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 Post subject: ECF AGM Report 2015
PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 6:58 pm 

Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2012 8:16 pm
Posts: 44

I was asked to proxy at the ECF AGM on behalf of Rob Thompson, one of the ECF Gold Members' Representatives. This is my report from the meeting.

If there are any mistakes please do let me know. I'll make the necessary amendments and acknowledge the changes here.

A few mistakes have been mentioned:

1. The points I listed as arising from the minutes (which would have been item 7) actually came from item 8 (update on items discussed at the Board meeting earlier).

2. The correct spelling of the ECF Legal Advisor's name is Melville Rodrigues.

3. It has not yet been determined how the shortfall on ETC donations will be covered. Using the contingency fund is simply one of the possibilities.

4, I've corrected the names of Gareth Pearce, rather than Pierce, and Suzzane Wood, rather than Suzanne Shaw.

The report.

I counted around 60 attendees, including several people who attended as observers. It wasn’t quite a full room, but pretty close, and a marked improvement on the number of people who attended the Finance Council meeting earlier in the year.

Most of the early items on the agenda were dealt with pretty swiftly. The only thing to note of local interest is that the Exeter and District League were confirmed as a member organisation, meaning I had a vote to cast on their behalf.

Under items discussed at the Board meeting earlier:

• The ECF has settled a dispute with a coach that has cost the ECF £1200.
• A new FIDE Academy has been set up in Durham.
• The ECF has approved an updated child protection policy, which is now getting looked at by Safe CIS.
• The ECF has appointed a new legal advisor, Melville Rodrigues, to replace the outgoing David Anderton.
• A new framework for appointments to positions within the ECF has been agreed which will reduce the number of direct appointments from 70 to 15.

The President’s report was accepted without much comment, and no votes against.

The CEO’s report was next, and attracted a lot of discussion. The report ran to 24 pages, and covered in a fair amount of detail why the board have been unable to work effectively together over the course of the past year. Needless to say, it makes for depressing reading.

The first bit of discussion concerned the alleged vote of no- confidence in the CEO by the International Director at a board meeting from July. The ECF Board Minutes from July can be read here: ... ersion.pdf

This is the specific item on that agenda:
“5 (DO *David Openshaw, the International Chess Director*) That the Board instructs the Chief Executive to adopt a more conciliatory attitude and better management practices in his dealings with Board members who have been in post during his period as CEO.”

There was a good deal of discussion at the meeting as to whether or not it constituted a vote of no- confidence, and then the reasons behind the motion. This is how the minutes from the July Board Meeting state that it ended:

“The Chair adjourned the meeting to talk to PE (*Phil Ehr, CEO*) and DO individually. As a result the motion was withdrawn pending a further meeting between PE and DO to reflect on the discussion that had taken place and a report back to the board. PE stated that he recognised this had been raised at the Board. He would work to resolve specific issues with the individuals concerned and take them forward.”

Anyway, back to the AGM.

Julie Denning, the SCCU representative, and prospective ECF Non- Executive Director candidate, felt that the motion didn’t constitute a vote of no- confidence, and also mentioned that the item was set aside, not dismissed. (In mentioning the issue in his report, the CEO begins: “The failed motion of no confidence…”)

Julian Clissold, one of the ECF Non- Executive Directors, said: “Some board members thought it essentially was, others didn’t.”

Phil Ehr stated: “The Chair of Governance supported it as a vote of no- confidence.”

David Openshaw, the International Director didn’t think it was a no- confidence vote.

Sean Hewitt, representing a good number of organisations, including Leicestershire and Rutland, was critical that the board are continuing to function poorly after previous years’ concerns.

Phil Ehr spoke (and mentioned this point several times during the meeting) that the present board wasn’t working, and council needed to make changes.

The next issue that came up was the suspension, and subsequent removal of the suspension from the record, of the Home Chess Director, Alex Holowczak.

