Northern Counties Chess Union
A constituent unit of the English Chess Federation
ECF Finance Council Meeting, 22nd April 2023
held by Zoom
This is a personal report by the webmaster, who attended as delegate of the Doncaster Congress. Organisations’ representatives may well update their membership separately (and differently!). The NCCU President and delegate to the meeting, Tim Wall, was in attendance for a while but left as he had a Yorkshire League match starting an hour after the start of this meeting.
Thirty-two persons eligible to vote at the ECF Finance Meeting were in attendance at least part of the time, along with Andrew Walker as non-voting co-host (with Michael Farthing) of the Zoom meeting. Also present for the time given to the embedded BCF (yes, it still exists) AGM, as a non-voting guest to talk about the John Robinson Youth Chess Trust, was John Higgs. Those eligible to vote and the bodies they represented, or held a proxy for, can be seen on the Council Database. Click on a column heading to sort on that criterion. Only a minority attend meetings. Those attending, as shown on Zoom, noting those representing Northern organisations, are listed at the end.
For most players the main point of interest arising from an ECF Finance Council Meeting is the question of what membership fees will be for the following season. On this occasion the answer is
no change in membership fees for 2023-24,
but guesses were supplied of probable increases the Board will request for 2024-25
(assuming the system remained the same,).
However, the Board plans to look at possible changes to the membership system, and even if the present system is retained, fees for 2024-25 are likely to go up slightly unless Board proposals at the 2024 Finance Meeting are rejected by Council. More on that comes later.
It is clear that the Finance Committee (a monitoring body) and the Finance Director have been acting constructively and co-operatively, and the Finance Director’s Report was “well received”.
However, it was again the case that accounts (for 2021-22 this time) had not been audited. Audited accounts were in fact received by the Finance Director from the auditor shortly before the meeting but were added to the ECF website too late for many to notice. Though there were slight changes, none were seemingly significant. Attempts are to be made to furnish audited accounts prior to future finance meetings. The Finance Director commented that having a ”day job” limits the time he has for such things, but he would nevertheless try to speed things up. (To be fair, the traditional detailed Excel workbook submitted to Council is a major chunk of work, apart from everything else.)
The only part of the (unaudited) 2021-22 accounts, as presented in the Excel workbook, to be queried significantly was the higher expenditure than budgeted for the International Directorate: £164,101.38 spend against a budget of £90,000 (£74, 101.38 overspend), particularly on the 2022 Olympiad. This was explained away as being mainly attributable to higher cost of air fares resulting from the change in venue of the 2022 Olympiad from Russia to India. Air fares were questioned as adequately explaining the overspend on the Olympiad but the International Director was no longer in the meeting to elaborate, having gone to another, more important meeting. Appearance money was once again mentioned, presumably on the basis that this cost might have increased significantly.
Accountants will recognise that the introduction of “rolling membership” raises the concept of accrual accounting by which, for instance, 12 months’ membership taken out on the 1st of December would be distributed between two financial years: 75% to the current FY ending 31st August, and 25% to the next. The feasibility of accrual accounting is to be considered for the future.
Back to alternative Individual ECF Membership systems, the Board had asked Council to come up with suggestions as to the best two alternatives for the Board to explore. A paper “Thoughts on Membership System Options” had been put forward including 5 goals or objectives and 5 options as regards what the system might be in future.
In some respects, the meeting became somewhat disorganised during discussion of this topic.
Part way though, those privy to Board dealings said the main reason (although it was fifth in the list) why the Board was looking to change the system was to increase the amount of FIDE-rated chess in England, as English FIDE ratings are supposedly less accurate that those abroad and that adults in England are dragged down by losing to juniors. The logic of all this is not crystal clear, but maybe there are more FIDE-rated juniors than adults in England.
It was argued that changing the membership system would do nothing to increase FIDE-rated chess in England. Indeed, it was suggested an obstacle greater than players needing ECF Gold Membership was the greater difficulty a FIDE-rated event presented for the organisers, something the writer can confirm from experience on the organiser front. New organisers, especially, need to learn to walk before they try to run or fly.
There was some recognition that some changes could result in some players’ being asked to pay more than they could afford.
Two alternatives to the present system being put to the Board as most viable to consider, if the wished, are the single fee option and the silver/gold combination. This is not a recommendation by Council that either alternative is necessarily preferable to the status quo. (A naturally occurring silver-gold alloy, sometimes with traces of some other metals, is called Electrum, so maybe ECF Electrum Membership is on the cards.)