Membership initiatives

Debate directly related to English Chess Federation matters.
David Pardoe
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Membership initiatives

Post by David Pardoe » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:40 am

It has long been said that the ECF membership scheme is not flexible enough, and with more options, it might attract rather more support.
Here`s one possibility.
We have a huge online chess community, of which I am one, playing on the Gameknot site.
If we could harness support from this sector, it might boost numbers significantly.

e.g....suppose the ECF offered a cheap discount deal for online players, offering to set up a special grading database for such players, showing the websites they play on, and the gradings they have, along with other grading details.. Maybe these could be updated quarterly, and might enable the ECF to build up a large indicative database of our many online players. Some useful stats might be possible. If they added the option to play up to 5 ECF graded games in any category (gold, silver, bronze), and charged perhaps £5 for adults and say £2.50p for juniors, this might attract a large number of new members. Maybe if just 5000 of the estimated 250,000 or so UK online players were to join it might bring another £20,000 extra in revenues. If we included Commonwealth & other expat players, who knows what numbers might be interested! With such additional funding, we could have sent that ladies team to the European Championships! And more perhaps.
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Mark Howitt
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Mark Howitt » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:45 am

Interesting idea but most players who aren't already OTB players like playing online because it's cheap/free. Most are pretty bad too :) (that's if they just play online).

John Upham
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by John Upham » Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:46 am

David Pardoe wrote: If we could harness support from this sector, it might boost numbers significantly.
How do you propose to do that?

There have been past attempts to create ECF link ups with the big players in the real-time on-line chess market in the past.

They were ChessCube and PlayChess.
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Paul Buswell
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Paul Buswell » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:03 am

David Pardoe wrote:It has long been said that the ECF membership scheme is not flexible enough, and with more options, it might attract rather more support.
Here`s one possibility.
We have a huge online chess community, of which I am one, playing on the Gameknot site.
If we could harness support from this sector, it might boost numbers significantly.

e.g....suppose the ECF offered a cheap discount deal for online players, offering to set up a special grading database for such players, showing the websites they play on, and the gradings they have, along with other grading details.. Maybe these could be updated quarterly, and might enable the ECF to build up a large indicative database of our many online players. Some useful stats might be possible. If they added the option to play up to 5 ECF graded games in any category (gold, silver, bronze), and charged perhaps £5 for adults and say £2.50p for juniors, this might attract a large number of new members. Maybe if just 5000 of the estimated 250,000 or so UK online players were to join it might bring another £20,000 extra in revenues. If we included Commonwealth & other expat players, who knows what numbers might be interested! With such additional funding, we could have sent that ladies team to the European Championships! And more perhaps.
And who would do the work of setting up and maintaining the special grading database? The ECF isn't rolling in volunteers, and fees/wages would eat up a large chunk of that £20K.

PB

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Roger de Coverly » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:19 am

Mark Howitt wrote:Interesting idea but most players who aren't already OTB players like playing online because it's cheap/free.
According to the new ECF President's research, there are 6 million people in the UK who play chess at least once a year. At least some of them will play on the on-line servers. If the OTB game wants to boost its numbers or even its audience, it has to reach them in some way. As to how it should be done, I don't know, and chess organisations have had twenty years not finding out.

FIDE have got the rather horrible idea of corrupting their new rapid and Blitz ratings by extending them to on-line play on their server.
Mark Howitt wrote: Most are pretty bad too (that's if they just play online).
Where the site has a forum, say at http://www.redhotpawn.com/board/threadl ... ?forumid=9, you can see that both by the games played and the comments made. But are they interested to the slighest in improving?

Mark Howitt
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Mark Howitt » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:22 am

Main point is there isn't a massive untapped source of revenue out there for chess, no matter what figures people come up with... I think a lot of businesses don't understand the 'digital economy' today. Like some things potentially have no value, even if they've taken a lot of time or artistic ability to create. People who write books get a pitiful amount per hour... you can listen to or download any song for free. Things like physical resources such as gold and oil have value but non physical resources are having less and less value.

In this economy can you see new people wanting to pay each year for a 'membership' (when the actual cost of playing chess comes down to their club or themselves)? Answer is found in the dying off of clubs.

PeterFarr
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by PeterFarr » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:23 am

Mark Howitt wrote:Main point is there isn't a massive untapped source of revenue out there for chess, no matter what figures people come up with... I think a lot of businesses don't understand the 'digital economy' today. Like some things potentially have no value, even if they've taken a lot of time or artistic ability to create. People who write books get a pitiful amount per hour... you can listen to or download any song for free. Things like physical resources such as gold and oil have value but non physical resources are having less and less value.
Overall, it's simply not true that non-physical resources have less and less value; the online economy continues to grow year on year; a great many people make money from it. However, you are right to suggest that people often think they can make money out of an online group just because its a large number of people, without considering whether those people will actually buy anything.
Mark Howitt wrote:In this economy can you see new people wanting to pay each year for a 'membership' (when the actual cost of playing chess comes down to their club or themselves)? Answer is found in the dying off of clubs.
I suspect that clubs dying off has very little to do with membership fees, which are very small compared to - well, almost anything, and a lot to do with the availability of so many alternative leisure pursuits. Also the lack of people willing to take time to do all the routine administration and organizing needed to keep a club going.