The details about the suspension can be found here: ... more-34164

“Director of Home Chess Alex Holowczak was given a two week suspension from duty from 25 August to 8 September 2015 following a complaint by Commercial Director Bob Kane made in accordance with the ECF Complaints Procedure.”

The details about the subsequent appeals from both parties can be found here (about half way down):

“It is our joint and common opinion in the question of the appeal from Alex Holowczak that we consider the appeal upheld on the grounds that the complaint does not constitute a case of serious maladministration. We would therefore strike the suspension from the record.”

“In relation to the appeal from Bob Kane, which was on two grounds —
(1) whether the process was poorly administered; and
(2) whether the sentence was properly carried out,
we believe the process was reasonably administered and we have no comment on the second count as the suspension was struck out.”

Of course there are plenty more details (and a good deal of unsubstantiated gossip) on the EC and ECF Forums.

Back to the AGM...

Angus French, the Bronze members’ representative, questioned whether it was appropriate to suspend the Home Chess Director, and why the Home Chess Director served his suspension before the appeal was heard.

Julian Clissold, one of the ECF Non- Executive Directors, stated that the complaints procedure was followed correctly, and the reason the appeal took a while to be heard was because it took some time to find people who were entirely neutral in the matter to hear the appeal, with most of the board engaged one way or another.

Malcolm Pein, one of the candidates for the International Chess Directorship, felt that council should have been discussing more pressing matters.

David Eustace, the ECF Finance Director, was critical of Phil Ehr for failing to produce a report about the National Chess Library. One director spoke to defend Phil on this matter, but I didn’t note which director it was.

Neville Belinfante, representing London Junior, said that the CEO’s report might discourage potential volunteers.

The vote ended 12 in favour of accepting the report, 7 against, with a large number of abstentions.

The next report was the Finance Director’s report, and some good news to report. The ECF’s financial position is slightly better then forecast in April. The ECF has also completely repaid the Chess Centre loan.

The legal costs relating to the ECF’s work alongside the EBU, and their case for making bridge a sport, came to £2500.

Finally, there was a shortfall of £5000 on the budget for the English team sent for the European Team Championships, owing to a lack of donations. The Finance Director wanted direction as to whether council still wished for the ECF to aim to send the strongest team to each international event. Despite his best efforts the discussion never really got going, and no decision was made.

There was 1 vote against for this report, as there was for most of the reports. The person sat to my right wasn’t sure what he was voting for or against, so decided to vote against each report. Make of that what you will…

The next report was the Director of Home Chess. The Director admitted he was one team short of his target for the number of teams in the National Club Cup, and was unable to confirm how many arbiters there are now, as a training event had just finished and he was waiting to hear back from it.

One council member praised the Home Chess Director’s work in relation to the British Championships, county chess, and the National Club Cup.

The next report was from the Junior Director, and several bits of good news came here.

Firstly, the ECF Junior Academy appears to be progressing well. Since it was launched at the British Championships the first training weekend has been booked, and is fully subscribed. The ECF will at some point in the future be looking to form working parties at local level to help with lower- level junior work (local as opposed to elite players). It might take some time for the results of the Academy to appear, but there’s no doubt this is an exciting initiative.

The Junior Director is looking to run and English Girls’ Championship before Christmas in the midlands area.

The ECF is to have child protection officers, help to set up training related to this at a reduced cost, and is linking with an external company to provide advice.

Finally, the ECF is working with the UK Chess Academy, and the new Academy in Durham.

The next report was by the Director of International Chess. The only point I’ve got written here is the International Director noting that the England team for the Olympiad will be almost fully funded by ECF resources.

The next report was by the Director of Membership. It appears at the moment that the number of members for this year is slightly lower then the previous year. Currently (at the date of the AGM) there are 6417 members, 600 of whom are new, 900 are on multi- year memberships, and 4900 have re- joined. Last year there were 6591 members at the same date. For a bit more detail, at Oct. 1st 2 years ago there were 5381 members, last year 5763, this year 5583. This may lead to a slight shortfall in membership income.

