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updated 14.5.07

ECF COUNCIL MEETING 28.4.07 in Birmingham
rjh 12.5.07, amended 13.5.07
Martin Regan chaired, in Gerry Walsh's absence abroad. The attendance - we made it 30 - was low. One guessed, from some of the names in the Apologies list, that it might be a short meeting; and so it proved. As a bonus it was more structured than Council meetings sometimes are.
(1) Central locations for Council meetings. This was only a matter arising, and no proposal was on the Agenda so nothing could be actually done. But did we want to change to one or two regular venues, rather than cycling around the Unions?
     It had been said before that the same people go to Council meetings wherever they are. It turns out - we'd never counted - that they are very predominantly SCCU and MCCU people. It was decided, with only one dissenting vote, that what we wanted (when someone thought to have it on the Agenda) would be a switch to a London - Birmingham rota. It would need to go ABBA to avoid having the Annual meeting always in one place and the Finance one always in the other.
(2) Grading Review. Again a matter arising, and we're sure you knew, but the Home Director said his review of the Grading Anomalies had been delayed. He intended change, if change was needed, for the 2008 list.
(3) Honorary Life Vice-Presidents. The meeting elected John Dunleavy, Roy Heppinstall, Cyril Johnson and John Philpott.
(4) Money. Well, wasn't most of it about money. But the Finance Director anticipated a surplus for 2006-7 of 2000. This was much better than had been expected. Largely, it seems, through a Harry Potter contract which we won't enlarge on.
(5) Business Plan. We made rude remarks a year ago about Business Plans, and someone agreed with us last October to the extent of calling them a waste of trees. Not this time. Lessons have been learned, and this year's Business Plan was merely a list of amendments. We understand that the civil servants like Business Plans, and we have no doubt they will get the full 98-page version.
(6) Membership (and Game Fee) issues. This won't be going away any time soon. Firstly, an item held over from the October meeting. That meeting, as you recall, overturned a Board decision to waive Game Fee for all games played by Direct Members. The (new) Board was asked to look at the financial implications. It had, and the answer was that the concession would put 4p on Game Fee, or 2p on Game Fee and 2 on Membership fees. The Board now proposed the concession, probably expecting and certainly hoping it would be rejected. It was, on a card vote, by 135 votes to 48. Council then approved the backup proposal, which was "That the Board should give consideration to improving the benefits received by standard, standard junior, family and full members".
     Then there was a Member Organisation issue. The ECF may lose money if an MO does not make Membership more or less mandatory. We believe some don't. Council had fun with the text of an amendment to the DM Bye Laws (and to the MO agreement) which Council agreed 182-13. The effect is that any shortfall, as verified by an independent accountant, will be made up by the MO.
     Then there was a comparatively easy one. Norfolk CCA, in whose bailiwick the British Championship Congress 2007 at Great Yarmouth will occur, wished to take full advantage by becoming a Member Organisation so its members could play in the British. But this would not work unless the term of MO Membership - normally running from 1st September - started a month early. Council agreed to start it two months early. Buy twelve, get two free.
     And another fairly easy one. Members, it seems, will pay their money but are notoriously reluctant to sign the White Form (we don't know what colour other forms are) which makes them legally Members. So Council, at the Board's invitation, by a large majority invented a new category of Registered Player to accommodate those who have not signed. Registered Players are to have essentially the same rights as signed-up Members - grading included - but may not elect DM reps or acquire FIDE ratings.
     He didn't say it at this point, but he might as well have. A well known official remarked, with some passion, that our payment and Membership structures are so complicated they are killing the people who do the work.
(7) ECF Grand Prix. There was a proposal on the Agenda to the effect that "When the current Grand Prix is completed at the British Championships in Great Yarmouth it is cancelled until such time as a significant new sponsor can be found for it, and that the board examine other ways to help congress chess". Council first established, before addressing the proposal, the correct date of completion of the current GP. It is the end of May.
     The Home Director felt that the GP was no longer value for money. "Could the John Robinson Trust help?" Yes, but only for juniors. Someone said there are congresses already advertising next year's GP. More notice was required. There was talk of ending in May 2008 (and saying so now). A straw poll seemed to be in favour of stopping this year, but a more formal vote favoured, by a comfortable margin, the May 2008 ending first thought of.
(8) Direct Members' Subscriptions from 1st September 2007 will be unchanged, except that Basic Junior Membership will cost 1 more (because we're hardly breaking even on the current 5). Council agreed this nem con, but only after the 1 rise had been queried. Could we do this in cases where there was an existing contract, and an agreement not to increase the fees this year unless in exceptional circumstances? Some senior officers suspected not. "A board that makes mistakes is not an exceptional circumstance", as one of them said. Others thought it doable, and Council did the deed.
(9) Minimum Membership fee for Other Organisations (the Agenda said Member Organisations, but that can't be right) is to remain at 50.
(10) Game Fee. The Board recommended 46p (an increase of 1p). On the traditional card vote the figures were
     1             2
     50p         14
     47p         10
     46p       116
     45p         30
and it is easy to see that the median, and hence Game Fee from 1st September, is 46p. There is still a question, though. Council took no decision on the concessionary rates, so they follow the rules laid down in the Articles. Rapid and Junior at one-half rate, Club Internal at one-third, always rounded up, if fractional, to the next higher penny. And multiples multiplied as appropriate. So Rapid and Junior 23p, Club Internal 16p, Club Internal Rapidplay 8p, Club Internal Junior Rapidplay 4p. But wait. What's Junior Rapidplay? Half of 23p rounded up is 12p, but the Junior definition (Article 32.5) uniquely says the rounding shall be performed only once. So it's 11p, and the only rounding you do is to the total amount payable, if it happens not to be a whole number. This seems the natural way to read it, but some have read it differently. The drafting is perhaps not as tight as it might be. The ECF thought so as well, when we mentioned it to them, and they are looking at the drafting. We wouldn't mind betting the figure actually charged will be 12p.
(11) Job Descriptions. Council agreed some changes to Directors' and Managers' responsibilites. We won't bore you with them. We think they're updated on the ECF website. One query, on second thoughts. Why does the Manager of Grading need to have enhanced CRB clearance?
(12) Six-monthly Standard Grading Lists? The Board, suspecting this would fail, left it to the Home Director to propose it. It failed, by 67 (card) votes to 102. A major reason appeared to be that leagues would have no use for it, quite apart from their possible difficulty in reporting results twice a year. "But the 4NCL uses four different sets of ratings a year," someone said. (Isn't it three? Maybe not always.)
     Someone took the opportunity to say, tangentially at best, that the ECF should not grade games in competitions where adjudication is possible. You've seen this in Open Forum. It got little support from Council.
(13) Size of County teams in the National stage. The MCCU proposed that the number of boards be 12 in all but the Open and Minor. The arguments have been copiously rehearsed in the ECF online forum, not to mention our own Open Forum. Council spent 20 minutes on it but our notes are sparse. This is probably because we'd heard it all before, but other explanations are possible. The Home Director felt we should do a thorough review rather than act in haste. He may have had in mind, and may well have said, that we could be revising the grading limits in a year's time. The proposal was defeated by 42 votes to 141.