It's striking that the most obviously thriving area of OTB chess in England is 4NCL, which is one of the most expensive chess options available (taking into account travel & accomodation etc.). The reasons for this are obvious; a high standard of competition, good quality playing venues, excellent organization.

The people that continually bang on about the cost of playing are largely misguided; it's much more about the provision of an attractive product.

MartinCarpenter
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by MartinCarpenter » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:02 am

And plenty of people go to play weekly bridge - paying a fee every single time they play. They do get really quite nice venues etc out of this.

Ian Kingston
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Ian Kingston » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:21 am

PeterFarr wrote:The people that continually bang on about the cost of playing are largely misguided; it's much more about the provision of an attractive product.
Absolutely true. And playing OTB in crappy pubs etc. is not attractive compared with a few games of online blitz in the comfort of your own home whenever it suits you.

Andrew Paulson is probably right to say that there is an untapped market, but it's not as big as his figures suggest. Those people aren't easily reached by the ECF and they may not want to leave their armchairs. It'll be interesting to see what his ideas are.

Paul Sanders
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Paul Sanders » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:30 am

I don't know how valid it is, but here is a point of comparison:

http://www.rank.com/our_businesses/mecca_bingo.jsp

Andrew Zigmond
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:46 am

I don't have as much time to play online chess as I'd like but I think most sites have forums and a chat feature. I think some might allow you to search for players by location. While there is a market the ECF could tap, rather than expecting the ECF to do all the work it's easy enough to start a conversation, mention the local chess club and invite them down for a look.

There does seem to be a division in this country between those who want chess to go upmarket and are willing to contribute themselves and those who want to keep chess cheap and cheerful - each to their own but it's inevitable that those organisations that provide (as Peter Farr said) an attractive product that will see growth.

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that those who provide attractive producuts (Malcolm Pein, the 4NCL, e2-e4 tournaments) operate outside the ECF which is left with the cheap and cheerful demographic. I may be wrong.
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Mark Howitt
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Mark Howitt » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:52 am

Yeah I agree about the 'other options' thing- mentioned it myself on this forum and chessninja. Chess has to do a lot to appeal to younger players.

PeterFarr
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by PeterFarr » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:37 pm

Andrew Zigmond wrote: There does seem to be a division in this country between those who want chess to go upmarket and are willing to contribute themselves and those who want to keep chess cheap and cheerful - each to their own but it's inevitable that those organisations that provide (as Peter Farr said) an attractive product that will see growth.

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that those who provide attractive producuts (Malcolm Pein, the 4NCL, e2-e4 tournaments) operate outside the ECF which is left with the cheap and cheerful demographic. I may be wrong.
Nothing wrong with cheap and cheerful per se - it's what I mostly do myself, and I guess a lot of 4NCL players would still play evening league chess etc.; but just saving costs all the time isn't going to attract new players, as the entry level cost for chess is really extremely low anyway.

The ECF is certainly funded on a cheap and cheerful basis. Just look at the scratching around for funds for the European, and then think how much is spent on a single 4NCL weekend; - the players must be spending what, £25k-£30k? (having a guess at travel & accommodation cost - probably much more if you add on food and drink).

John Cox
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by John Cox » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:56 pm

MartinCarpenter wrote:And plenty of people go to play weekly bridge - paying a fee every single time they play. They do get really quite nice venues etc out of this.
The main reason for that, IMHO, is that online bridge is crap and always will be, for two reasons; first, it's a partnership game and, second, because table presence is important.

Also, I think bridge clubs are declining too. Certainly the only one I know well is, although that may be problems unique to it, I don't know.
Last edited by John Cox on Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Mick Norris
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Re: Membership initiatives

Post by Mick Norris » Fri Oct 18, 2013 1:07 pm

Andrew Zigmond wrote:There does seem to be a division in this country between those who want chess to go upmarket and are willing to contribute themselves and those who want to keep chess cheap and cheerful - each to their own but it's inevitable that those organisations that provide (as Peter Farr said) an attractive product that will see growth.

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that those who provide attractive producuts (Malcolm Pein, the 4NCL, e2-e4 tournaments) operate outside the ECF which is left with the cheap and cheerful demographic. I may be wrong.
The market will provide "products" that are attractive, or if not attractive then the events (eventually) fail - is there any problem with the ECF providing only events that the market doesn't organise, if those events are actually useful in some way?
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