John Reyes, representing a number of organisations, including the NCCU, asked whether the drop in numbers was down to the increase in the price of membership this year. The Membership Director said in his personal opinion, yes, it may be.

The next report was by the Commercial Director.

Neville Belinfante, representing London Junior, was very critical of the ECF’s Forum, and the lack of progress on the Grand Prix.

The Commercial Director accepted that the Forum hasn’t worked. There were plans to change to a new type of software, and he still believes that the forum should exist for members.

With the grand prix the Commerical Director was frustrated at the lack of progress in changing the rules for the grand prix. The Home Chess Director and the Commercial Director had a brief discussion about the reasons why the changes had yet to happen.

The CEO stated the council should not seek to cast blame, but should focus on electing a board who can work well together. He stated that the Forum was going to be reviewed. He also introduced Mark Jordan, the ECF’s new Publicity Officer.

I had the opportunity to talk with Mark when we both nipped outside for a quick break as the BCF meeting took place slightly later. He seemed like a very nice person, who had a good idea about both the scope for good work available with his role, and also the situation with him being appointed to a role shortly before his line- manager (the Commercial Director), not to mention all of the other ECF Directors, had to stand for re- election. I wish him all the best in the role going forward.

One other point to note with the Commercial Director’s report, there were 2 votes against.

The next report was by the 2 Non- Executive Directors.

John Foley, one of the Non- Exec. Directors, talked at length about the ECF’s part in the EBU’s court case and their attempt to have bridge classed as a sport (as an aside, the EBU has lost the case).

David Anderton, the ECF’s legal council, stated that the best option going forward was for political lobbying rather then legal arguments.

Several of the items (16. Communications paper, 17. Strategy Paper, and 18. Register of Interests) were moved up the agenda to enable more time to discuss them. There was some discussion about whether the items were going to be discussed alongside the relevant Directors’ reports, or after the Directors’ reports. The vote eventually decided on the former. Anyway, I’ll cover all of the points on the 3 items here.

For the Communications paper, David Gilbert, proxying for the London Public Service Chess League, said there should be more mention on communication with non- chess players.

For the Strategy Paper, Julian Clissold, one of the ECF Non- Exec. Directors spoke. He admitted the ECF had done a bad job on strategy. They had developed a template for developing the ECF’s strategy paper, and had had discussions, but there is some way to go before a complete strategy paper will be produced.

David Gilbert, proxying for the London Public Service Chess League, said the paper should include metrics in order to measure success.

The Register of Interests is still being worked on.

The next item was the FIDE Delegate’s report. The FIDE Delegate was critical of FIDE, but spoke positively of the ECU. He plans to have a meeting with the ECU President in December. He also praised the Home Chess Director, who travelled to attend FIDE technical meetings in Dubai. I have to note that that praise has been echoed by several others who attended the FIDE meetings.

The next report was by the Chairman of the Governance Committee. He admitted that virtually every part of the complaint by the Commercial Director against the Home Chess Director was badly handled by the ECF. The complaints procedure is to be reviewed.

The rest of the reports passed with no real comment.

Up next were the elections.

Before it began Stewart Reuben, I believe, suggested a discussion about the board as a whole. I think the intention was to find out which board members believed they were able to work with other members, and which didn’t. The vote went 10 for, 10 against. The chair cast the deciding vote in favour, and the discussion went ahead. Ultimately it descended very swiftly into a discussion focussed entirely on the Chief Exec., and so was curtailed.

A brief side note here: the election results were rushed at the end of the meeting, and a number of the results given on the day were incorrect. One result lead to the International Director being informed on the day that he had been re- elected, and then being told later that in fact the other candidate had. Obviously this is an embarrassing situation to report, and the ECF appreciates this, so hopefully it won’t happen again at future meetings.