The meeting ended at 5.28 pm. Did we say that the tea-break - with above-par refreshments as it happens - was a whole half-hour?

5.11.06, updated 10.11.06
A snippet came our way the other day. The Board, at a meeting some time last season, exempted the 4NCL from payment of Game Fee for 2006-7. The ECF have confirmed this. It's not a secret, it just never seems to have been reported. At least, not that we can discover. Two of the meetings aren't reported on the ECF site.
     We believe the 4NCL is being treated as a quasi Member Organisation because it requires all its players to be ECF (or other national) members. The actual Member Organisations already signed up are Cleveland, Leicestershire, Northumberland and Yorkshire, with Merseyside and perhaps the MCCU in the pipeline. [Update 10.11.06. Add Durham, who signed up today.]
     There are welcome signs that the Board will be less secretive this year. Our information on Member Organisations (but not on the 4NCL) comes from quite detailed emails which the new CEO has circulated to the Constituent Units and the two largest leagues. They include the Agenda of the next meeting (11th November) and a consultation document that goes with it. Whatever next? Details of a Board meeting before it's even happened? Further, the CUs and the two leagues have been invited to send observers to meetings. (Maximum two per meeting, and a rota if more than two apply.) There are two takers for the first meeting.

ECF COUNCIL MEETING 21.10.06 in Bristol
rjh 24.10.06, 25.10.06 and counting
Council met, as it had before, at the Gloucestershire CC ground. No, cricket. It is an excellent venue, being easy to drive to and in possession of a free car park. Those who travel by train, or from Berwick on Tweed, might see it otherwise. About 44 attended. Proxies were numerous as always, and someone had 19.
(1) Money. The (audited) Accounts confused your Webmaster even more than usual because the ECF figures only ran from October 2005 to April 2006. Putting ECF and BCF together and taking a whole year's figures, there was a surplus of about 2000. We know this because a page in the Accounts helpfully explained it. The Finance Director predicted a deficit in the coming year, due partly to the effect of doing away with Game Fee on all games of Direct Members. (This might cost several thousand pounds, depending on the leagues' assiduity in claiming their DM rebates.)
     The Chairman of the Finance Committee raised a number of issues in his Report, highlighting the extra responsibilities placed on officers by the Federation's status as a company limited by guarantee. He believed that Game Fee had had its day and Membership was the way forward, but felt that the existing Membership scheme had been prepared in haste and with, perhaps, insufficient attention to costing.
(2) Grading. Someone asked, inevitably, "What is being done about these grading anomalies we keep hearing about?" Someone else asked what the anomalies were. The answer to the first question was that research is in progress, and your Webmaster will vouch for it. Someone else said Junior grades were out of kilter with Adult ones, or we think he did. Negative grades may have come into this. Someone else again said a public forum and/or meeting was desirable, and Council agreed nem con. There is already a de facto public forum, though the ECF doesn't run it. What else may come of this rather vague decision we don't know, but we know that the issues are being looked at and we are hopeful of a resolution in 2008 if not 2007.
(3) Elections. Let's get these out of the way now. They started about this point but were done piecemeal, one at a time and interspersed with other business, so that we were well through the meeting by the time everyone was in place. This effect was enhanced by the fact that every election was done by card vote, even where candidates were unopposed and a show of hands might have seemed more appropriate. Someone queried the confidentiality of the card votes, and it was stated that cards would be kept by the Company Secretary for six months and then destroyed.
     Candidates were given five minutes to answer questions, after which no discussion took place.
     President. Gerry Walsh 145 votes, Brian Driscoll 79, None of the Above 7
     CEO After two recounts: Martin Regan 119, Roy Heppinstall 116, None of the Above 0. In Roy Heppinstall's absence, for health and family reasons, Cyril Johnson spoke ably on his behalf. To what extent doubts over Roy's health may have affected the voting we don't know, but we are pleased to say he is in fact close to full recovery. Martin Regan expanded on his commitment to "open, at no cost, an ECF regional admin-office... primarily to administrate regional partnership initiatives for the North and Midlands". He is to make a room available - and presumably the required personnel - in commercial premises which he controls.
     Director of Finance. Geoff Steele withdrew, and Robert Richmond was elected unopposed. Richmond 153, None of the Above 51, spoilt votes 2.
     Non-Executive Directors (two posts). Mike Truran and John Wickham were elected unopposed. Truran 170, Wickham 160, None of the Above 9. We do not know how many people voted for One of the Above.
     Director of Home Chess. None. Sean Hewitt, the only candidate, had withdrawn. The Board will make an appointment. We understand Chris Majer will continue on an acting basis in the meantime.
     Director of Junior Chess and Education. Claire Summerscale 181, Andrew Moore 19, None of the Above 8. Claire said she would not attempt to establish policy until she had talked to lots of people, including previous holders of the post. She strongly supported the Board's recent appointment of Andrew Martin as Manager of Coaching.
