The arbiter nexus

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Martin Regan

The arbiter nexus

Post by Martin Regan » Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:07 pm

A while back Chris Fegan or John Foley (an edit) made the suggestion that there was an arbiter-controller nexus within the ECF. This caused much ridicule
especially amongst those who might feel themselves to be tagged.

However, had he suggested that arbiters and controllers occuppy management positions within the ECF that far out-represent their numbers within the membership - it would be difficult to disagree.

This has occurred for entirely understandable reasons.

Many of those who fall within the group are amongst the hardest-working and most dedicated of our volunteers, they gravitate to taking on tasks that others might not. Without them a lot of chess would simply not happen. The same is true in most of our regions and counties.

The plus side is that we get things done, in a manner, the downside - and we see it again and again - is that those suited
to organising a league, or deciding on a specific rule meaning do not generally have the skill-set to offer the strategic vision and executive competence a board needs, and vice-versa.

It is not generally a problem.Where it becomes a one is when a vocal minority of those with one skill set decide that they have the other.

As CEO I should have been ridiculed had I decided to reformulate the basis on which grades were calculated. Yet endlessly, I was approached by those with no experience of actually running a company telling me how marketing/finance/strategy etc ought to be run.

The result as we see so often is indisipline and failure. There are, to my knowledge, no businesspeople currently within the ECF who have
resigned or failed - in business failure is failure. Yet the ECF is clogged by a handful of those who believe the ECF somehow owes them a position.

We saw it at the AGM when Mr Reuben - who memorably invited himself to my first board meeting and then tried to conduct proceedings - should team up with Mr Majer, a serial resigner, to seek to oust a CEO. There is a belief amongst these people that THEY are the federation and the players are mere fodder for their ambitions.

The demise of the Mr Ehr and a previous incumbent may well have been entirely their own doing, but what helped bring them down was the mutual mistrust between them and those want the "power" such as it is, without exercising responsibility.

I think this is what Mr Fegan meant by his nexus - and from my own experience I think he was right.
Last edited by Martin Regan on Tue Oct 20, 2015 6:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Mike Truran
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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Mike Truran » Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:17 pm

However, had he suggested that arbiters and controllers occupy management positions within the ECF that far out-represent their numbers within the membership - it would be difficult to disagree.
Couldn't the same though be said about, for example, 4NCL management representation within the ECF?

Isn't a simpler explanation that there are only so many volunteers willing to organise English chess generally?

Whether they do a good or a bad job is of course another question?

Martin Regan

Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Martin Regan » Mon Oct 19, 2015 9:20 pm

MT:
Couldn't the same though be said about, for example, 4NCL management representation within the ECF?
Indeed,Mike, throughout all English Chess. At 4NCL you appear to have managed to get people to recognise their strengths and limitations.

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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by David Pardoe » Mon Oct 19, 2015 10:28 pm

Its a fair point about `square pegs in round holes...
Yes, you need the right balance of people skills and technicians, and general managers, etc..
One of my concerns is about the ECF wrapping itself up in a corporate straightjacket, and red tape, which really isn't fitting very well...

As to the election results...and the exit of two directors on the `non of these candidate` cop outs...?
I`m not happy with that. We struggle to find volunteers..... as do many such organisations..
eg an IT Director, or senior administrator(s)..?
How many professionals in IT will want to dedicate there free time to the likes of ECFs IT regime....?

How do the ECF attract `the right people`....?
One of the conflicts I think could be about `strategy`.....
Conflicts of interest seems to crop up .....and board room bickering...
Is this because they are at odds with the `strategy`, and the implied common goals they should be working to...?
Is it a clash between various parties, who each have there own `vision` for the respective chunks they control...?
I`m aware that many directors seem to be on `overload`, trying to squeeze quarts out of pint pot resources...
I also think the board should be beefed up by a few extra bodies, who could add a wider dimension.
When you think that the essential mission of the ECF is to encourage and promote chess at all levels in this country, you really wouldn't expect life to be such a struggle as it seems..

On a different tac.... how did 4NCL manage to `lose` one of its established team groups recently...?
Have they plugged the `gaps`....?
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Jonathan Bryant
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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Mon Oct 19, 2015 11:23 pm

Martin Regan wrote:A while back Chris Fegan made the suggestion that there was an arbiter-controller nexus within the ECF.
As has been pointed out over there, it seems to have been John Foley who coined the term (on the 13th October).

http://www.englishchess.org.uk/Forum/vi ... exus#p3359



I’m not really sure who’s supposed to be in the grouping. John Foley’s post seems to have been a direct response to Andrew Zsigmond. So I suppose we can include him for the sake of argument. Who else? I mean I’m perfectly willing to believe that Stewart Reuben is plank of limited use but with mysteriously effective ability to stick around, but is that something difference or is he included too.

