon being elected to the role he spoke to as many players as he could make contact with and asked the question, `What do you want the ECF to be?` Once he had a consensus he would try to make that happen but he would also need to tell them how much it would cost. If they weren't prepared to pay for it there was nothing he could do. I didn't agree with Martin Regan on everything but he was (literally) bang on the money with that one.

The ECF will always be the umbrella rather than the person clutching it. They will provide the overall strategy and structure. People like you and me on the ground will have to do our own thing and adjust accordingly to local issues (our main disagreement seems to be whether ECF membership is a disincentive or not). But hopefully we will soon have an overall strategy to be part of rather than working in a vacuum.

Sponsorship; whether we like it or not there are only two people in English chess who have the ability to pull in the big corporate money we need. Even the most generous assessment of one of them suggests he is a maverick who doesn't work well within the ECF. That leaves us with Malcolm Pein; the man who has negotiated the sponsorship with Capital Developments that has given the British championship a shot in the arm. Malcolm has been distracted by his international ambitions lately but I'm sure he will continue to seek a sponsor for the national teams. If he can't do it - who can? And I don't think it's simply a case of local sponsorship being magnified on a national scale. There are many local organisations who are happy to give community grants. For a big corporation there is no real return on sponsoring chess so a five figure philanthropic donation is all we can expect.
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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Angus French » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:01 pm

Hok Yin Stephen Chiu wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:46 pm
if that someone [the Development Manager] somehow hits the 500 new members a year target
Challenges for English Chess paper wrote:... the bonus and expenses will be covered by the ECF via the increases in membership growth for the first year of membership over and above the current growth plans of 500 per annum over the next three years.
As I read it, the Development Manager won't get paid a bonus or expenses unless the growth in membership is above a net 500 new members a year. To achieve the maximum bonus (of £5K) and payment for expenses (also of £5K) I guess the growth in new members would have to be something like a 1000 a year.

Edit: corrected typo.
Last edited by Angus French on Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Angus French » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:08 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:59 pm
I had the impression Tim Wall may have been pencilled in for this job having written the (unpublished) development paper...
What the Board's 'Challenges for English Chess..' paper doesn't explain is *how* membership numbers might be increased and how the appeal of competitive chess can be widened. I suspect the Board has missed a trick in not also publishing Tim's paper which explains his ideas on this.

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Hok Yin Stephen Chiu » Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:16 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:59 pm
I had the impression Tim Wall may have been pencilled in for this job having written the (unpublished) development paper, but with Alex H moving sideways, he's standing for Home Director instead.
https://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-cont ... m-Wall.pdf
Personally, it is a shame that Alex's time commitments meant he had to leave the Home directorship, I personally quite admire the amount he does for English Chess. (Edit, that said, Junior seems well suited to him too)

This is one of the reasons, I don't believe in the Development Manager post, I think someone like Alex gets more new juniors involved and becoming ECF members through the events he runs in Warwickshire (and all the other events he organises and arbits), than the proposed Development Manager will achieve; and there are many people out there already (and will) make a big difference across the local chess scene, who will not be getting a bonus for contributing to the membership increase, but the Development Manager would somehow be attributed this credit.
Roger de Coverly wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:59 pm
Also in
viewtopic.php?f=25&t=9839&start=15
Tim Wall wrote: At the time, I was essentially arguing for the creation of the post of Development Officer, but since the post of Director of Home Chess will become vacant in October, it makes sense for me to aim to carry out the plans put forward in that paper from the Board. If that means that someone else is employed by the ECF to carry out the Development Plan reporting to the Director of Home Chess, that's fine by me.

I shall endeavour to inquire whether Tim Wall intends to stand by this Development Officer role in the context of the current ECF proposals. Whilst Tim and I agreed on the issue of the Bronze and Silver merger, a poorly justified case for membership fees increase is more long term damaging, if members feel they do not get value for money.

