Resignation Rumours

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.
Mike Gunn
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Mike Gunn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 9:18 am

I'm puzzled by the timing of these resignations. I have now heard from two people who were present at the ECF council and nothing seems to have happened which would lead to resignations. As I understand it the board has decided that a universal membership is needed. There are no definite proposals, but we were to have a period of consultation and a straw vote was taken at council which indicated a preference for the status quo/ game fee. Why resign now (at the start of a period of consultation)? Surely the thing to do is put forward your case and win support for it over the coming months?

I'm afraid that this "back me or sack me" approach reminds me of the comedy sketch with the bank robber who threatens to shoot himself unless the police let him go. There were signs of this lunacy in the original Martin Regan election address (unless you elect 100% of my ticket, we won't take office) which was fortunately dropped later on. Unfortunately this lunacy seems to have infected some very good people. Please withdraw your resignations which are letting down English Chess and get stuck into persuading us of the correct way forward in the proper way (by argument and persuasion) rather than by pointless gestures.

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Ben Purton
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Ben Purton » Tue Apr 29, 2008 9:34 am

Dear All,
When you go to chess in England, the majority of people know who Peter Sowray and Claire Summerscale are, and how hard they work for chess in general. Why have they exactley resigned, as I understand it there is a lack of Transparency amongsts the ECF council. Who votes for these people to the board. Why hasnt this one vote system come in. Who decides if Gerry Walsh is chairman and all the other positions?
Frankly the ECF is a joke, Chess in England is a joke, we have no FIDE rated tourns.

Can someone please explain in simple terms why they have resigned, and why we dont have a more democratic voting system.
If there is just a dictatorship style organisation about it, then theres only one way to deal with that

Ben
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John Upham
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by John Upham » Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:12 am

Message from Claire...

Dear all
I'm really sorry that I have to send this email and I know that many of you will have already heard that I have resigned my positions within the ECF as Director of Junior Chess & Education and Manager of Women's Chess, along with Martin Regan (CEO), Peter Sowray (International Director) and Mike Truran (Non-executive Director)

I would like to quote Martin Regan at this point, as he quite simply phrases why we have resigned better than I could hope to:
“Since the new board took control in a contested election in 2006, it has made substantial progress in improving both the profile and activity of the ECF. It has made mistakes along the way, but generally, I hope you will agree, it has been a board which had the interests of English chess at heart.

However, in order for English Chess to achieve that of which it is capable, more fundamental changes are needed. This is what the board was elected to deliver.

We were under no illusion about the hurdles that would need to be overcome, nor were we even sure that the Federation itself would wish to embark on major change. However, it was clear from the first that in order to progress this agenda two fundamental conditions were required: A unified board and a Council wishing to hear the debate with an open mind.

I regret to say that neither condition could be met, despite my best efforts.

At Finance Council it became depressingly clear that a minority - and I do stress the word minority - had little intention of grasping the opportunity for debate. Unfortunately, voices within the ECF which speak loud and often have a disproportionate influence.

At the same time, over the past year, it has become clear that not all the members of the board wished to support the type of changes that the large majority of the board believed were essential, indeed were implacably opposed to them .That is their right, of course, but seeking to persuade the Federation about the need for change with the background opposition of key figures is impossible.”

I have worked extremely hard within the ECF to improve opportunities for juniors in England and to some extent I feel that I have made a difference, but without the support of Martin Regan as CEO, Peter Sowray and Mike Truran, my position as junior director is unfortunately untenable.

I would like to thank Martin, Peter and Mike for their help and guidance. They brought a wealth of expertise, experience and energy to the ECF board and their resignations will leave a large hole in English chess.

I will of course complete any projects which are currently underway. I hope that people know my dedication to junior chess well enough to know that I would not cut and run. Current projects include:
GDST Championships
National Girls' Chess Championships
All England Girls' Championships, Gold Finals
Glorney tournaments
I will ensure that the World Youth, European Youth, Under 16 Olympiad all have excellent squad managers to ensure their smooth running.

I would appreciate volunteers from parents who are interested in organising squads to go to other international events such as World Schools, Euro youth team championships, forthcoming events in Hungary etc.

I would like to thank you for your support and I hope to see many of you at the 4NCL this weekend.

Regards
Claire Summerscale
British Chess News : britishchessnews.com
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Mike Gunn
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Mike Gunn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:21 am

The ECF board is elected by the ECF council which also has to ratify some board decisions.