The first election was for President, and aside from me thanking him for his work in helping to secure the Tradewise sponsorship, passed without comment.

The vote was 293 in favour, 16 abstentions, and he was re- elected. I cast all of my votes in favour.

The next election was for CEO.

Stewart Reuben asked the Governance Committee whether Phil Ehr was qualified to continue.

Chris Majer, speaking as chair of the Governance Committee, stated that the current board was failing, and can’t be re- elected. The CEO must take most of the blame.

The CEO said that the Governance report was not surprising. The Governance Chair had been very active with board emails and attending board meetings, and understood that the board meetings had not been pleasant at times. The CEO does not have the authority to control the actions of other board members, and he recognised that it was a watershed moment in deciding the future of the ECF board. The CEO also made it quite clear (he may not have said it out- right, but it was very clear) that he would be unable to work effectively with the International Director going forward. The CEO said he had made no decision about future years beyond the next, and he strongly supported the creation of a Chairman position.

Alex McFarlane asked what the CEO had done to prevent escalations.

The CEO said that the problem is less about personalities, and more structural. The ECF board is not fit for purpose. He also said that he had spoken privately a number of times to Directors.

The vote went 121 in favour, 173 for not this candidate, and 15 abstentions. So the CEO position becomes vacant. I cast 33 votes in favour, 1 abstention (Frome Congress). My original intention was to cast Bristol’s votes for not this candidate, because I wasn’t sure he would be able to work effectively with the incumbent Home Chess Director, who Bristol had specifically asked me to support. After hearing him talk on the day I was swayed enough to support him (it should be noted that I had no specific instructions from Bristol in respect of the CEO election).

The CEO did a tremendous amount of work and showed commitment far beyond a level the ECF has the right to expect from a volunteer, and the ECF is a better place for it. I know a good number of people will disagree with me on how much praise he deserves, but I believe he deserves a huge amount. Ultimately it appears he has paid the price for the board’s in- fighting, and that is a shame, albeit understandable. Now it is up to the remaining board members to show that they are able to work more effectively without him, and also to hopefully attract a new CEO.

The Finance Director election was next, and passed without a great deal of questions or discussion. The vote was 285 in favour, 17 not this candidate, and 7 abstentions. I cast all of my votes in favour.

The first contested election was next, with 3 candidates for the 2 Non- Executive Director positions. It should be noted that of the 3 candidates, only Julian Clissold and Julie Denning submitted election address and attended the AGM, meaning the result was all but a foregone conclusion.

Both Julian and Julie spoke to the meeting. Julian stated that if he was re- elected he would continue to try to encourage the board to speak civilly and work collaboratively.

The result was Julian Clissold: 289, Julie Denning: 292, Jack Rudd: 23, None of these candidates: 1, abstentions: 21. All of my votes were cast for Julian and Julie.

The next election was another contested election, this time Home Chess.

John Foley spoke first. He wanted to modernise chess, and specifically mentioned the National Club Cup, Seniors’ chess, and Womens’ chess. He wanted to increase the profile of the British Championships in order to attract sponsorship and from that attract the top players to play. He would be open to modifying the format of the British in order to do so. He would improve the way results are collected through a national results system.

Stewart Reuben asked: “As Non Exec. Director how have you helped the Home Chess Director?”

John Foley stated that he can only help people who wanted to be helped, and didn’t feel welcome offering help to the Home Chess Director. If he was elected he would look to re- structure Home Chess and get more volunteers involved.

The incumbent Home Chess Director spoke next. He felt he pressured to making changes to the National Club Cup that were counter- productive, and didn’t want to turn the event into a one- weekend clone of the 4NCL. He said the British needed sponsorship before changes could be introduced, rather then making changes in order to attract sponsorship.

The vote went John Foley: 49, Alex Holowczak: 247, None of these candidates: 3, Abstentions: 10. I cast Somerset and Frome Congresses’ votes for John Foley (3 votes), and the remaining votes for Alex Holowczak (31 votes).

