The Finance Council meeting is just six days away as I write, and it feels like the right moment to draw breath and take stock.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the ECF is concentrating exclusively on its future funding options right now, but – believe it or not – there are other things going on! Here are a few of the items from my “To Do” list:
Disciplinary Code / Code of Ethics - The recent case of a junior player at a weekend congress caught using computer assistance, along with the well-publicised events surrounding some members of the French team at the 2010 Olympiad, has highlighted the need for clarity over the ECF’s powers and the sanctions applicable for cheating and other offences. The plan is to draft a Code of Ethics for presentation to the AGM in October.
Charitable Status - I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it’s going to be a major task, affecting the organisation of the ECF and, inevitably, the way that it’s funded. The intention is to identify all of the ECF’s activities which would fit the definition of “charitable” and create an organisation which would be devoted to these. The remainder – at first glance, likely to be International Chess and the British Championships – will be undertaken by a non-charitable organisation, such as the ECF is now. Both organisations will need adequate governance and funding arrangements.
VAT review - Independently of the charitable status issue, it has been suggested that the ECF would benefit from an expert review of its VAT situation. There is a potential candidate to undertake such a review, and I hope to be kicking this off shortly.
IT systems review - Now that we have a new Manager of ICT in place, the time is right for a review of our somewhat basic and dated systems with a view to introducing greater automation if we can, particularly in the area of membership administration.
Game Fee administration - The procedures now in place for calculating the amount of game fee due from congresses are looking promising. My next target is to look more closely at the procedures in respect of leagues. Currently, I’m not satisfied that the checks within the ECF of the amounts due and the amounts paid are robust enough.
Proposals for long-term development of English chess - This is an item from the 2011-12 Business Plan. It’s all too easy to become lost in the challenges of the moment, such as funding, and forget the goal of the ECF to develop chess in this country. I haven’t given this enough attention to date, and I want this to change. Obvious places to start: Women’s chess and Junior Chess & Coaching.
Improving the “shop window” – The website and, to a lesser extent, the Chess Moves newsletter, are vital demonstrations of what the ECF can offer by way of valuable and interesting information. I have a number of ideas for enhancing these, which I hope to implement in the coming months.
New funding arrangements - There’s no denying that implementing whatever Council agrees in April is not going to be a trivial task. It will require work on a number of fronts if the changes are to be introduced smoothly and successfully. Even Option 2 is not simply routine: people will need to be persuaded of the benefit of continuing to support the ECF at the new, higher price. Splits in the Federation cannot be afforded.
There are moments when I wonder just how much time all of this is going to take and shudder… This is probably true of all jobs, although self-motivation can be trickier when the job in question is voluntary, I suspect. For my part, I tend to keep myself going by indulging in a non-critical, but “fun” activity, like my articles for Chess Moves. I have plans for a special ChEx Bookshelf article on one of my chess heroes, Viktor Korchnoi, in the May/June issue, and writing that will be sheer pleasure.
Nevertheless, there is a huge amount to do. This leads me to a simple plea:
I’m six months into my stint as Chief Executive and I am no closer to finding an Alternate or a Strategic Planning Officer. In both cases (or they might be the same person), I would want to work with the individual to deliver the programme of tasks set out above. I’d like to think that this would be an attractive and interesting challenge for the right person or persons; it would certainly make the likelihood of delivering everything and doing it well greater if I could fill the positions.
If there is someone out there who has read this post and is intrigued and/or excited (as opposed to bored and/or horrified!) and would be interested in helping, please do get in touch.