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ECF Finance Council Meeting 2015, report.
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Author:  Ben_Edgell [ Sat Apr 25, 2015 4:53 pm ]
Post subject:  ECF Finance Council Meeting 2015, report.

ECF Finance Council Meeting Report.

There were about 40 people attending the meeting, about 15 of whom were ECF board members/ officials. This is roughly 20 people down on the attendance for the AGM, and left the meeting venue feeling rather empty.

Most of the early items on the agenda were passed without comment, including approval of the minutes.

The first comment was made under Matters Arising, where the Finance Director informed the meeting that work on the chess trust was progressing well and it was hoped he could present proposals at 6 months time for the AGM. The Finance Director also informed the meeting that the accounts weren’t audited at the time of the Finance Meeting, but the possible variations from the figures presented would be small (£100s at most).

Up next was the report of the Chairman of the Finance Committee. I attempted to discuss the issues the ECF has had with communications (board minutes and the ongoing situation with the ECF Forum), but was told it was intended to discuss that under any other business.

The first issue that really brought a number of comments was the ECF’s Strategy Statement. Andrew Farthing (who I know based on comments he has made at previous meetings is passionate about this issue) was fairly scathing about the document. “Painfully thin, not worthy of a strategic plan”, “The part of the document that states ‘Do less better’ is unacceptable as the ECF does very little as it is”, and “The comments referring to the Forum lack credibility”, were the comments I noted, but I don’t think they were the only ones. A number of other delegates echoed his comments that the document was too unsubstantial. When the vote came to approve the statement there were 4 votes against. I voted in favour of it. I’m not an expert on what a good strategy statement should look like, I just prefer the fact that the ECF has one in place, even one that may very well be bad, rather then none at all. I imagine the ECF may well look at it again and try and make some improvements to it, but that’s better then starting from scratch.

The next item was an oral report from Gareth Pierce, Chair of the Independent Constitutional and Governance Review Commission. The SCCU has a rather good summary of the work the commission is doing:

http://www.sccu.ndo.co.uk/sccu.htm

The only things to add are that the members of the commission are Gareth Pierce (former Chairman/ CEO of Smith and Williamson), Lara Barnes, Roger Emerson (of Guildford chess club), and Suzanne Wood (a senior consultant in recruitment). Also Gareth spoke very well on the day.

There was a summary of the situation with the National Chess Library. For those unaware, for a number of years the ECF has accepted donations of books, magazines etc, and these have been stored at Brighton University. Recently the University has asked the ECF to remove the collection, and at the Finance Council meeting delegates voted on the two options for what to do with the collection. Option A was to move the ECF Office up one floor, and use the extra space to house the collection there. Option B was to move the collection to commercial storage and from there sell any duplicates, search for a permanent location free of charge, and discuss a more permanent solution. The vote was all bar one in favour of Option B.

The next item was a report by the Finance Director on the Budget for 2015/ 16. There was a long slideshow presentation by the FD on a number of items, which he seemed hopeful would be put up online at some point for all to view.

There was also a slideshow presentation by the Junior Director regarding her plans for a junior academy. Likewise it would be very helpful if the ECF could put this slideshow online at some point.

The academy is a 10 year plan, with the aim of working towards being self- sustaining. It will be open to any junior who is an ECF Gold Member. The aim of it is to encourage juniors to play and develop, to identify talented juniors and help support them on the way to gaining FIDE titles. There was a slide with pyramid diagrams showing the 4 levels the academy is looking at. At the top was Elite “title seeking”, next row down was International “playing at major events”, below that National “playing at developmental international events”, and bottom row Local and Regional “playing at up to and including national events.”

Early on the aim is to focus on National/ International level, with the aim of identifying juniors who are of the Elite level. The ECF hopes to identify Elite players within 12 months. For the Elite the ECF aims to:

• Offer financial/ other support to help players get norms.
• Introduce a collaborative support system between players.
• Develop a collaborative support system involving the Junior Director, International Director, and Commercial Director.

Planned activities include:
• 4 training weekends per year around the country.
• Titled coaching with a 1- 10 ratio of coaches to juniors.
• A chess advisory panel.
• 5 day training tournaments.
• Learning resources.

The ECF was also in the process of gaining sponsorship so that academy trainers can become FIDE- certified trainers.

The aim is to launch the academy at the British Championships, and have the first programme in place by January.