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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Oct 19, 2015 11:38 pm

Martin Regan wrote: Yet endlessly, I was approached by those with no experience of actually running a company telling me how marketing/finance/strategy etc ought to be run.
The ECF isn't a commercial company, nor should it be. It's a sporting or culture national governing body and it has a special monopoly position granted to it primarily by the other chess bodies in England (the hint is the word Federation) and by the UK government and the International chess monopoly, FIDE.

Wide ranging reviews of what the ECF should or shouldn't be doing are pointless, there's a list of core functions which if it didn't do or ensure are done, it would be abdicating its responsibilities as the national monopoly of chess governance. Ensuring that things are done is a key point. It doesn't need to go into competition with the 4NCL, but if for some reason the 4NCL ceased to exist, it should consider stepping in to set up a successor. There's an example in schools chess. For many years a National Schools knock out competition was run under the sponsorship and organisation of first the Sunday Times and then the Times. It had originally been a BCF initiative back in the 1950s that there should be such a national competition and by encouraging inter school matches was a factor in supplying players to fuel the Fischer boom. With the Times pulling out some years ago, the BCF and then the ECF were forced to take on the organisation themselves or see the competition lapse.

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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Oct 19, 2015 11:44 pm

Martin Regan wrote: As CEO I should have been ridiculed had I decided to reformulate the basis on which grades were calculated.
Why? If you have ambitions to be the CEO of an organisation one of whose principal products is a national grading system, shouldn't you be expected to know something about it?

Agreed there's a Home Director and below that a Grading Manager, but a working knowledge of what they are talking about is an advantage and something that in a contested election adds credibility, given that the voters are organisers and arbiters and the non-voters dislike technical incompetence.

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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:04 am

Chris Fegan was complaining about the supposed over influence of arbiters but it was actually John Foley who coined the phrase `controller-arbiter nexus` in response to a post of mine. He has subsequently repeated this claim again on this forum and this was the deeply offensive post I referenced in another thread. It couldn't just be that he is a bad loser, could it?

The argument about the influence of arbiters in chess keeps rearing its head and is doing so again. With regard to the Director of Home Chess election the brutal truth is that elements within the board wanted the incumbent ousted; he appealed to council to see if he still had their support and they answered with 250 votes. There was no arbiter-controller conspiracy although John Foley is probably never going to accept that. I'll come to what he overlooked in a minute.

There are very few people (if any) who decide one day that they want to be a chess arbiter. The vast majority of those involved in chess organisation began as players. If they then decided to volunteer to get involved in running of chess events they would then need to qualify as an arbiter. John Foley (and Chris Fegan) have never really explained why when somebody decides to get involved in event organisation; be it club, league or congress; they suddenly cease to be representative of ordinary players. When complaining that congress votes on council are unrepresentative they overlook that the majority of congress players have a lot of respect for the teams that run the events. They recognise the hard work involved. The minority who play in congresses and criticise the organisers normally either a) view them in the way they would supermarket cashiers or b) are the sort of people who moan about everything.

Obviously there is another route into chess organisation and that is for people who have held professional positions in their working life to seek to use these skills for the benefit of the national body. I suspect the Ehr/ Kane/ Foley/ Fegan grouping does fall into this category. In the past such people have been driven away by bumbling amateurism within the ECF (the Regan board were perhaps a case in point). Chess in this country has made progress in recent years due to people like Lara Barnes, Mike Truran, Sean Hewitt and Alex Holowczak who seek to put on a more professional front. So if there is a controller-arbiter nexus it is evolving. However I feel there was, at least, a failure in the most recent board, to build the relationship with the volunteer body and that led to the events of Saturday.

I'm sorry to have written in such length but this is something I am very passionate about. Chess needs a strong base of event organisers (or arbiters if you will). It also needs capable people with professional backgrounds. But more importantly it needs the two to work together, not against each other.
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Roger de Coverly
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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Oct 20, 2015 12:21 am

Andrew Zigmond wrote: The argument about the influence of arbiters in chess keeps rearing its head and is doing so again.
That's true, but it is factually correct that many of the senior ones are deeply computer phobic. So they won't use programs to get pairings out within 15 minutes of the last game finishing and they "didn't have a clue" about the technical issues which lead to the poor audio and video coverage of the 2015 British.

