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23/04/2023

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.  Other organisations’ representatives may well update their membership separately (and differently!).

 

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 represent, 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.

 

It is disappointing that so many local leagues and congresses choose not to become Member Organisations, which is free if they submit at least a handful of results for ECF rating which they all do.

 

It was also disappointing, as a matter of principle, that as an ECF Bronze Member I was not canvassed by the Bronze Member Reps beforehand.  Reportedly, Platinum and Silver members were canvasses by Reps one way or another, but it seems Gold members were not canvassed by their reps.  Of course, canvassing those one represents usually yields a pitifully low number of responses, meaning the conclusions have little statistical reliability.  The truth is probably that most players, even those holding ECF Membership, are little concerned about the ECF affairs, rating being the only real concern of the majority.

 

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).

 

 

 

 

 

Actual

’23‑24

Guess

’24‑25

Individual ECF Membership

Platinum

 

 

75.00

75.00

Platinum

 

Junior

75.00

75.00

Gold

 

 

39.00

40.00

Gold

 

Junior

19.50

20.00

Silver

 

 

27.00

28.00

Silver

 

Junior

6.00

7.00

Bronze

 

 

18.00

20.00

Bronze

 

Junior

6.00

7.00

Supporter

 

 

10.00

10.00

Organisation ECF Membership

(unless a very modest minimum number

64.00

not

given

 

of results are submitted for rating)

Pay to Play in rated congress per

person without an exempting level

of ECF Individual Membership

FIDE‑rated (& ECF‑rated)

 

 

12.00

ECF-rated  (only)

 

 

9.00

ECF-rated (only)

 

Junior

2.50

Game Fee in ECF‑rated league per

person without an exempting level

of ECF Individual Membership

(if more than 3 games)

 

 

 

18.00

 

 

Junior

6.00

 

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 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.

 

Recourse to the details in the Excel workbook shows the Olympiad expenditure was £69,532.83 against a budget of £43,000 (£26,532.83 overspend).  Unmentioned at the meeting was the fact that the European Senior Team Championships and World Senior Teams had £15,016.16 and £30,262.50 spent on them respectively without there being any provision for them in the budget.  The unbudgeted Seniors’ spends plus the Olympiad overspend total £71,811.49, nearly equalling the £74,101.38 Directorate overspend.  There was actually more unbudgeted spend of £8,266.90 largely covered by an underspend of £6,027.01 on European Team Championship Cost.  Some might feel the specific unbudgeted item “International - Other Tournaments Cost” of £6,550.00 perhaps needs explaining, but, broadly, the International Directorate has to respond to things which arise beyond its control or ability to prophesy, so, within context, the International Directorate seems to have responded well.  Appearance money is probably what some people want to know about but that is usually kept as private as possible it seems.

 

The ”context” mentioned is that the total 2021-22 budget was to overspend by £57,297, but the (unaudited) actual overspend was only £24,157.68.

 

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.

 

Votes were taken, initially as “hand” votes (voting for more than one option allowed), on the following as feasible options for the Board to consider (not a recommendation thereof):

1 No change,

2 Move to a single membership fee,

3 Combine Bronze and Silver membership fee (an addition to the Board’s 5),

4 Combine Silver and Gold membership fee,

5. Return to old game fee system (or variant),

6. Move to a fee per event system.

 

Return to Game Fee was dismissed 1:17.

Move to Fee per Event was dismissed 0:21.

No change was supported 18:3.

Move to single membership fee was supported 11:4.

Combining Bronze and Silver was dismissed 7:11 per webmaster’s records, though this seemed later to be taken as having been 11:7.  (See later.)

Combining Silver and Gold was supported 11:9.

 

Time was spent on pondering the question of whether the Board wanted two alternatives to the first-listed option “No Change”, or two alternatives which might or might not include “No change”.  It was argued that “No change” was not something to be explored as it already existed.  It was decided two alternatives to “No change” were required.

 

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.

 

Does the average player want a FIDE rating?  Has Joe public been asked?  There are different types of chess-player as regards the type of chess they wish to play, which the present system recognises, so why seek to favour primarily one?

 

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.

