ECF AGM 2023
This meeting was scheduled to be held as a “hybrid” one: part face-to-face in a NatWest Building in Manchester and part by Zoom. The writer attended on behalf of the Doncaster Congress. The YCA as such was not represented and the voting register did not show the YCA as having appointed a proxy.
Joining the meeting by Zoom revealed that the fire alarm kept going off at the NatWest premises, and an intermittently repeated message from the building’s public address system announced that a fire had been reported in the building. However, those present were told to await further announcements, and an evacuation was not called for. It transpired, after some time of confusion as to what was happening and how best to proceed, that the fire alarm system was being tested floor by floor, and no notice had been given to the meeting!
The decision was made that those in the face-to-face part of the meeting would seek somewhere nearby with WiFi internet access with a view to restarting the meeting at 2 45 p.m. A little surprisingly this worked, though initially Zoom attenders had sound cut off, and could only hear things from item 6 onwards, though that was of little consequence as the meaty agenda items didn’t start until item 7 (elections).
The ECF has a system of staggering elections, tied to the period of tenure of a post being three years rather than just one. There were 5 contestable posts on the agenda, though in some ways these might be seen as less important than the vacant post not on the agenda!
The incumbent Finance Director had decided not to continue in office for a second term. Adam Ashton was appointed for three years in October 2020, and would have been eligible to stand for a second term, but had chosen not to continue, but this latter decision became known too late for the fact to be advertised to induce somebody to stand for the post at this meeting. No other candidates had been nominated, so there is now a casual vacancy for the post. Given that the ECF is in line for government funding, probably on more-rigorously controlled and monitored terms than the old DCMS grant, the robustness of its financial arrangements needs to be evident, and not having a Finance Director could well burst the balloon.
In such circumstances of a “casual” vacancy arising, the Board is empowered to appoint someone, and it was stated that Alex Longson had approached the ECF (apparently not the other way round as originally here stated) to offer his services, but after the deadline for nominations. It will require a further Board meeting to deal with the vacancy.
Even without an opponent, a candidate can have votes of “not this candidate” cast in opposition, and occasionally this has resulted in an incumbent standing for re-election unopposed being rejected in a “coup”, so causing a casual vacancy! Voting in uncontested elections went as follows, all candidates being re-elected, but none without token opposition, which provides some amusement. This voting is secret, done electronically, so candidates don’t know who does not like them!
The job of NEDs (two in post at any one time) is essentially to maintain a critical eye on the Board, and challenge things or offer sage advice, as they see appropriate. This meant the suitability of the candidacy of Sarah Longson was questioned by some, since if Alex Longson were in due course appointed Finance Director, then Sarah would be potentially policing her husband, which some people felt to be an inappropriate situation. Though both candidates were plausible, the better-known one was elected fairly comfortably, but “None of these” scored impressively with 6% of the votes cast.
Director of Home Chess
Here, the present incumbent who was standing for a second term was opposed by Tim Wall, voting being as follows.
Appointments to Committees and of Auditor
Committee appointments involved nominees to boost the strength of the committee concerned, the number of committee members being not fixed. Thus the nominees were not competing for a single post. All nominees were elected, they being as follows.
Individual Membership Structure
The Board has been seeking to change/simplify the membership fee structure and had drawn up two options as being most likely to be approved by the AGM, whilst stating they realised “no change” might be a preferred option. It was conceded that the Board members were of widely varying individual opinions. This was further complicated by the NCCU proposing what would represent the most extreme change.
Board option 1 was essentially to merge Gold and Silver, with Bronze remaining only for existing Bronze members, so that all new or re-joining members would have to join at the merged Gold+Silver level (or of course Platinum which was outside the debate).
Board option 2 was essentially to merge Gold and Silver, with Bronze remaining as at present, so that all new or re-joining members would still be able to do so at Bronze level.
The NCCU proposal was essentially to merge Gold, Silver and Bronze.
A straight four-way vote might seem the most logical approach, but a kind of knock-out voting system, which had been agreed to by the NCCU, was adopted, with the following results.
So, from probably the 1st of September 2024, a hybrid Gold/Silver membership level will replace the present separate Gold and Silver levels, while Bronze members notice no change except that “upgrading” to play in a congress will be slightly more expensive. The actual level of fees will, as ever, be set by the April Finance Council Meeting, in this case that in April 2024.
Appropriate amendments to the Direct Membership Bye-Laws, necessitated by the above change, were routinely passed.
Arrangements for the next two Council Meetings were set as follows:
2024 Finance Council Meeting to be held by Zoom on 27/04/2024,
2024 Annual General Meeting to be held face-to-face in London, with access also by Zoom, on 26/10/2024.
Reports and papers to note can be found on the ECF website at https://www.englishchess.org.uk/about/ecf-council-and-board/.