The makup of council was summarised by Peter Sowray on his website (see the blog link on http://www.ecfomov.co.uk/):

"There are 46 Leagues who have a total of 87 votes between them. For example, the 4NCL has 6 votes and the Hammersmith & District League has 1.

There are 38 Counties with a total of 82 votes. The range is 4 votes for big counties like Surrey, to 1 vote for tiddlers like Warwickshire.

There are 53 Congresses wielding 66 votes. Golders Green carries a mighty 4.

There are 7 Constituent Units - these include the London Chess League, the Northern Counties Chess Union and the like. 19 Votes.

There are 10 Other Organisations (basically not fitting into other categories) - Braille Chess Association, British Federation for Correspondence Chess, to name but two. They have one vote each so - 10 votes.

Then there are 16 votes going to various individuals - one each - people like the President, the Board (that’s where I get my one vote as International Director), Trustees, Past Chief Executive.

And last, but not least, there are the Representatives of Direct Members (remember them) - who are 8 individuals each with a single vote = 8 votes - you can find their names here - keep scrolling down past the second photo of Gerry Walsh."

-------------(end of insert)-------------

There are some FIDE rated tournaments in the UK, but none of the big international tournaments attracting leading players (which is what I guess you mean). To get these you need sponsorship and "chess entrepreneurs", people like Ray Keene, Stewart Reuben etc. National federations may support such events but they rarely take the initiative in organising them.

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Ben Purton
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Ben Purton » Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:08 am

So who makes it impossible for the ECF board to work , is there some form of old guard on there who dont like change?

Ben
I love sleep, I need 8 hours a day and about 10 at night - Bill Hicks
I would die happy if I beat Wood Green in the Eastman Cup final - Richmond LL captain.
Hating the Yankees since 2002. Hating the Jets since 2001.

Mike Gunn
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Mike Gunn » Tue Apr 29, 2008 11:50 am

Ben, as everybody seems to be speaking in code (apart from David Robertson on The Atticus site) it is difficult to answer your question, but if there is an old guard on the ECF board I would guess it is Gerry Walsh (the President) and David Welch (Director of Home Chess). From the the limited personal contact I have had with these individuals I have gained the impression of two thoroughly decent people who have done a great deal over the years for English chess and their main failing is that they don't agree with everything Martin Regan wanted to do. I think the problem that the reformers have is with the ECF council, even if the board backs reform it is quite possible that the proposals will be voted down by council.

More than one person I have spoken to about this whole affair suggests that there is something else going on which will become clear in time. For what it's worth (and it's a pure guess) I think in about a month's time we will see the launch of an English Chess Association which will be based on OMOV and will try and supplant the ECF by attracting more members. This would only succeed in completely splitting English chess from top to bottom. The way to reform the ECF is from within (in my humble opinion)

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:27 pm

a straw vote was taken at council which indicated a preference for the status quo/ game fee. Why resign now (at the start of a period of consultation)? Surely the thing to do is put forward your case and win support for it over the coming months?

The board should have realised that if they wanted to radically change the financing model of the ECF then they had to build a concensus in favour amongst players and local organisers and have reasoned arguments against possible objections. As far as I recall, this was what was done on the last major change to BCF/ECF financing - namely the introduction of game fee.


Council consists in part of representatives of county associations and local congresses.

Look at the membership issue from the point of view of a county association or local congress. Such an organisation would have to choose
to demand 100% ECF membership from its participants
or
go wholly or partly unrated.

Events like the 4NCL, the British Championships and Hastings Masters can impose the 100% condition and suffer only minor losses in participation.Local leagues and congresses may not be able to afford any resulting drop in numbers.

It might be that the board believed that such a drop wouldn't happen or was a necessary step. If so, they haven't made their case.

The wholly or partly rated option would drive away those players who were serious about their grade or rating. At a guess, rapidplay tournaments might be able to do it since these tournaments were popular before they were rated.

In the most pessimistic scenarios, the continued existence of the local organisation would be under threat.

Martin Regan once asked what sort of ECF the membership wanted. It's evident that the Corporate membership on council (counties/leagues/congresses) replied that they didn't want an ECF which threatened their very existence. It might be that the board consider the existing county/league/congress structure obsolete and would like to sweep it away.

In the absence of sponsorship, many of the necessary activities of a national chess federation have to be financed in some form or other by the chess players themselves. I don't follow the logic that says such financing should take place as pay by head (membership) rather than pay by play (game fee).