I think it's also true and a warning to those who would seek election as ECF directors, assuming there are any, that the voting membership as currently constituted are antagonistic to those unable to articulate their thoughts in plain English, taking refuge in what is probably meaningless jargon or at best euphemistic language.

Perhaps such language is necessary or even essential when talking to Government bodies, but a switch back to plain English would be appreciated when addressing the ECF. The 22 page screed was one of Phil Ehr's clearer offerings, but being able to click Google translate would have been welcome to establish the meaning.

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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by JustinHorton » Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:58 am

Without a conspiracy of arbiters it's hard to imagine that Jack Rudd would have been elected by such a margin.
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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Mick Norris » Tue Oct 20, 2015 8:25 am

Jonathan Bryant wrote: I mean I’m perfectly willing to believe that Stewart Reuben is plank of limited use but with mysteriously effective ability to stick around, but is that something difference or is he included too.
I suspect that, whilst true, that's not a majority view and a good example of where the problem lies

The Governance Committee has lost David Robertson whilst retaining Andrew Leadbetter and Chris Majer :roll:

Clearly, if you want to make progress in changing the ECF, you have to work with the Nexus and not against it, I think that's the bit that hasn't been grasped by the reformers
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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Mick Norris » Tue Oct 20, 2015 8:25 am

JustinHorton wrote:Without a conspiracy of arbiters it's hard to imagine that Jack Rudd would have been elected by such a margin.
:lol:
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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by LawrenceCooper » Tue Oct 20, 2015 9:30 am

Mick Norris wrote:Clearly, if you want to make progress in changing the ECF, you have to work with the Nexus and not against it, I think that's the bit that hasn't been grasped by the reformers
Wasn't this a bit of a smokescreen? I heard from those no longer on the board that the other half of the board wouldn't change and yet Alex H is someone who is young, innovative and his election address was quite radical in terms of his plans for grading. I don't consider myself to be someone opposed to change and had my own ideas and yet we both had trouble with the half of the board implementing change. My experience was that the arbiters on the board eg Alex, Dave E, Dave T, Julian etc were more receptive to any changes I wanted to make but it was the so called reformers that wanted everything keeping the same.

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Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Andrew Zigmond » Tue Oct 20, 2015 4:00 pm

One myth that needs debunking is the idea that if we had OMOV then the outcome of the elections would have been very different. Obviously I have no way of proving that but I suspect the average ECF member doesn't have a clue who any of the current board are, let alone being capable of forming an opinion on their qualities. If they suddenly received a vote the likelihood is they would ask around club and league colleagues (or congress friends) until they find somebody who has an opinion; most likely somebody involved in chess organisation.

I'm going to keep repeating this until it goes in and unfortunately I fear it never will. There is NO controller-arbiter nexus. The phrase was coined by John Foley and in using he insulted the majority of chess organisers in the country, be they congress arbiters, league officials or Home Directorate officers. He may even have fallen foul of the code of conduct here - of course it's not longer applicable to him and I have more important things to do with my time but I was tempted.

So what is it about this statement (not a view held just by Mr Foley, to be entirely fair) that really gets my goat? It's the assumption that controller and arbiters are somehow not interested in what is best for English chess when that is the thing most important to them. A successful event is as enjoyable for the organiser as the participant and the more the chess scene thrives the better. And yet every time somebody doesn't get their way with council we have to put up with these slurs and insinuations.

Council elect the board because they are the people in English chess who matter. Any fool could tell you that there are two ways of bringing about change. One is to demand change and insult anybody who refuses to co-operate. The other is to build working relationships and get them on side. It's not always an overnight process but that's the way things work.
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Martin Regan

Re: The arbiter nexus

Post by Martin Regan » Tue Oct 20, 2015 4:13 pm

AZ:
One myth that needs debunking is the idea that if we had OMOV then the outcome of the elections would have been very different. Obviously I have no way of proving that
You destroy your own argument,before it gets underway.

But I will stamp on its remains. You are wrong (and I can prove it more than you can disprove it))- and the attitude that the "ordinary players "don't care is the ECF's single biggest problem.

Why are you, me, or anyone who contributes to this board somehow special, as if we alone are the ones who care?

Most players, it's true would not be able to name a single ECF official, policy or use.

Yet speak to them, meet them, explain how things you might do will affect them and they listen, and some become interested.

When I first stood for election it was obvious that many ECF vote holders just didn't want to know. So I spoke to, phoned and visited literally scores of players at their clubs and in pubs and at home. I emailed literally thousands. The results showed to me that treated like important members of the federation whose views matter they did care and were not merely content to let their representative vote as he saw fit.

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