Detailed response below from my team captain and Middlesex open team captain....Anthony Fulton (19-02-2011)
You have certainly stirred up a hornets nest!!!
Your response and those echoing you shows the short-sightedness of the ECF, and yes even if there may not have been too many dissenting voices at the time this was possibly because individuals were expecting to receive laminated personalised certificates presuming this would be completed some time after the event.
Recognition is always a thorny subject however it is accepted in ALL walks of life that if you want to motivate individuals you MUST acknowledge their effort. Certainly as a captain of two County Teams it is critical that I recognise the effort of all involved else Mx would still be in the wilderness when considering the County scene.
I do recall an exchange of emails between Adam and myself asking whether certificates had been issued on Finals Day. I informed him that since Mx were defeated Minor finalists the team had left before the award ceremony so I could not advise him of what had taken place. His email to me suggests that some form of individual award was to be made on the day. David Sedgwick verifies that certificates were to be awarded. One thing that puzzles me is how the ECF Committee arrived at the decision that certificates instead of trophies are to be awarded and are indeed acceptable?
Richard suggests ask the opinion of those who count. At no stage do I recall being approached by ECF to advise that 'austere measures' are to be taken and one of those is to review the awards issued for the County Championship. Austere measures - fair enough. What alternative award - not fair enough. So just how did the Committee arrive at the decision that Certificates were something that players would appreciate instead of the trophies awarded in previous years? Adam notes that he and Cyril had a conversation and came up with the suggestion of 'not charging for refreshments instead of providing trophies'. Alex compounds this by stating 'had the funds been available then trophies would have been provided'. By not canvassing the opinion of Captains at the very least and potentially to only decide the matter on cost means there is a lack of transparency on this issue. In fact we have an example of a 'fait accompli'. Surely those involved may have been aware that a problem could ensue thus it would be better to obtain views rather than make independent decision. Had a canvass been undertaken they may have been able to answer the following:
1) How many Captains pay the cost of refreshments on behalf of their team? Doing this in lieu of say buying a pint in the pub afterwards. Captains recognising and rewarding achievement.
2) How many Counties reimburse captains? County recognition of achievement
On the two previous occasions when Mx have reached the final under my tenure I have paid the refreshments on behalf of my team so they can focus on the match. I would surmise that most Counties have a pre- / post-match celebratory/commiserations drink which may develop into a meal. So paying for refreshment may not be too much of an issue.
In principle you are correct, the time and effort of all players should be recognised. Whatever happens at a local level is one thing but when a competition is endorsed by a National Organisation, especially one relying on the activities at a local level in the first instance, it clearly is another. This is especially the case when the organisation concerned insists that ALL finalists attend on the same day even though as has happened on many occasions it would be more convenient for finalists to play on their local patch, e.g., between 2006/7 and 2009/10 all the u175/180 finals have seen local clashes, i.e., MCCU, NCCU and SCCU. If the ECF insists on finalists competing on Finals Day even if it is a local clash then it is the least that they can do to recognise the victors else rotate venues so that all Counties have an opportunity to potentially play at 'home' and all have distance to cover and the inconvenience therein. Yes this highlights another bugbear for some but not appropriate for the matter under discussion.
Although I agree that some savings must be made, due to budgetary constraints, it must not be at the expense of those who are willing to validate the existence of County Chess, especially when considering the competing pressures, e.g., weekend tournaments both adult and junior / 4NCL / Rapidplay etc. When it comes to money that tricky issue of financial accountability raises it's head. After all, Unions and individuals, through ECF Membership scheme, already contribute funds towards the ECF coffers, thus it is a matter for the ECF to ensure those funds are used responsibly and recognising participants in THEIR National event is being responsible.
As with all in matters things are not always black and white there are shades of grey. The question therefore is how will the ECF navigate this issue?
1) No individual awards - runs the danger of individuals being fed up with County scene, especially at National Stage, and rings the death knell for County Chess. Individuals may ask themselves why invest so much to play at National Stage. Non-MCCU Counties in essence give up their weekend to play on Finals Day, it is not just Finals Day that needs to be considered but the adjustment that needs to be made on the following day. What is being overlooked is that players finance their own expenses in order to get to matches. Thus the mooted Â£5 for a trophy is a small price to pay for the outlay players make and yes they too face austerity measures.
2) Individual awards to victors only? If so in what format? When budget is reduced it must be accepted that savings must be found. Yes, trophies are too expensive; however certificates although unsatisfactory are at least an alternative. However I agree with Nick Thomas that surely a badge of some kind can be offered. Surely there must be companies that can design a badge where wording along the lines of "ECF National Champions + Year" can be included at minimal cost. After all it will be bulk purchase and repeat business. [Note, Paper, Ink and Laminated Pouches still cost albeit not a significant amount but a cost nevertheless]. Maybe this is an action the National County Controller can look into. For example, Do the ECF have any connections with specialist chess companies / printers / etc? If not why not?
3) Awards to all participants - this may be possible if the suggestion at point 2 is not exhorbitant. wording "ECF National Finalists + Year". In reality defeated finalists, as indicated above, are more likely to have departed before award ceremony so may not be worthwhile suggestion. [Please note that if the ECF want the award ceremony to be well attended then there must be some form of incentive. Also do me a favour and start with the Open Team or lock the doors. After all it is the most prestigious competition of the Championship and should be recognised by all present. In the past winners on receiving their award depart before the Open Team Captain has received the trophy].
I have tried to avoid expressing my own opinion preferring instead to muse on the questions involved. However I do think it is in the ECF's best interest to recognise and reward BOTH team and individual success thereby echoing the sentiments of the likes of you, David (23years before success); Jonathan Rogers; Steve Rooney, Matthew Turner; et al.
Please feel free to publish this email verbatim on the ECF Forum.
Anthony (Middlesex Open/u180 Captain)
Member of "the strongest amateur chess club in London" (Cavendish)
my views are not representative of any clubs or organisations.