 

Support for a single membership fee was tied by one speaker to the idea that juniors typically paid much more for various activities other than chess and so paying more for ECF Membership fees was not a problem.  However, not all chess-players are juniors with affluent parents.  During the embedded BCF meeting a trustee of a charitable trust described how money was dispensed to fund participation, both in individual and in team events, of juniors who would not otherwise be able to afford to participate.  Other speakers recognised that there were many in a much weaker financial situations than those attending the meeting.

 

The writer’s neighbours on one side have jettisoned their dog and their car, and seemingly even the cat has gone.  A former Sheffield Junior Chess Champion (now 70) and his wife are currently facing problems financing their London home.  The “It’s only 50p per month” argument does not work in all cases as that is actually £26 all at once which an increasing number cannot afford, though equally they probably don’t have time to play organised chess anyway.

 

Reviewing the voting, it was decided the two “metal” combinations had relatively close levels of support, so a second vote, this time a “card” vote was taken on the two.  By this time voters were down to about 24.  A number of people could found they could not access the database (see below).  Voting on the Bronze/Silver combination was 7:11 (tallying with the writer’s 7:13 record of the first count), and on the Silver/Gold combination it was now 7:10 - as far as I could tell.

 

Clearly, there were significant numbers of abstentions throughout.

 

Whatever the actual voting figures, the two alternatives to the present system being put to the Board as most viable to consider are the single fee option and the silver/gold combination.  (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.)

 

Reading between the lines, it seemed to be the view that most alternatives to the present system are relatively minor tinkering around the edges or total non-starters, and that the best alternative for the Board to consider (as it has asked for suggestions) is the single fee idea.  However, a straight vote on the system actually preferred by delegates (as opposed to suggestions as to what the board might explore as alternatives to the present system) would probably favour retention of the present system.

 

 

Before the Meeting

 

Voting at ECF Council Meetings is largely by “hand” votes, with one vote per individual, or by “card” votes, with delegates holding numbers of votes varying according to the rights of the organisation(s) etc they represent.  As “card” votes are now conducted at Zoom meetings via an ECF Council Database, notices of this meeting had warned of the need to check ability to access the database.  This I did on April 20th.

 

Firstly, I noticed a message of 30th March advising of a data corruption leading to loss of some changes since September 2022, including many passwords, meaning users might need to use the “Forgotten Password” option at login to generate a new password.  Secondly, a message of 20th April apologised for the database having been “down” for two days due to a power interruption corrupting the server's main disk, which had now been replaced with re-instatement of data from a back-up, though things were still being tested.  I tried access using my previous password, but it failed (not surprising).  I got a new password via “Forgotten Password” but the new password failed too - but maybe it needed time to filter through the works.  Come the day of the meeting, a further test the new password still failed (so there had evidently still been a gremlin in the works).  However, a second new password obtained via “Forgotten Password” worked immediately.  So, well done Michael Farthing for getting problems resolved.

 

 

Attenders

 

Adam Ashton

 

 

Alan Atkinson

 

 

Alex Holowczak

 

 

Andrew Wainwright

Yorkshire, Ilkley Chess Centre

 

Andrew Walker

 

 

Brian Valentine

 

 

Chris Cook

 

 

Chris Holt

 

 

David Eustace

 

 

David Gilbert

 

 

Gareth Ellis

Lancashire, Merseyside etc

 

Gerry Walsh

 

 

John Higgs

 

 

John Reyes

Gr. Manchester etc

 

John Upham

 

 

John Wickham

 

 

Malcolm Pein

 

 

Michael Farthing

Lancaster, Morecambe & DC League (proxy)

 

Neil Cooper

 

 

Nick Faulks

 

 

Nigel Towers

 

 

Nikki Forster

 

 

Patrick Ridley

Cheshire & North Wales

 

Paul Cooksey

 

 

Peter Farr

 

 

Rob Willmoth

 

 

Robert Stern

 

 

Roger Lancaster

 

 

Satish Gaekwad

 

 

Shoreh Bayat

 

 

Stephen Woodhouse

 

 

Steve Mann

Doncaster Congress

 

Stewart Reuben

 

 

Tim Wall *

Northumberland, Durham etc

 

 

* NCCU president Tim Wall was playing in a Woodhouse Cup match that day, he was present for only a short time.