     Director of International Chess. Peter Sowray 171, None of the Above 42. Peter was not present. Someone remarked that he had given the impression, in conversation, that he did not particularly want the job. We confess we had heard the same, at third hand from someone else. Martin Regan - whose "team" included Peter Sowray - said it was not the case.
     Director of Marketing. Peter Wilson 119, Cyril Johnson 70, None of the Above 29.
     FIDE Delegate. Gerry Walsh 121, Nigel Short 81, None of the Above 5.
     Chairman of Finance Committee. Mike Adams 205, None of the Above 6. The other members of the Committee were elected en bloc as nominated.
     Chairman of Governance Committee. John Dunleavy, by a large vote which we have not recorded. The other members of the Committee were elected en bloc as nominated.
     Auditor. The firm Goatcher Chandler (in the person of Cliff Chandler) was reappointed unopposed.
(4) Business Plan & Achievement Report. "I think this is a waste of trees."
     Your Webmaster did not say this, though you'd have been excused for thinking he had. Is sanity prevailing? It was observed, as always, that the civil servants like it. And questioned, for once, whether the civil servants should drive the ECF. The excessive verbiage was condemned. Chris Majer proposed, for the third time we think, that this material should in future go only on the website (but downloadable or otherwise available for those that want it). For the first time, his proposal was approved. 4 voted against. We eagerly await the implementation of this decision.
(5) Responsibilities of Officers. Council was asked to approve, and did, a revised version of the job descriptions. The responsibilities of the Home Director were rather extensively revised. As in (4) above, it was queried whether so much detail was appropriate. We think the consensus was that it was, in the amateur climate we work in.
(6) Forthcoming meetings were confirmed for Saturdays 28th April and 20th October 2007. The April one is scheduled for MCCU. Someone raised the old question of alternating meetings between London and Birmingham. Our notes incomprehensibly say this was referred to the Governance Committee, but the President thinks it was referred to the April meeting and we're sure he's right.
(7) This year's ECF Awards were noted. It was suggested that a competition could be set up between the various Clubs of the Year (this year, 3Cs Oldham). This received support from some previous Award winners who were there.
     No one in the SCCU got any awards. Not even BCET, because we didn't make a nomination.
(8) ECF Direct Members: Exemption from Game Fee. It was decided by the ECF Board on 5th August 2006, and the decision was published, that all games played by Direct Members would be exempt from Game Fee from 1st September 2006. It is said that this decision was made on the recommendation of the Extraordinary Council meeting of June 2006. The Bristol Council meeting was asked to approve amendments to the Bye Laws reflecting the exemption. Straightforward, you'd think, but it refused to do so. The (incoming) Finance Director said, quite rightly, that the Board's decision exemplified the policy-making on the hoof which had characterised decisions of late. We couldn't afford it. So Bristol reversed the Board's decision, and the exemption does not apply.
     In a pig's ear it doesn't. Organisations have been making budget decisions on the strength of the announced exemption, and the Bristol decision is as unenforceable as it is shameful. We have since heard that the new CEO appreciates this problem and would be minded to give appropriate compensation to organisations that can demonstrate they have made such budget decisions. Whether this goes far enough we don't know. We must, however, refer readers back to the Finance Director's remarks about assiduity under (1) above.
     Robert Richmond's opinion, in turn, reflects that of the Finance Committee Chairman reported in the same item. But promises, in the end, are promises.
(9) "Remember the Game Fee Payers". This was a joint proposal by three Constituent Units, of which the SCCU was one. It requested that the (for example) 10% discounts newly available in Membership schemes should be equally available to payers of Game Fee. This would compound the on-the-hoof nonsenses of recent months, and we think the proposers knew it. Their feeling was that if the Federation was determined to land itself in Queer Street it should at least go there by an equitable route. Perhaps spinelessly they withdrew when Robert Richmond promised to come up with an even-handed scheme at the April 2007 meeting. For 2007-8, presumably. We look forward to it.
(10) Counties Finals: Central venues. It was proposed by Essex and Kent that the Home Director be no longer required to impose a single central venue. You will know there is feeling among players down south that it makes little sense to make everyone go to Leicestershire when they're playing the county next door. The players in a Surrey - Sussex match earlier this month got up a petition to that effect. Your Webmaster admits he expected little opposition to this proposal, since it merely gave the Director discretion to act as he thought fit. He was disappointed. Opposition was led by the outgoing Home Director, whose first objection was that he preferred to be bound by the rules because it saved him making potentially unpopular decisions. But others spoke against. The motion was lost by 11 votes to 16 on a show of hands, then by 65 to 121 on a card vote. Sorry, guys.