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Carl Hibbard
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Carl Hibbard » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:44 pm

Mike Gunn wrote:Ben, as everybody seems to be speaking in code (apart from David Robertson on The Atticus site) it is difficult to answer your question, but if there is an old guard on the ECF board I would guess it is Gerry Walsh (the President) and David Welch (Director of Home Chess). From the the limited personal contact I have had with these individuals I have gained the impression of two thoroughly decent people who have done a great deal over the years for English chess and their main failing is that they don't agree with everything Martin Regan wanted to do. I think the problem that the reformers have is with the ECF council, even if the board backs reform it is quite possible that the proposals will be voted down by council.

More than one person I have spoken to about this whole affair suggests that there is something else going on which will become clear in time. For what it's worth (and it's a pure guess) I think in about a month's time we will see the launch of an English Chess Association which will be based on OMOV and will try and supplant the ECF by attracting more members. This would only succeed in completely splitting English chess from top to bottom. The way to reform the ECF is from within (in my humble opinion)
Some sort of splinter organisation does seem possible I have to agree
Cheers
Carl Hibbard

Sean Hewitt

Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Sean Hewitt » Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:46 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:I don't follow the logic that says such financing should take place as pay by head (membership) rather than pay by play (game fee).
Roger makes some very valid observations, although I'm less sure that organisations felt that their existence was threatened. Some certainly felt that their power and / or voting rights might diminish however.

People who support the concept of game fee miss one vital element of the big picture - game fee acts as a deterrent to playing more chess (by making it more expensive). Since we have had a membership scheme in Leicester we have been able to significantly increase the amount of chess played, precisely because it no longer costs extra to do so.

Added to the obvious benefit to the organisation of having the majority of players as members, and the case for a universal membership scheme is compelling.

However, I would advocate that such a scheme should be optional rather than compulsory (by only grading the games of members). This means that players get something tangible for their membership fee. I would also advocate that organisations should be able to opt into either a game fee or a membership scheme (but not both - I would do away with the current hybrid). This should satisfy those organisations / counties that support game fee, whilst allowing those that want a membership scheme to proceed.

It might take 3-5 years but, under the above, I think the majority of players would become members.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:21 pm

People who support the concept of game fee miss one vital element of the big picture - game fee acts as a deterrent to playing more chess (by making it more expensive).

Well I don't know about that. By the time you've travelled to a weekend tournament, paid the entry fee and hotel accomodation an extra £2.50 is neither here nor there on the yes/no of whether to enter. You also get the satisfaction of helping to pay for Nigel Short's breakfast at a European championship. Still it's one of the paradoxes of the current system that every really active tournament player that is signed up for "full" ECF membership costs the ECF money. The amount refunded by non-collection of game fee is greater than the amount collected as membership.

I would have thought the bigger disincentive was asking for £20 membership (and £1 if the ECF goes insolvent) for a rapidplay tournament where the entry fee was about twelve quid.

However, I would advocate that such a scheme should be optional rather than compulsory (by only grading the games of members)



This is the "slow death" option. Congresses and leagues could continue to operate as at present. The problem would be that previously graded players could feel that the ECF was blackmailing them (your money or your grade) and that if you had a lot of ungraded players, those who were members and had grades might be reluctant to play because they couldn't improve their grade

As it stands at the moment, a congress or league could pull out of game fee and go unrated. Outside of Yorkshire I don't think any have taken that option.

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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Ian Kingston » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:04 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:As it stands at the moment, a congress or league could pull out of game fee and go unrated. Outside of Yorkshire I don't think any have taken that option.
The Derby & District League opted out of game fee for one season (2004-05 or thereabouts).

If membership is the issue that prompted the current crisis, then I struggle to see how it can be resolved. For many players, the only thing that the ECF provides is their grade. I agree with Sean Hewitt that in one sense game fee deters people from playing, but I would like to know just how many players know anything about it. As far as they're concerned, they pay their club membership/congress entry fee, and that's it: they don't think for a moment about the fact that each game they sit down and play costs 46p.

In that context, the sudden imposition of a mandatory membership fee, which would make explicit how much it costs to play chess (even though it's a relatively small amount of money for most people), would be difficult to introduce, to say the least. To make it work, I think that the fee would have to be 'hidden' in the same way that game fee is 'hidden' - paid simply as part of a club membership, for example.

I support the idea of mandatory membership in principle, and in the long term it would surely benefit English chess. The biggest problem is making the transition without doing irreparable harm.

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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Paul Stimpson » Tue Apr 29, 2008 2:09 pm

I have to agree with Roger and Mike's previous posts.

I really find it hard to believe they resigned at the first sign of resistance to what in my opinion was a rather drastic change.

