ECF AGM 2016.
The ECF AGM took place in Birmingham on Sat. Oct 15th. Apologies for the delay in sending out this report. I’ve had to take on a bit more work this season with a couple of extra voluntary roles (I’m a glutton for punishment!) which has meant this report has had to take a back seat to other work for the past month (and more now!).
I’m afraid I must start on a sad note. Shortly after the AGM it was discovered that John Philpott had sadly passed away. Others have, or will, write far more eloquently about John then I could manage, but suffice to say the amount of time and effort he dedicated to working to help improve English chess was immeasurable, and he was also a thoroughly decent and nice person. He will be sadly missed.
I counted roughly 50 people attending the meeting.
From matters arising:
• Progress is slow but ongoing on the proposed National Chess Centre. There is a presentation planned by Amanda Ross at the Kensington Olympia Hotel on Dec. 12th, which will hopefully provide some positive news about the project.
• There was a lot of criticism of the ECF Yearbook, and the CEO apologised for this. I don’t have a copy of the Yearbook, and if anyone does please do let me know what was wrong with this year’s version.
• From the Publicity Manager: there have been 4 ‘Chessmaster at the local’ events, and at least 1 more to come. This is where the ECF promotes chess amongst people who might not ordinarily play chess, or who may be lapsed chess players, by staging chess events in pubs featuring prominent chess players. The planned short film about chess that the PM was working on isn’t quite ready yet. It was hoped to be ready for the AGM, but it’s slightly behind target and should be ready shortly. The PM is also working on display items (literature and posters) for the ECF, and is hopeful of having a stand at the London Chess Classic in December to help promote the ECF. Certainly seems like he’s been busy in the role!
• The sponsor for the national teams at the Olympiad was Jupiter Asset Managerment. Apparently they were very pleased with the team’s performances and the coverage they received. The international team also received help from an extra trainer for this event. I’m not sure whether the name was intended to be announced openly or not, so I’ll leave a bit of mystery and just say he is a prominent GM. After all that the international team expenditure came in under budget, which enabled the International Director to focus some of his funds elsewhere.
After this a number of items passed through fairly swiftly. It might be that I’ve missed some things here, but I haven’t made any notes for comments from the Board’s Report, the Chairman of the Governance Committee’s Report, and the Chairman of the Finance Committee’s reports. They were all approved with none against.
2 items of note that both passed smoothly, were the amendment to increase the number of directors from 10- 12 ( Allowing for a Non- Exec Chairman and Director of Women’s Chess on the board ), and enabling the FIDE Delegate to be removed from office or suspended by notice in writing signed by each other director.
Moving on to the elections, there was only one contested election, the Non- Exec. Director’s vacancy, and so most of these passed relatively smoothly.
I’ll put some notes about each specific Director below, but first the following were all re- elected, with all in favour.
President: Dominic Lawson.
Chief Exec.: Mike Truran
Non- Exec. Chairman: Julian Clissold
Director of Finance: David Eustace
Director of Home Chess: Alex Holowczak
Director of Junior Chess and Education: Traci Whitfield
International Director: Malcolm Pein
Director of Membership: David Thomas
Director of Women’s Chess: Sarah Longson
Chairman of Council: Mike Gunn
FIDE Delegate: Malcolm Pein.
All members of the Standing Committees (the Chairman and members of the Finance Committees, the Chairman and members of the Governance Committee).
For the Non- Exec Directors, the result was as follows:
John Foley: 31 votes
Peter Hornsby: 55 votes
Stephen Woodhouse: 193 votes
Julie Denning: 240 votes
And so Stephen and Julie were elected/ re- elected.
For my part my votes were split as follows: all in favour of Julie, Devon and their respective congresses and leagues in favour of John Foley, all other votes in favour of Stephen Woodhouse.
The first candidate to speak was Julie Denning. I’m afraid I haven’t got any notes on what she said, but I think the fact the ECF has continued to make positive strides over the past year is a pretty decent endorsement of the work she has done in the role.
The next candidate to speak was John Foley. He started by openly arguing with the CEO about several issues. I’ll spare you the details, but for me it completely overshadowed why he wanted the role, and what he intended to do in the role, and was all the more surprising given there were concerns about whether he could work with the board after previous issues (one council member openly asked whether he could work with the Home Chess Director).