The meeting closed just before 6.30 pm.
This Report is open to correction and addition.

BCF COUNCIL MEETING 21.10.06 in Bristol immediately before the above
did what you'd expect and we won't report it. Actually there was a Quorum issue at the start, but the necessary persons appeared. Just.

ECF COUNCIL MEETING 21.10.06 in Bristol
No, it hasn't happened yet. The papers aren't even out. Some brief notes.
(1) Elections for Office. The papers aren't out, but nominations for office have been published with commendable promptness on the ECF website. The deadline is past, and new nominations cannot be accepted. It is still possible for candidates to submit CVs or election addresses if they wish.
     We can't help noticing that the Martin Regan slate - see Open Forum 22.7.06 and his website - which was aiming at up to nine candidates - in the end comprises four. Also that Martin's all-or-none condition (one slate member fails, the rest resign) has been dropped. There have been suspicions that his slate is an attempt at Northern takeover, and we've heard it said he's a front man for Bill O'Rourke. (Yes, you do.) We don't know the truth of it.
     There are some contested elections which could be interesting.
(2) Game Fee. A sneak preview, but we happen to know that at least two Constituent Units are proposing that the new concessions on Regional Membership fees (10% discount for prompt payment etc: see three meetings down 24.6.09) should be extended to Game Fee. Their proposals go a bit further, suggesting that Membership and Game Fees and the fees of Other Organisations should be treated equally in future revisions.
     All of this is proposed in due form and cannot not be on the agenda.
(3) Counties Championship Finals: Central Venues. Another sneak preview. It is proposed, and not by the SCCU, that the Home Director be no longer required to impose a single venue. That he be required instead to fix one or more venues at his discretion.
     This also is proposed in due form and cannot not be on the agenda.
rjh 19.9.06