The next election was for the Junior Chess Directorship. There was only the incumbent standing for re- election, and there wasn’t a great deal of discussion. The Junior Director briefly mentioned that the ECF’s Academy was going to be a 5- 10 year sort of project, and she would like to remain in the role to see it through.

The vote went 295 in favour, 14 abstentions. I cast all of my votes in favour.

The next election was for the International Directorship, and featured a wee bit of controversy about the vote, which I mentioned earlier.

The two candidates were the incumbent Director, David Openshaw, and Malcolm Pein.

David spoke first. He felt that Malcolm Pein didn’t need to be International Director in order to help raise funds for the International team. He felt that the board would be better with a stronger CEO, and felt the CEO report over- emphasised friction between the board members.

Malcolm spoke next. He wanted to raise enough money not just to send the strongest teams to international events, but also to fund trainers, training weekends, and to give extra training to younger GMs (he mentioned Gawain Jones and David Howell as two examples). He felt England was in danger of becoming a 2nd class chess power. He stated that his plans would have no extra cost to the ECF. He spoke about the disharmony amongst the ECF board, and said that he would only concentrate on International chess. He was confident he would be able to work well with any candidate standing for election. He was prepared to attend board meetings, and assured the meeting he had the time necessary to devote to the role. He felt he needed to be a Director when helping to raise funds in order to manage sponsorships, and to ensure sponsors get what they request when giving money. He also said he might look into creating a separate senior chess post.

On the day the vote was announced 141 for David Openshaw, 139 for Malcolm Pein. However after checking the results later the ECF discovered the votes had been mis- counted, and so the result was announced and confirmed a day later as David Openshaw 142, Malcolm Pein 164, 3 abstentions. And so Malcolm Pein is the new International Chess Director.

I cast my votes 29 in favour of Malcolm Pein, 5 in favour of David Openshaw (Hampshire, Portsmouth, Bournemouth).

The next election was for Membership Director, and with only 1 candidate there wasn’t any real discussion.

The vote went 296 in favour, 1 not this candidate, and 12 abstentions. I cast all of my votes in favour.

The next election was for Commercial Director. There wasn’t a great deal of discussion here, which is perhaps a little surprising given the voting results.

The vote went 68 in favour, 218 not this candidate, 27 abstentions. I cast 3 of my votes in favour (Somerset, Frome Congress), and 31 for not this candidate.

The remaining elections only featured one incident of note. I’ll round up the results, then mention the incident. For all of the remaining votes bar the Chairman of the Governance Committee I cast all of my votes in favour.

FIDE Delegate Malcolm Pein: 271 in favour, 22 not this candidate, 16 abstentions.

Chairman of the Finance Committee, Mike Truran: 290 in favour, 2 not this candidate, 17 abstentions.

Members of the Finance Committee, Ray Clark and Ian Reynolds: both had 301 in favour, 8 abstentions.

Chairman of the Governance Committee, Chris Majer: 221 in favour, 63 not this candidate, 25 abstentions.

Members of the Governance Committee:
Mike Gunn: 295 in favour, 1 not this candidate, 13 abstentions.
Richard Haddrell: 243 in favour, 33 not this candidate, 33 abstentions.
Andrew Leadbetter: 261 in favour, 11 not this candidate, 37 abstentions.
David Robertson: 260 in favour, 36 not this candidate, 13 abstentions.

Okay, so the incident of note. When the Chairman of the Governance Committee election came up, the incumbent asked to make a personal statement. It was essentially: “If you elect the CEO, don’t elect me. If we are both elected I will resign.”