The ECF funding structure relies on the not-very-good chess player (like myself) in the 80-120 region that could happily spend their money elsewhere, not play in leagues, and just do online chess only. Even at Warwick University, we know far more people play online chess, simply by walking through the Maths Department, or Engineering, or the Library, but do not join the Chess Society which is £3 membership (plus £19 to the Student Union).

The ECF needs to recognise that as online chess (whether chess.com or lichess) is the go-to thing for young people, people have more freedom about how they play chess without even leaving their house than ever before - with free analysis on these websites to even help them improve; the ECF does not have a monopoly on chess. If it wishes to keep this near-monopoly (which I believe that chess should benefit from, and have, a helpful national organisation for people to turn to for events, tournaments, etc), then it must always think about whether it is delivering value for money.
Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:49 pm
I'm sorry Hok but I have to disagree. I don't consider the paper to be irresponsible. Slightly overambitious perhaps but for the first time the ECF is focusing on the area that most needs attention; attracting new players to the game. I hate disagreeing with you as I see you as one of the new generation of chess visionaries that the English game needs (Peter Hornsby is another example). This is completely different to some contributors to this forum (three in particular) who are negative about everything the ECF does without offering anything positive or constructive of their own.

When the late Martin Regan was reflecting on his (ultimately unsuccessful) stint as CEO he made an interesting comment. Upon being elected to the role he spoke to as many players as he could make contact with and asked the question, `What do you want the ECF to be?` Once he had a consensus he would try to make that happen but he would also need to tell them how much it would cost. If they weren't prepared to pay for it there was nothing he could do. I didn't agree with Martin Regan on everything but he was (literally) bang on the money with that one.

The ECF will always be the umbrella rather than the person clutching it. They will provide the overall strategy and structure. People like you and me on the ground will have to do our own thing and adjust accordingly to local issues (our main disagreement seems to be whether ECF membership is a disincentive or not). But hopefully we will soon have an overall strategy to be part of rather than working in a vacuum.

Sponsorship; whether we like it or not there are only two people in English chess who have the ability to pull in the big corporate money we need. Even the most generous assessment of one of them suggests he is a maverick who doesn't work well within the ECF. That leaves us with Malcolm Pein; the man who has negotiated the sponsorship with Capital Developments that has given the British championship a shot in the arm. Malcolm has been distracted by his international ambitions lately but I'm sure he will continue to seek a sponsor for the national teams. If he can't do it - who can? And I don't think it's simply a case of local sponsorship being magnified on a national scale. There are many local organisations who are happy to give community grants. For a big corporation there is no real return on sponsoring chess so a five figure philanthropic donation is all we can expect.
I respect your opinion on it, and yes, I agree that our disagreement is on whether it is a disincentive or not.

If members aren't willing to play, we can not simply just raise fees, and hope all will be ok! If members don't then, we need to scale back things that don't deliver immediate value to them.

If we can't draw sponsorship for some of the projects than benefits fewer members, than we simply can't fund it as much of it.

When Warwick didn't have sponsorship, we only sent 4 teams to BUCA, but when we had sponsorship, we sent 6-7 Teams (this and last year).