9.9.06 in Birmingham
What am I thinking of? It was a week and a day ago.
     It was my fault that I didn't find out, until the afternoon before the meeting, that my motor car's exhaust system was about to fall off. It was also my fault that, faced with a last-minute change of travel plan, I went to the wrong Birmingham railway station. But I'm blaming the ECF for giving no directions. Short notice too, and no Agenda though one was promised. It was casual and sent the wrong messages.
     But I wasn't late. Eleven attended, including three members of the Board. Represented were all the Unions plus the Birmingham & District and Bristol & District Leagues. The meeting had no power to make decisions but was purely advisory and/or consultative.
     To some extent, proceedings consisted of telling everyone what they already knew. What was new: -
(1) Grading. It was noted that there was to be a half-year Rapidplay list this year, and discussion turned to half-year Standardplay lists in the future. The old question got trotted out. How can a league change its eligibility criteria half way through a season? The old answer followed. It needn't, it can stick with the start-of-season grades.
     But is it doable? It seemed to be the Board's impression that a half-year Rapidplay list, if it worked this year, would tell us whether a half-year Standardplay list would work next year. This was nave, and someone said as much. The problems with Standardplay are much more complex.
(2) Junior Coaching. It is planned that ECF coaching qualifications will be formally recognised at a number of different levels. I don't know how these qualifications will be achieved. It was stressed that all must have current CRB clearance, and it apparently expires after two years.
(3) Chess as a Sport. It was reported that ECF has been in contact with CCPR and Sport England. Someone asked how much it would be worth to us if we became a Sport, and the answer was that it was hard to tell.
(4) Game Fee and Direct Members. It was confirmed that the Board, at its August 2006 meeting, had exempted games played by ECF Members from payment of Game Fee. Presumably this applies from 1st September. All games, all competitions, all ECF Members. I stress this because it is nothing to do with Regional Membership agreements, and previous ECF reports may have suggested it was.
     Someone asked how the exemption would impact on ECF finances, and the answer was "don't know".
(5) Regional Membership Schemes. It was reported that no one has signed on the dotted line yet, but a number of organisations have expressed an interest and some have said they will definitely sign up. Interest is largely in the north, but I know of one SCCU organisation that's thinking seriously about it.
(6) ECF website and other things. Concern was expressed that the site wasn't doing its job - well, it isn't - because it was undermanned and underfunded. It turned out that the Board had been thinking along the same lines. The meeting discussed things like expanding the Office staff by 30%+. I'm not sure why, because it isn't doable without new sources of revenue and none were proposed. Comparisons were drawn between ECF and other organisations with more sensible membership fees.
     It was suggested that the online grading list could be password-protected. No one seemed to take it very seriously.
(7) John Robinson Trust. This is now set up and all formalities completed. Income is not expected until 2007.
(8) Chess Equipment. It emerged that the ECF has negotiated a deal permitting it to offer chess sets at a very low price. Perhaps I should have known this.
(9) Edwards Report. What's an Edwards Report? The original Edwards Report was a root-and-branch, no-holds-barred, unthinkable-permitted, analysis of the then BCF, undertaken by Ray Edwards in the early 1990s. I'm not sure what came of it at the time. A Board Member present favoured a repeat of the exercise. A majority of the meeting supported him, on a straw poll, and it was recommended that a committee be set up to do the job. Some terms of reference were agreed and noted.
     The Board member, quite properly, had made it clear that the idea was his and not the Board's. I'm not sure he said it was widely opposed, but it seems it is. This meeting had no power to make decisions, and I give no details.
rjh 17.9.06, amended 19.9.06
Note. The ECF has circulated an account of this meeting by email, but I think only to those present and to the Board. I don't believe it's on the ECF site. My account differs in style and emphasis.

Earlier material is in the

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