I raised the question as to whether the ECF intended to focus on different areas for girls and boys, and was told no. For what its worth I think with girls’ chess the ECF should focus more of its attention and resources on retaining them within chess through their teens, and encouraging them to play chess outside of the standard junior chess framework (i.e playing in local leagues, congresses etc), rather then towards the elite end of things.

Anyways, the report was passed nem com.

The next item was proposal by William Armstrong (Gold Members’ Rep.) and Andrew Leadbetter (on behalf of Staffordshire) to narrow the gap between Bronze and Silver membership, with the aim of eventually merging the 2. Both William and Andrew spoke on behalf of the proposal, but everyone else who spoke about the proposal was against it. I was planning to speak against it, but seeing the strength of feeling from elsewhere, it was obvious the proposal wasn’t going to be passed. Sure enough the only 2 votes in favour were the 2 proposers. Everyone else voted against and the proposal was defeated.

I think after this one came the BCF meeting. I have to be honest, I use this point to take a break and get a breath of fresh air. It’s rare anything substantial comes up. From what I’ve heard that was the case this time, with all of the motions passed in short order.

Back to the ECF meeting, the membership fees item was next up, and was the most hotly debated.

• John Reyes, of Lancashire chess, recommended building up more slowly.
• Andrew Farthing said it was difficult to be supportive when the ECF has no real plans for what to do with the money except build the reserves.
• Angus French stated that of the 46 bronze members he had spoken with 11 were for and 36 against. Most preferred a low increase or none at all, for the ECF to spend less on International Chess, and the increase for juniors was too much.
• I spoke about the percentage increases for junior chess membership (between 18 and 23% next season, rising by as much as 46% in some areas if the ECF’s plans for future rises up to 2017/18 come to pass).
• John Wickham, speaking on behalf of silver members, said that silver members had mixed feeling on membership. Most felt the cost of ECF membership is a barrier to new players, and suggested a lower entry fee for new members.
• Julie Denning, speaking on behalf of Surrey said that without an increase the ECF would have to eat into its reserves, and so Surrey supports it.
• One delegate, whose name I didn’t get said that the double- digit percentage rise in prises hadn’t been sold well by the ECF, and that bronze members don’t get a great deal from membership to benefit.
• Simon Gilmore, representing Derbyshire, was critical of the ECF’s lack of a plan, and recommended smaller increases over a longer period.
• Marcus Misson, of Cambridgshire, said there was justification for spending on International and Junior chess, but not growing the ECF reserves.
• The Finance Director said that the comments about the lack of a plan were fair, and the ECF was working on it. He said that in real terms the increase was not huge. Council had recommended previously getting the reserves up to £100k and this increase would help the ECF reach that. A high level of reserves would encourage the Directors to do things, and not feel inhibited by a lack of funds. The ECF needs to communicate better.
• John Reyes then proposed a flat £1 increase across all memberships (adult and junior). 8 were in favour, 17 against (there wasn’t an official count for hand votes, so this may be out by a little bit as I was trying to count/ take notes). A card vote was called for, and it came back 78 for, 107 against, so the proposal was defeated.

Then came the vote on the ECF’s proposal. The hand vote was roughly even, and it went to card vote. The total was 104 for, 103 against, so the proposal was passed.

Just to re- iterate, this is what the membership fees will be for next season:

Platinum £60
Gold Adult £32
Silver Adult £22
Bronze Adult £15

Gold Junior £26
Silver Junior £16
Bronze Junior £11

I voted 17 in favour, 11 against. Here’s how I specifically cast each of my votes:

For: Devon (3), Somerset (2), Torbay (1), Teignmouth Rapid (1), Bournemouth (2), Dorset (2), Gloucestershire (1), North Gloucs (2), Royal Beacon Seniors (1), East Devon Congress (1), ECF Gold Members’ Rep (1)

Against: Bristol (6), Cornwall (2), Wiltshire (1), Wiltshire Juniors (2).

I cast my votes the same way for the 2 proposals, on the basis that I didn’t feel the difference between the 2 proposed increases would make a great deal of difference to the opinions of the organisations and their voting instructions. There were only a couple of organisations that didn’t specifically instruct me, and I voted in favour with these. My opinion was that if people were against it they were more likely to inform me of such then if they were in favour.

