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 Post subject: ECF AGM '14 Report
PostPosted: Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:36 pm 
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ECF AGM Report.

There were somewhere between 50 and 60 attendants. Most of the early items were passed through swiftly, with the only thing on note being that Stewart Reuben and Gerry Walsh have received awards from FIDE for service to chess, with Gerry collecting his award at the meeting.

Phil Ehr talked about the new Independence and Governance Review Committee, which is being set up to give a fresh opinion on various areas relating to the ECF governance and possibly other areas. At the moment the only member of the Committee is Gareth Pierce, but I assume others will be joining in the near future.

Several points were made about the ‘Relations with FIDE’ paper. Stewart Reuben asked why there was no mention of the Commenwealth Chess Association. Phil Ehr stated that it was a minor omission, and in practise the CCA only really exists to organise one tournament a year (the Commonwealth Championships, I presume). Sean Hewitt said that the paper contained a lot of what, and not much how. Phil Ehr said that it was intended to act only as a framework for decisions. There was a discussion about the second last bullet point “register the ECF's opposition to actions of senior FIDE officials that depart from international sporting norms”. Lara Barnes and Alex McFarlane separately expressed views that this point was unnecessarily confrontational, whilst Phil Ehr and Malcolm Pein, again separately, expressed views that it is entirely right to criticise as long as it is done in an appropriate fashion.

The Charitable Status update was next. The work is ongoing is the simple summary. A paper was submitted hoping to secure charitable status just after the paper was replaced by a different one, so the ECF had to start over and fill out a different paper. Its hoped that the ECF can become a registered charity in the near future.
For the Chief Exec’s report Phil Ehr mentioned about the Office. I didn’t make a note of this myself, but I believe it’s the case that it is staying in Hastings. He also mentioned about the National Chess Library having to relocate.

With the board minutes, myself and several others commented critically. The board minutes are non- existent for several previous board meetings, it has been a problem that has happened several times this year, and clearly it is an area that needs improvement. Several board members are now working on bringing them up to date. The March (!) minutes should be up by next Sunday, and there are 3 other board meeting minutes being work on (June, July, September).

With the National Chess Library the no. of visitors at its peak was 42 a year, and has been going downhill since then. The Finance Director stated that the cost of storing it would work out at somewhere between £1500- £3000pa, and if the ECF went down this route it wouldn’t be especially advisable to go for the cheapest option on this.

The Hampshire Delegate suggested digitising the library, and wondered whether a company like Google might be prepared to do it for free. Phil Ehr was sceptical about whether it could be done for free, and wondered about the cost, but said it was definitely something to think about and he would discuss the suggestion further with the delegate after the meeting.

With the vote to accept the report, one vote was cast against (not mine).

For the Home Chess report Alex Holowczak praised Carl Portman (Manager of Prison’s Chess), and stated that his work was far more impressive then had been mentioned in the report. Sean Hewitt asked why the British only made a small surplus given it had financial assistance (I think it may have had a grant from the local council?). John Philpott answered that the British was only budgeted to break even. Malcolm Pein asked whether Alex had given any consideration to running the British as a one week, 2 weekends, event? Alex replied positively from a personal perspective, but mentioned that a questionnaire handed out to competitors at the British in Torquay 2 years ago favoured the present arrangement. It was suggested that this may well be because they were asking people who were already at the event. Alex mentioned that the questionnaire was also posted online and had a number of results. Malcolm offered to organise a questionnaire to get more of a view from people who weren’t/ currently don’t play at the British, and this offer was accepted.

For the Junior Director’s report. It was mentioned that the court case recently brought against the ECF was struck out on technical grounds, and although it was possible that as long as the statute of limitations allowed an appeal could be forthcoming, no appeal had been made as of the AGM. I thanked Loz for his work as Junior Director (he wasn’t standing for re- election).

The International Director’s report. Chris Fegan, the North Essex Delegate praised the work of the International Director in organising 2 days training for the Women’s team at the RAC ahead of the recently- finished Olympiad.

There was one vote against accepting the report (not mine.)

The present membership figures are 6225 members, 5000+ of which are renewals (I wrote down 5262, but in the cold light of day I’m not 100% I heard the latter part of the number correctly). The number is closely comparable to previous years, and there is no expectation of a big drop through people not renewing.

There was discussion about the movement of the end of the membership year to 30th June, and how it might impact on summer leagues, the British etc. Alex Holowczak felt the 1st August would be a more appropriate date.

With this report there was one vote against accepting it, which was Alex.

The Commerical Director’s report featured a short discussion about whether ECF announcements should be put on the ECF’s home page or the ECF’s Forum. I think the general preference from council members who spoke was for it to be the former.