The next candidate was Peter Hornsby. Peter is a student currently studying for a Masters in Business Management at Durham University, and also the lead organiser in 2020 Chesshttp://2020chess.com/index.html
Peter spoke very eloquently about how he wished to encourage university students and other young adults who may have drifted out of chess back in to playing. I have to say the points he was making resonated with me, and I hope the ECF can find a way to make good use of his skills and enthusiasm in this area, but ultimately I wasn’t convinced he was the right candidate for the Non- Exec. role.
From the Finance Director election:
The Finance Director confirmed that the Chess Trust charity has been set up and has received one donation so far, with one to come. I believe these donations receive gift aid, but I’m not 100% certain of my notes on this. There has been no discussion so far about moving any activities into the Chess Trust. If there are any tax advantages to be found they will be worked on as they come. The FD also hopes that when a bookkeeping firm comes in he will be able to ensure information is more readily available.
From the Home Chess election:
There are no plans to change qualifying for the British Championship for this year, but it will be reviewed for future years. The length of the British has been shortened this year, down to 9 days, and personally I felt even at its previous length there were probably too many qualifying places we could offer in the south west. Obviously the counter- argument is that the ECF needs the entry fees from a decent number of qualifiers in order to pay the various expenses, and it’ll be interesting to see how the ECF balances the 2 in future years.
There was a suggestion from a council member that the Home Chess Director gets rid of the National Club Cup. The Home Chess Director said he was going to review the event, and was unlikely to retain the Open section going forward. There are also no plans to make the event a qualifier for the European Club Cup.
There are no plans to explore major changes in the county competition. Apparently there are a lot of differing opinions amongst the various counties, and unless a consensus is reached on any potential changes things will remain as they are.
From the Director of Junior Chess and Education:
The DoJCE has spent a lot of time working on safeguarding.
The Academy is nearing the end of the first year for the International programme, and work has begun on the Elite programme. They hope to confirm numbers in October. English chess looks to have a new IM, Alan Merry, confirmed in Nov., and I believe as I type this Brandon Clarke looks to have taken his rating over 2300, and thus qualified for the FM title.
The DoJCE has also spent a lot of time focussing on secondary school children, and also encouraging children who might not necessarily have the ability to reach the very top in the future to enjoy the game.
From the International Chess Director:
It may be a long time before we produce new players of the ability to play in our full international teams.
There was some discussion about the planned rise in expenditure on International Chess (I’ll come back to this later).
For future events the IC Director is planning more training and focus on preparation ahead of the event for the women’s team, in order to improve on their result from the Olympiad. (As much as the Open team had a fantastic Olympiad, it should also be noted that the women’s team had a disappointing result, and hopefully will do better in future events).
There was some discussion about whether there should be an extra ECF officer who can help focus on international amateur participants. (I believe there may be a prominent international amateur event either coming up, or just past, that hasn’t really received much mention or support from the ECF. I could be remembering that wrongly, though.)
There was some discussion about the Women’s World Championship, which has received quite a lot of media attention over the controversial decision to hold the event in Iran in a future year.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-37560768
does a decent job of explaining the controversy.
The International Chess Director felt that the event was utterly devalued by the lack of participation by Hou Yifan, who is far and away the strongest female player at present. He was strongly against someone having to dress a certain way in order to participate, but didn’t take a lead role in speaking out against it as there are no English players qualified to play.
The remaining elections passed without much comment.
The new Director of Women’s Chess wasn’t able to attend the meeting, which was little bit of a shame as it would have been interesting to hear her talk about her plans in the role, but she had attended a board meeting to speak about it, and the board fully endorsed her.
The Chairman of Council spoke briefly about why he felt he was qualified for the role.
The FIDE Delegate explained how he divided his time between his role as International Chess Director and FIDE Delegate when at major team events. (Basically he checks in with the coaches/ players in the morning, and then goes to attend meetings and leaves them all to their work).
I believe all of the suggested awards were approved, but I missed the voting for it. On a side note, I’ve been contacted by someone looking for a volunteer from the south- west to join the awards committee, meeting up once a year to decide who to nominate for player, club of the year etc. If anyone is interested, do get in contact and I’ll forward your details.
The next item was the strategy statement. I’ve started to lose count at how many meetings this item has popped up on now. It seems to bounce back and forth between the board working on it between meetings, and council being unhappy with it, suggesting improvements etc at the meeting. This meeting was no different, and as much as the board might finally have hoped to have a strategy statement ready and done, it was a case of de ja vu. Various niggling points were raised (one council member was unhappy that in his opinion women and juniors received undue attention at the expense of male members, another was very enthusiastic that the ECF should focus more on communication with direct members, and proposed a minor change to the wording to that end. There were other points raised as well, but none of special importance.