I have been lead to believe that we do not just cover expenses for the Olympiad team(travel, branded clothing, food) but in fact, the top players get paid, £36,000 direct spend plus £13,500 on additional expenditure for the Olympiad seems excessive as a lump sum. We certainly don't get a breakdown of that - it would be wrong of me to vote for an increase of this already opaque figure..
Angus French wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 2:01 pm
Hok Yin Stephen Chiu wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 12:46 pm
if that someone [the Development Manager] somehow hits the 500 new members a year target
Challenges for English Chess paper wrote:... the bonus and expenses will be covered by the ECF via the increases in membership growth for the first year of membership over and above the current growth plans of 500 per annum over the next three years.
As it read, the Development Manager won't get paid a bonus or expenses unless the growth in membership is above a net 500 new members a year. To achieve the maximum bonus (of £5K) and payment for expenses (also of £5K) I guess the growth in new members would have to be something like a 1000 a year.
Indeed, my criticism in the first post was that even if the target is hit, it is irresponsible for the 5 reasons I gave. And if we don't hit the target, we may find that the ECF will struggle to break even!
Hok Yin Stephen Chiu wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:59 am
Having individual bonuses linked to a non-deterministic performance indicator is outright thoughtless
Hok Yin Stephen Chiu wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 11:59 am
  • The idea that new membership growth can be attributed to just one individual is as simplistic as it is wrong
  • It is irresponsible, because the bonus payments will formally mis-attribute credit of future membership growth, to one individual, instead of the collective achievement of the Board and other officers. This type of idea would be thrown out at conception in any other organisation.
  • Not only is it irresponsible for actively mis-attributing credit of people's work - by singling out responsibility for membership growth to one individual, will over time lead to other Directors being more likely to defer to the Development Manager on any growth-related issues. But, this is precisely one of the few topics which requires collective thought/discussion/action/responsibility from the Board, not a one-person job.
  • It is also irresponsible, because it gives the impression to Leagues across the country that you need to throw money to pay for a Development Manager to drive growth. Most League do not have this money for such a post, but if the ECF gives this impression, it will unwittingly encourage inaction, where Leagues simply keenly await further instruction from the ECF. What Leagues need is grassroots initiatives appropriate for their local area, [editted] not to await the ECF's new manager to generate a new wave of members
  • The biggest issue with this proposal is not the money, but the unintended consequence where it implicitly encourages people, clubs, and Leagues off-load creative thinking on membership growth to the ECF's Development Manager, which is outright bonkers
  • The job description of the role is also vauge, if the Board knew of the job should entail, they would've said, we want someone to do (A) (B)
    and (C), instead, we are engaged in wishful thinking, gambling that some individual with the right ideas will appear.
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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Paul Cooksey » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:09 pm

Andrew Zigmond wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:49 pm
This is completely different to some contributors to this forum (three in particular) who are negative about everything the ECF does without offering anything positive or constructive of their own.
Does anyone know who the third one is? I'm thinking of organising a curry.

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Michael Farthing » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:57 pm

What, on Saturday? Is this a bribe? I'm easily bought!

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Nick Grey » Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:46 pm

It sounds to me that Micha?el Farthing ought to change his name to Mick Cash a union leader getting paid more than the PM & holding the commuters & other travellers to ransom. Those that are attending.

Or is Michael now Hurricane Michael 2018. I'll save the weather issues up for other posts.

Anyway what are the ECF going to do about travel or organisers?
Lay on minibuses, car sharing schemes etc to get players to evening chess & congresses.

Nice big one coming 23/10 for a week. I have already taken 6 days annual leave this year because my 10 trains an hour is now 2 an hour & you can't get on the trains.

Why have payment targets - seems pointless & a strange budget item. If the monies going towards chess curries, chess in the pub or wine bar that is completely acceptable / no sugar tax beverages or removing plastics that is fine by me. Or paper too.

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Fri Oct 12, 2018 6:26 pm

I hope Hok gets involved with ECF at some stage (although I would really understand if he didn't want to!) He seems full of ideas, but more importantly listens to other points of view, which is pretty rare anywhere, let alone this forum.

As for a "Development Manager", I'm not convinced that basing a bonus on targets which are achieved by other people is a great idea. Admittedly, the company for which I was formerly employed did that as well, but I thought that was stupid as well. The DM is going to have to rely on local people doing the actual work, so (s)he is more likely to be an "enabler" than a "doer".

One local pub in Redhill has a table where people frequently play chess. Recently, we went there after we had finished at the club, and they had more people playing than we did... It is doubtful any would want to play seriously, but at least they were playing. If that's repeated in 100 million pubs, you would have a lot of players.

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Re: ECF Council: Issues within Paper C29.12, Challenges for English Chess (in particular,The Development Manager)

Post by NickFaulks » Fri Oct 12, 2018 7:52 pm

Kevin Thurlow wrote:
Fri Oct 12, 2018 6:26 pm
As for a "Development Manager", I'm not convinced that basing a bonus on targets which are achieved by other people is a great idea.
Nor do I, but presumably that's what the person who is going to get the job wants.

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