There was a fair bit of discussion between the Non- Executive Directors and the Chairperson before it even got to any of them discussing their reports. Sean Hewitt, had been Non- Executive Director for a fair portion of the year, before resigning shortly before the Finance Council meeting. He had been invited to submit a report to the AGM, but had not submitted a written one in advance, instead intending to give an oral report at the meeting. Julian Clissold, one of the other NEDs, objected to having to give his report in advance, with no knowledge of what Sean might say. Sean maintained that the reports should be given in the order as given on the agenda, which was alphabetical and thus would mean he gave his report last. Following the discussion it was agreed to stick to the original order, with Sean giving his report last.

For the first NED’s (Julian Clissold) report he mentioned that internal arguments amongst the board have been a problem, but that thing are improving, and the ECF need to do more to work with other organisations e.g EPSCA.

Angus French was congratulated on his work as NED.

There was one vote against either Julian or Angus’ report (I can’t tell from my notes which it was).

Sean Hewitt’s report was a lot less controversial then I think many were expecting. He criticised Andrew Paulson’s time as President of the ECF, and the lack of board minutes, and also discussed his reason for standing down as NED when he did. In short he was unhappy with the way the Andrew Paulson resignation was handled and was unable to speak out against it as a board member, so resigned in order to speak out in a private capacity.

Stewart Reuben commented critically about Andrew Paulson’s chairing of board meetings.

Next was Nigel Short’s FIDE Delegate report. Nigel wasn’t in attendance (he was busy winning a tournament on the Isle of Man.), but there were a good number of comments.

Stewart Reuben was critical of 2 points he felt Nigel should have made in his report but didn’t. Stewart described the last 2 days of the FIDE Council General Assembly as a shambles, where nothing got done. I asked whether that was the case because not enough members turned up to make the meeting quorate. “Partly”. There was more to it then just that, but the answer would take too long for the meeting, so it was left at that.

The second point was that Stewart felt David Jarrett was “shafted” at the General Assembly. David was set to stand for a post, but someone, probably Kirsan, told him not to. When Stewart spoke to Nigel about this, Nigel claimed he had no idea, which Stewart felt was not the case.

There was a brief discussion about the part of Nigel’s report: “For your information, one of the three candidates for Delegate this year wrote a spirited letter of support for Paulson to the ECF
Board – despite the overwhelming evidence against him.” First Malcolm Pein spoke to state it wasn’t him, then Stewart Reuben spoke to confirm it was him. Stewart didn’t wish for the board to expel Andrew Paulson, as it would have required an EGM and would have been very messy. He felt Nigel’s report was misleading.

Nigel’s report had 17 votes in favour, 10 against (mine were cast in favour).

One point made from the Governance Committee report, raised by Alex McFarlane, and concurred by Malcolm Pein, is that all election candidate statements should appear at the same time. I think this year Lara Barnes/ Stewart Reuben’s election statements were published online well in advance of Malcolm’s.

The only other point of note from the reports is that John Philpott was rightly praised for his hard work over the past year. He’s continuing to volunteer for the ECF, not stepping down, but the amount of time he has given up over the past year to help has been considerable.

On to the elections:

Dominic Lawson’s only comment he made to add to his report was to praise specifically the chair of the meeting, but also all volunteers.

A question was asked about his relationship with Ray Keene. DL has a long- standing professional relationship with Ray Keene, going back to when they co- authored a book, I believe about a match involving Viktor Korchnoi back in the 80s, and continuing since then. DL won’t look to involve Ray Keene in the ECF if elected.

Dominic was elected on a hand vote with 1 against. I voted in favour, and had it gone to a card vote had intended to use all votes in favour.

Phil Ehr praised the ECF board and stated they were in the process of making change.

Mike Truran commented that there was a poor perception of the way the board work together, and was critical of the lack of transparency.

Sean Hewitt claimed that Phil Ehr wished to bring back Andrew Paulson after he resigned.

Phil confirmed that he did attend a meeting with Andrew Paulson after Andrew resigned, to discuss Andrew’s future, but it went no further.

Malcolm Pein defended Phil’s conduct as impeccable and consistent throughout.

Around about this point Phil left the room whilst the hand vote was due to take place. Before it could take place, though, there were several critical comments about Phil’s decision to endorse specific candidates in his election address, and he was brought back in to address the comments.

A hand vote to decide whether or not to recall Phil to speak on this went majority in favour, 10 against. I voted against recalling him.

Several people were critical of Phil on this (I’ve written down 4 members of council speaking to this effect) and several other people (one of which was the International Director) defended Phil’s right to recommend candidates. Phil spoke to defend his position.

Chris Majer, of the Governance Committee, confirmed it wasn’t against the rules to recommend candidates, but may be against the spirit of the rules.