It ended with a motion suggesting the board look at it again and present a new version at the Finance Council meeting. I think I was the only council member who joined the board in voting against the motion, and the motion carried. For what its worth I tended to agree with the CEO, who was disappointed that this document had been online, and comments welcomed ahead of the meeting, only to find none forthcoming until the meeting itself. So I’ll be reporting on this item again from the next meeting.
The next item was intended to be discussing and approving the ECF’s finance plans, but following a suggestion from a member of council, and subsequent approval from the majority of council, item 14 regarding county chess got pushed up the agenda ahead of it.
Before the meeting, if a Union (WECU for us) nominates counties to play in the various competitions at national stage and then finds after the regional competition it is unable to provide teams for all of the nominations it announced earlier in the year, it is fined £100 by the ECF. The SCCU brought forward a motion to the meeting seeking to reduce that fine to £25.
The Home Chess Director proposed an amendment waving the fine altogether on the condition that the draw for the National Stages is done in March, which is later then at present. The last Saturday in April is the latest counties can organise their match without defaulting, so it would leave 3- 4 weeks to stage the match.
The SCCU representatives weren’t particularly happy with the short time it would leave them to organise matches, but the rest of council (including myself) voted in favour, so the amendment passed, and the draw for the national stage of the county competition will now be announced in March.
We then went back to item 13, the ECF’s financial plans. A brief summary to begin with: the ECF is proposing to spend more money. This involves taking some money from various legacies, the reserves etc in order to finance more ambitious plans. This will include more expenditure in junior chess, international chess, the British Chess Championships, publicity, and admin. The ECF is looking to introduce small increases in membership fees (+£1 for Bronze, +£2 for Silver, +£3 for Gold most likely) in future years. The intention is that the membership fees will only be used to fund the ECF’s core activities, although, in future years some money will be used for international chess.
For anyone wanting to look at the plans in detail, this is the spreadsheet the ECF have divulged which shows the planned incomes/ expenditures:http://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-conte ... -plan.xlsx
A few notes from this item:
• The ECF has been unsuccessful finding a volunteer to take on the bookkeeping work that the Company Secretary previously provided, and is now looking for a professional to take it on (some time prior to the tragic news with respect of the Company Secretary he had announced his intention to retire from voluntary work with the ECF). The Finance Director said he would prefer a firm to take on the work rather then an individual, and the expected cost would be £10k. There may also be an additional expenditure in trying to find someone to take on some of the other work the Company Secretary previously provided. John Philpott really did do a huge, huge amount of voluntary work for the ECF.
• The ECF is looking to maintain reserves at £100k, with the planned extra expenditure coming from sponsorship, donations, and money from the various trust funds the ECF/ BCF has.
• There was quite a bit of discussion about the ECF using some membership fees in future years to fund expanded plans for International Chess. A couple of representatives felt that their members were strongly not in favour of this, and would prefer International expenditure reduced or more contingent on sponsorship income, whilst the International Director felt that it was largely a choice between the ECF standing still, or pushing forward with ambition.
• The ECF plans to move approximately 50% of the PIF to the new Chess Trust charity (this works out at about £160k), with the rest being used to fund the ECF’s plans greater expenditure. The Chess Trust can also support the British Championships, except any professional players (it’s a bit of a blurry line what the Chess Trust can and can’t support, in line with the charity rules and regulations).
There were then a number of votes:
Supporting the planned increase in membership fees: 32 in favour, 6 against.
Supporting the funding request from PIF: 36 in favour, 1 against.
Supporting the funding request from the John Robinson Youth Trust: 27 in favour, 7 against.
One representative strongly felt that John Robinson would not have been in favour of the proposed funding request from the Youth Trust, which undoubtedly convinced a few more people to vote against this one.
Supporting the transfer from PIF to Chess Trust: 37 in favour, 0 against.
I abstained from voting on these ones. I hadn’t received any opinions about how people felt on this, and wasn’t sure how organisations would have wished me to vote.
And with that the meeting closed. Thanks in part to re- arranging the order of things so that the BCF meeting came after the ECF one rather than in the middle, and partly because there was only a couple of contested elections, the meeting finished well within the scheduled time. I’m afraid I disappeared for a well-earned drink rather than hang around for the BCF meeting, so I’m not able to offer a report on that, but usually not a great deal of significance happens in that one.
There are reports on the AGM by the SCCU Delegate here:http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/bcf.htm
and the ECF’s official minutes here:http://www.englishchess.org.uk/wp-conte ... 016-v6.pdf