One other point to note before moving on to the next item, the total number of votes organisations have in England is 317. Which means almost a third of the organisations didn’t cast their vote. Clearly there are a number of organisations that need to be asking some questions about their delegates, all the more so given 1 vote would’ve changed the outcome.

The next item was a proposal to increase the minimum Membership Fee for Membership Organisations from £58 to £60. It was passed on hand vote, with 4 against.

The game fee discussion was next. 2 people spoke against it, and it was decided to just have a hand vote rather then go to a card vote. 5 were against, but many more were in favour, and increase was approved. My votes were cast in the same way as the previous membership fees vote. To re-iterate, next season game fee will be:

Adult League/ County/ Club games: £2.50
Adult Rapidplay games: £1.25

Junior- exclusive standardplay games: £0.60
Junior- exclusive rapidplay games: £0.30

The next item was relating to FIDE- rated events. The Membership Director proposed that a fee equal to the difference between Silver and Gold membership rates be levied on each ENG- registered player in a FIDE- rated event who is not a Gold/ Platinum member, that for any Silver members this would be treated as them being upgraded to Gold, and that the previous policy of requesting FIDE to de-list such players be discontinued.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know how to vote on this and hadn’t had any instructions. Fortunately for me, the Home Chess Director spoke on behalf of Mike Truran and Adam Raoof, two of the biggest FIDE- rated event organisers in the country, and so I voted in line with their recommendations. The proposal was dropped bar the part discontinuing the policy of requesting FIDE to de-list players who aren’t Gold ECF members, which was voted through with 2 against.

The next item, the budget, was passed nem com.

After that came the item regarding the Olympiad budget for 2016/ 17. The International Director felt it was important to have this budget decided well in advance in order to make decisions regarding players etc. Andrew Farthing objected to the ECF continually referring to a motion passed at a meeting in 2013 “Council believes that the Federation should aim to have the strongest possible teams competing etc etc…” to support a seemingly blank- cheque policy for the International teams. Angus French made enquiries about the costs. I have a list of the cost for coaches and players fees, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate to list them here. The one thing I will point out is the budget for the Open team is £26,000, the Women’s team £10k. The total is for £36,000 of expenditure, and £2,500 of income. The hand vote came with 3 against, and so the budget was agreed.

I voted in favour with the Gold Members’ Rep vote as instructed, but voted against with my other votes. A number of people have commented negatively to me regarding the cost of the international teams, and specifically the Olympiad cost given the players get free accommodation etc.

The amendments for the bylaws were approved, and the Standards of Conduct and Complaints Procedure were noted.

The next item was a proposal by the ECF board to discontinue the printed Yearbook and Diary after 2016. I have to apologise to Devon, who emailed me on the morning of the meeting asking me to vote against this on both counts. Unfortunately I didn’t notice until after the meeting and voted to get rid of both. The proposal to discontinue the Yearbook was roughly equal on hand vote. Normally this would mean a card vote, but given the meeting had very little time left at this point the meeting just decided to retain it and move on. The diary proposal was slightly more in favour of discontinuing (I made it 15 for, 7 against), and so the diary was discontinued.

The next item was the discussion paper I originally had on the agenda for the AGM, regarding game fee. In a case of de ja vu, there once again wasn’t enough time to discuss it and so the item was again passed without comment. The Membership Director suggested forming a working committee away from the meeting to discuss it. I’d rather discuss it with delegates from a number of organisations present, but sadly I’m not sure there will be an ECF meeting any time soon with enough time to fit it in.

Under Any Other Business the meeting observed a minute’s silence for Colin Crouch, who has sadly passed away recently, and paid tribute to David Anderton, who is standing down from his work providing legal services for the ECF after a number of years sterling service.

My attempt to discuss the ECF’s communication problems, which got moved to Any Other Business from my raising it under Item 6 on the Agenda, was another victim of the lack of time. “We know the ECF has communication problems, meeting closed.” Was more or less how the chair succinctly summed it up.

Hard not to be a little cynical under the circumstances. Anyway, my feelings on the ECF’s communication issues can be found here:

http://www.englishchess.org.uk/Forum/vi ... ?f=3&t=294

It sadly seems to be the case that the vast majority of times ECF meetings don’t have enough time to sufficiently cover the items on the agenda. I’m not really sure what to suggest to improve things, but it’s definitely something the ECF should thing about ahead of the AGM.

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