It went to a card vote, and went 179 in favour, 59 against, with all of my votes cast in favour.

For what its worth, my opinion on Phil recommending candidates in his election address: Given that the board struggling to work together has been a big issue I can understand why Phil felt he wanted to recommend the people he felt he could best work together with. It’s unfair on the other candidates, may well make good potential candidates less enthusiastic about standing against these candidates in next year’s elections, and undoubtedly cost Phil both some votes and a bit of damage to his reputation.

Nevertheless, Phil has done an overall excellent job this year, and fully deserves to be re-elected. There are areas where things need to improve (the reporting of board minutes being the obvious one), but compare the ECF at present to where it was a few years ago, and clearly Phil deserves a huge amount of credit for the improvement that has taken place. The amount of time and effort he has devoted to a voluntary role should also be noted as a big plus.

The key issue now is ensuring that the board works together and maintains a decent level of working relationship and communication. Having recommended candidates and subsequently seen them elected there should be a big improvement in this area over the previous year.

The next election was for David Eustace, the Finance Director. David has done a fine job over the past year, and it was no surprise he was re- elected all in favour in short order. I cast all of my votes in favour of re- election.

After that was the Non- Exec Directors election, with 3 candidates standing for the 2 vacancies. I have to admit I didn’t take notes for this one, as I wasn’t entirely sure who to vote for! All 3 candidates were excellent. I intended to cast votes for Laurence Ball as I felt he was the most qualified for this specific directorship, but really felt it very difficult to choose between the other 2. In the end I cast Wiltshire and Wiltshire Juniors votes for Julian Clissold and John Foley, as I felt they were more in tune with junior chess, and the rest for Laurence Ball and Julian Clissold. My decision to vote for Julian was based on the fact that all other things equal, it was preferable to retain an existing director rather then elect a new one.

It went to a card vote in the end with Laurence Ball getting 93 votes, Julian Clissold 191, and John Foley 156, so Julian Clissold and John Foley were elected in as the 2 ECF Non- Exec Directors.

There was a slight change in the order on the agenda here, with the contested FIDE Delegate position being moved up the order. The reason being that one of the candidates (Malcolm Pein) had been asked to do a radio interview fairly imminently.

The first of the two candidates to speak was Malcolm. He listed his qualifications, and said he wished to have a change of emphasis from the previous FIDE Delegate (Nigel Short) and be less abrasive and more diplomatic. He acknowledged that the ECF’s efforts to support candidates in the previous FIDE election had failed, and felt now we should be aiming to get more people onto commissions. He also confirmed he would be able to attend board meetings.

Malcolm was asked whether he wished to claim expenses (this is in relation to Nigel Short’s recommendation that the ECF should pay a fee towards the expenses involved in attending meetings). Malcolm stated that he had attended the previous FIDE meeting at his own expense, and was happy to follow the existing policy with regard expenses.

Malcolm was also asked what he would like to achieve in the role. He stated that he would like to get more people on commissions, he would like to host FIDE seminars, and make FIDE more relevant to the average chess player.

The next to speak was Stewart Reuben. Stewart felt he was the better candidate as he was more experienced and had a relationship with FIDE over a number of years. He mentioned that practically no-one from the ECF went to Tallinn for a FIDE conference last year, and that he also arranged for Lorin D’Costa to be captain of the Barbados team at the recent Olympiad.

I cast all of my votes bar the Royal Beacon Seniors (who requested I vote for Stewart) in favour of Malcolm Pein. Malcolm has asked me to thank all of the organisations who voted for him.

The card vote came back Malcolm Pein 154, Stewart Reuben 86, and so Malcolm is our new FIDE Delegate.

The contested Junior Directorship election was next. David Levens spoke first. He mentioned he had a lot of experience in a variety of areas with Notts Juniors, and talked about gaining media attention and sponsorship.

David was asked about secondary school chess, and the drop off between primary school and secondary. He said there were no easy answers, but would hope to raise the profile of chess and get it away from being labelled as “geeky”.

Traci Whitfield spoke next. She said she had intended to apply for the role for a number of years, and decided to take the opportunity now with the previous Director not standing for re- election. She planned to look at the business side of the role, and use good business planning to ensure that junior chess was self- sustaining in case sponsorship is weak/ lacking. She also said she had a personal interest in girl’s chess.

Traci was also asked about secondary school chess and the drop off between primary and secondary. She said that chess needs to be seen as something you stick with and can help positively contribute to a person’s future. She wanted to encourage more people to engage in voluntary roles, such as arbiting. She wanted to create a chess community for the future, and develop a firm plan to this end.