I don’t know the rights and wrongs about whether it is appropriate for the Chairman of the Governance Committee to do this, but I understand that having worked with a fragmented board for the past year the Chairman felt the need to speak out. On the other hand I was left having to figure out how 20 voting organisations would like me to react to this on the fly. I complained about this to the chairman of the meeting, but really, nothing could be done. It should be noted that all of the votes for the various different Directorships were done on a sheet of paper, which was handed over to the tellers after all of the election candidates had a chance to speak, so at this point no votes were officially cast. I changed my votes for the Chairman of the Governance Committee from the intended all in favour, to all not this candidate. I’m aware that there may have been specific instructions from some organisations asking me to vote in favour, and I apologise for going against that, but I hope you understand the situation I found myself in.

One final point to note here, my understanding is that since the meeting David Robertson has resigned from his post as member of the Governance Committee, owing to his unhappiness at this incident.

Anyway, moving on. The next item was noting the ECF awards for 2015. Sadly there are no awards for anyone in the South- West this year, although we’ve been rather successful in winning various awards in previous years. There was a brief suggestion by the person in charge of the awards that a dvd of the year award be introduced, but there didn’t seem to be any real interest from the meeting.

The next item was the report of the Independent Governance and Constitutional Review Committee. This is a pretty important item, and unfortunately, such is the way at ECF meetings, there wasn’t nearly enough time to discuss it fully.

I’ll offer a very brief summary of the report’s recommendations:

• A Non- Exec. Chairman should be appointed to the ECF board to help ensure the conduct of the board.
• Directors should be elected for a period of 3 years rather then the 1 as current.
• ECF Board meetings have been taking too longer (there are a number of recommendations on that matter).
• The board should clarify the role of the Strategic Advisor.
• The board should consider the future of the ECF’s Forum.
• The ECF should not change the existing voting arrangement to OMOV (One Member One Vote).
• Although there is a strong case for some form of voting reform, the ECF would be better at present to focus its attention on more pressing matters.

If anyone is interested the report in full can be read here: ... -FINAL.pdf

I had the pleasure of speaking with Gareth Pearce, one of the members of the committee, during the break I took while the BCF meeting took place. He told me that there were only a few members who contacted the committee to support OMOV, whilst a very persuasive paper was submitted by a council representative arguing against it. He also said that a number of people had contacted the committee with suggestions on how to change the existing voting structure, but no two people had the same opinions. On the basis of some of the problems the board have at the moment he felt the board shouldn’t focus on changing the voting structure at present.

The 3 members of the Committee, Gareth Pearce, Suzzane Wood, and Roger Emerson, all gave a great deal of time and effort to produce this report and it is much appreciated.

Before the item was concluded, there were votes on firstly accepting the report, and secondly asking the board to bring proposals to council based on the report.

The Chairman of the Governance Committee advised that voting in favour of the 2 items was the equivalent of voting against OMOV, and if council wished to see OMOV introduced they should vote against both items.

Julie Denning, the SCCU representative, introduced an amendment to the second item, changing the word ‘ideas’ to ‘recommendations’ and introducing a time frame of the next AGM for the board to bring proposals to council.

I voted in favour of both items for all bar the Frome Congress, who asked me to vote against. The first item had 3 votes against in total; the 2nd item had only my vote against.

The next 2 items were proposals by the SCCU. One related to the ECF insurance policy and the other to entry fees for the County Championships. Unfortunately there was next to no time for either item, and they were both deferred.

The first item saw a gentleman speaking on behalf of the item cut off before he had finished; the second was deferred before it was even possible for anyone to speak about the item.

And after confirming the dates of the next 2 meetings, the AGM closed at 6.30pm.

Last edited by Ben_Edgell on Sun Oct 25, 2015 9:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: ECF AGM Report 2015
PostPosted: Sun Oct 25, 2015 8:39 pm 

Joined: Wed Jan 04, 2012 8:39 pm
Posts: 11
What a shambles. Phil Ehr was a good bloke and the ECF are b******ks without him

 Post subject: Re: ECF AGM Report 2015
PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 1:45 pm 

Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:31 pm
Posts: 50
A comprehensive report Ben, good work as ever.

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is obviously as confused as I am!

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