It's rather late in the day but here are some notes and comments for what they are worth:
1. There is a problem with setting the budget for the new year: the amount of graded over-the-board chess played in 2020/21 is likely to be substantially less than for recent seasons but it’s impossible to estimate by how much. With this will come a consequent decline in membership numbers. While it’s not the only source of revenue the federation is in large part reliant on membership fee income.
2. It is proposed to leave full membership fees unchanged rather than increase them as had been intended – so the adult Bronze membership fee, for example, will stay at £18 rather than increase to £20. However, the fee to become an ECF Supporter – currently sufficient for participation in ECF-organised / rated online events - is set to increase from £5 to £10. The charge for an upgrade from one membership category (or ECF Supporter) to a higher category is the difference in charge between the two categories.
3. Membership fee income is anticipated to reduce from £203K (the forecast for 2019/20) to £160K. The calculation is based on no 70+ year-olds renewing (some will of course but, to balance, some younger members won’t) and 25% of remaining Bronze members not renewing.
4. Expenditure on International and Junior chess and administration will, it is proposed, be substantially reduced (against both the previous year budget and the previous year forecast). However, the budgets for International, Junior and Women’s chess will be supplemented, if possible, by income from other sources including grants from the Chess Trust and BCF’s Permanent Invested Fund. The ECF Office staff count will be reduced, I think from 2.4, to 2 and staff will work either from a smaller office or from home. The international budget, assuming grant applications are successful, will be £34,123 (£13,900 + £20,223) vs. £43,000 (2019/20 budget). The junior budget will be £500 (£500 + £0) vs. £18,910. The women’s budget will be £12,998 (£2,500 + £10,498) vs. £10,000 – actually an increase. The administration budget will be £111,100 vs. £141,550.
5. Comment: It seems to me that anticipated membership fee income of £160K against forecast income for the current year of just over £200K is optimistic. What if membership fee income reduces by half to £100K?
6. Comment – what happens if expenditure has to be further reduced? The Board has asked (agenda item 12) to be allowed to make changes to the budget. Perhaps it would be helpful if Council provided a steer. If it were me, my top priority would be to retain office capacity (in part because I wouldn’t wish to make staff redundant but also because I imagine other options are more easily temporary and recoverable). Low on my list of priorities would be expenditure on international chess.
7. 2018/19 result. The result was a loss of £64.9K against a budgeted loss of £50.4K. This is attributed to: a) lower entries than anticipated at the British championships; b) extra junior costs due to tidy-up activities; and, c) extra UK Open Blitz costs.
8. Comment - 2018/19 loss. Not mentioned as contributing to the loss is lower-than-anticipated membership fee income of £185K against a budget of £191.5K. This was masked by higher-than-expected game fee income which for some reason had been budgeted lower than previously.
9. The forecast result for 2019/20 is for a surplus of £158 against a budgeted loss of £12.5K. A Government contribution of £20.5K – made up of a payment for furloughed staff and a small business grant - has helped. So far as I can see (from the ECF membership list provided to organisers), the paying membership count at 30 June was 10,847 – an increase of 249 on the previous year but down 574 against the budget (with a junior count of +671 and an adult count of -1,245). Of course, the numbers will have been affected by the pandemic.
10. Comment – recent and forecast results. Of concern is that the federation made losses for each of the three years to 2018/19. The forecast is for a small surplus for 2019/20 (the budget was for a further loss - of £12.5K). This would leave reserves at £36.5K, giving little room for manoeuvre.
11. Comment – review of previous decisions and against strategy. As with previous Finance Council meetings there is no review of the financial decisions taken in previous years or against the federation’s strategy statement. What lessons have been learnt? What is the outcome of the recent increase in expenditure on women’s chess? Why does the federation not have a Development Officer – the board received approval to finance this position in October 2018 but the post has been occupied only for a few months since that time and the position is not currently advertised on the federation’s list of vacancies
12. The Board is asking Council members for help in persuading federation members to renew. I admit I am ambivalent about this. I recognise the federation needs help and has recently made big efforts to support and provide online competitions. But I’m also conscious that - online chess aside - little has been done in recent years to improve support for clubs and grassroots chess. This is despite above-inflation (perhaps double-inflation) increases in membership fee rates since the inception of the membership scheme. I was hoping the appointment of a Development Officer would help but this hasn’t happened. I feel too much is spent on international chess and dislike the lack of transparency on how the money is spent.