Traci was asked whether she would develop a syllabus for teaching chess. She said that she would make recommendations, but wouldn’t wish to impose anything. There are some very good methods already available, and she wouldn’t wish to constrain anyone.

I cast all of my votes in favour of Traci, bar Somerset’s, for whom the only feedback I received was negative of both candidates and so I voted for none of the above from Somerset.

The card vote came back David Levens: 53, Traci Whitfield: 193, None of the Above: 2, and so Traci is the new Director of Junior Chess and Education.

Several Directors were elected largely without question. I can’t remember the exact order it went in, but:

Alex Holowczak was re- elected as Director of Home Chess.
David Openshaw was re- elected as Director of International Chess.
Dave Thomas was re- elected as Director of Membership.
Bob Kane was re- elected as Commercial Director.

Bob Kane spoke for a short period by way of introducing himself, as he was appointed between meetings (in April). He had tried to engage with external companies and raise sponsorship, had looked to improve the image/ communications of the ECF, and had reviewed advertising rates.

The question of the 2 online forums was raised. Bob said he was happy for people to engage on the ECForum, but that it gave the impression of being official. The ECF Forum was created to address this issue.

Bob also stated that he was happy for ECF Directors to post on the ECForum as long as they posted on the ECF Forum first.

All of my votes were cast in favour of these candidates, and they were all elected with no votes against.

The member of the various committees were voted on block (I cast all of my votes in favour of all), and were re- elected with a couple of votes against. The one thing of note is that David Robertson was elected as a new member of the Governance Committee.

Andrew Farthing and John Wickham were made Honorary Life Vice- Presidents.

I also mentioned under noting the other ECF awards that the ChessDevon webmaster hadn’t been made aware that his website had won an award. The person responsible for the ECF awards said he had forgotten, and asked me to remind him after the meeting.

The next item was the proposal by the Director of Home Chess: “Competitions where adjudication is possible will not be ECF- graded from 1st July 2015”.

There was a lot of discussion on this item. Stewart Reuben suggested amending it to state “…except in exceptional circumstances e.g. disabled players.” There was a bit of discussion about the lack of specificity, and I think the end result was that it would be open to the discretion of the Home Chess Director to decide the exact definition of exceptional circumstances.

Sussex were strongly against the motion They felt it was like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and adjudications were being fazed out over time anyway.

Thames Valley League were also against. They felt their weren’t a lot of adjudications and the motion was unnecessary.

Surrey were against it. They have the option for adjudication, but people aren’t forced to have it. Only 8 of their games went to adjudication.

Stockport and one other (I didn’t note who) were for the motion. Stockport felt adjudication happens extremely infrequently, Stockport don’t use it.

Warwickshire, Lemington and District League were against the motion, feeling a number of players would drop out without adjudication.

Herefordshire were against the proposal, seeing it as unnecessary interference by the ECF.

Mike Truran spoke in favour of the motion.

Scott Freeman (I didn’t note which organisation he represented) was in favour of the motion. He felt that more people won’t play with adjudication, then would drop out without it.

Stewart Reuben stated that he felt the ECF wanted better chess, and to stop games ending halfway through. He recommended using incremental time controls.

Richard Haddrell was strongly against the motion. He felt withholding grading of the whole league because of a few adjudications is very unfair. Kent has a few adjudications because its what people want.

Roger Edwards had no objections to getting rid of adjudications, but objected to the grading system being used for this.

Angus French felt it was a very divisive proposal and risks losing members.

A delegate (who’s name I didn’t note) said that he agreed with scrapping adjudication, but not the refusing to grade the whole league as a consequence.

The Brian Poulter League felt that this motion didn’t promote chess.

The Sussex League felt that the motion was controversial, and felt it was a backdoor way to resolve quickplay v adjudication/ adjournment.

A few more comments from delegates who’s name I didn’t note: “Digital clocks are too complicated to programme for increments” “No meaningful risk of leagues disaffiliating”. Also one other delegate spoke against.

The Manager of Grading spoke about the reasons for the motion being introduced, and then it went to the vote.

The hand vote was 12 for, 23 against. As a number of the delegates with large numbers of votes were in favour I asked for a card vote.

Where I was given specific instruction (Devon and its respective congresses, Somerset, Bristol, 15 votes total) I voted in favour of the motion. Where I wasn’t given specific instruction (Cornwall, Dorset, Bournemouth, WECU, Gloucs, North Gloucs, Wiltshire, Wiltshire Juniors, 14 votes total) I abstained.

The card vote came back 85 in favour, 138 against, and the motion was defeated.

Sadly at about this point we’d used up just about all the time available, and so the game fee discussion paper rolls over onto the Finance Council meeting.

I think the meeting finished just before 18.30.


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ECF AGM Report '14.doc [53 KiB]
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