I cannot really see the Full membership scheme working to be honest and the suggestion you won't get a grade if not a member is totally self defeating.

I think the game fee model works, though it requires improvement. I think it should be less complicated to enable an easier accounting function for a start.

The things that I fault the ECF for which are in their direct control are.

1. Failure to hold any sort of Major European or World event in the last 15 years.
I think the Olympiad 2012 was a fantastic opportunity that we have missed out on. This was suggested and rejected but why are the World Junior events always being held in the same European Countries. Let’s put some events on here!

2. Failure to promote chess, no chess on TV is a major crime in my view and should be top of the agenda.

3. Failure to act on the improvements to the grading system, I have seen lots and lots of talking on this but little action.

4. Failure to provide enough FIDE Rating events.

Other than that most of the set up is run by local leagues and congresses who provide lots of playing opportunities. However, without the ECF promoting chess and putting it on the map numbers will dwindle.

Claire Summerscale has done some sterling work and will be greatly missed by the junior membership, I hope the good work she has started will continue and initiatives like the Chess for Schools Project will not be affected.

If a break away association can address the problems I have highlighted above and this was the only way for these to be realised then I would have to support any such move unreservedly.

Sean Hewitt

Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Sean Hewitt » Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:16 pm

Paul Stimpson wrote:...the suggestion you won't get a grade if not a member is totally self defeating.
Paul - Do you mind me asking why you think that? As a director of fairly major consumer brands I have always believed in giving customers value for money. That means selling them something at a price below that which they are prepared to pay. The only thing that I can see that the ECF can sell to its customers (aka the players) is their grade. Why would doing that be self defeating? Indeed, why should the ECF provide a grading service to non-members?

The experience here in Leicester of the MO scheme has been that something like 60% of active players have joined. If we said to the remaining 40% that they would only get a grade if they joined, I reckon the majority would. I could be wrong of course.

Roger / Ian - When I say that game fee deters playing, I was talking more about organisers than players. My weekend congress in 2006 lost about £350, including a near £300 payment to the ECF for game fee. Deciding whether or not to run again was a big decision. Since we have had our MO in Leicester, we have introduced new local events (individual and team) all of which can operate without further cost to the players (over and above their membership fees). This encourages more play, and the average number of games per player in Leicester has gone up since the introduction of the membership scheme.

I have opposed Martin Regan on a number of things, not least his style, but a membership scheme must be right for English Chess.

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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Paul Stimpson » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:04 pm

Sean,

I don't think it would be good publicity wise for the ECF to do this. Also if you get the mix right between membership fee and Game fee you can collect a fee in all scenarios. Take for instance Junior Chess, very few juniors will become members but you still collect on game fee. Also the more you play the more you pay which is a good set up in my view.

The universal membership plan can only work if you can get as near to 100% (of active players) take up as possible, otherwise it impacts badly on members (I am thinking of when you play non members and therefore get no grading points). I guess the crux is to get the membership fee to a level where it would be perceived to be absolutely outstanding value and a complete no brainer.

As other people have pointed out Game Fee is an hidden fee to most players and therefore not questioned when entering events. However a conscious decision to become a fully paid up member is not and most players will be looking hard at the benefits and they are simply not there at present.

The problem I think with Game fee is that it is rising to a level that it is adding quite a burden to entry fees and looking at the figures generating more than enough money as it is. It's a bit like the speed cameras have become a revenue collecting source. It's not the players that are avoiding game fee but events that are not having their event graded, this is bad for chess.

I am not saying a universal membership scheme couldn't work but it would need to deliver enough to make it an absolute must for 99% of the players. Using the "you won't get a grade" incentive is not enough in my opinion.

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Re: Resignation Rumours

Post by Ben Hague » Tue Apr 29, 2008 6:28 pm

Sean Hewitt wrote: As a director of fairly major consumer brands I have always believed in giving customers value for money. That means selling them something at a price below that which they are prepared to pay. The only thing that I can see that the ECF can sell to its customers (aka the players) is their grade. Why would doing that be self defeating? Indeed, why should the ECF provide a grading service to non-members?
The problem I see with that is that for me, and I suspect for quite a significant number of players grades are effectively worthless. I know that if the ECF says pay x amount to become a member and help support English chess then I probably will, but if they say pay x amount for a grade then I won't.

I agree with you that membership is better than a game fee, but my reasoning is that anything that breaks the link between payment and grades is a good thing, and if it has the side-effect of encouraging the ECF to provide more than just a grading service then that can only be a good thing.

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