Friday, 9 November 2007

ECF: One Member, One Vote?

Peter Sowray, international director of the English Chess Federation (ECF), has started a petition to change the way the federation is organised. Without further ado, click on the following link:

The wording of the petition is "We, the undersigned, call upon the English Chess Federation to adopt a more democratic approach. Specifically, we believe that 'One Member, One Vote' should be introduced for major decisions, including the election of board members and the setting of the Annual Budget."

At the moment the ECF has a federal structure, composed of affiliated organisations which have votes. This was probably quite a reasonable set-up in its day, 100+ years ago, but it is increasingly evident that the ECF's wheels just don't turn fast enough for the chess world as it stands in the 21st century. The pace of change is agonisingly slow, and over the years a number of dynamic people who might have been useful in the organisation of chess have been put off by its in-built conservatism. Note, this is not a criticism of any of the people involved, just the structure of the organisation.

Please read Peter's petition and the reasons behind it. I haven't the time today to do a full-blown blog on this but I find Peter's case admirably clear and sensible. I was havering about whether to sign myself, given that I am a 'foreigner' (a member of the Welsh Chess Union). But I live in England and am directly affected by decisions made by the federation in my work, so felt constrained (after the gentlest arm-twisting from Peter!) to append my name. What do blog readers think?


  1. I'd need a lot more information before being able to say anything constructive either way. Bear in mind though that this would presumably mean postal ballots, which are expensive and attract low turnouts. And I'm not sure how you'd operate it where the Annual Budget is concerned: would one choose from a variety of proposals?

    One note of caution: dynamism is good, but it is not exclusively good...

  2. At the risk of being considered part of "Nitpickers Anonymous" (see Peter Sowray's website) I have to ask whether the survey that says 5.7% take part in chess is reliable given that the next column suggests that 0.4% watch it on TV. We are either not talking UK here or the survey dates from 10 years ago or more.

  3. I'm all for democracy but shall hold back from signing the petition until I know more.

    As EJH mentions, there is the question of how voting would be implemented... Maybe electronic voting is possible (my employer uses a system run by the Electoral Reform Society for the election of staff representative to its employee consultative forum).

    I don't see how OMOV, with votes exercised annually, would increase dynamism.

    Do other national chess organisations have OMOV. If yes, what are their experiences?

    Would the ECF cease to be a federation and need to chnage its name again?

    Angus French.

  4. The argument Peter puts forward on his site just doesn't stack up. What/where are all these initiatives which are being held up by the sclerotic nature of the ECF? Yes, we all want the same things: more chess activity, more sponsorship, more international success for our top players, more chess on TV and so on, yet the latest ECF meeting finished in record time, so it would seem to be a shortage of ideas to achieve these things that is the problem, rather than the dead hand of federal democracy.

    Mike Gunn.

  5. Also, if it's one member, one vote, what is a member?

    Is it a member of the ECF? Or is it also a member of a Membership Organisation? If the former then the Membership Organisations won't be well represented and if the latter then the counties or unions which are MOs would, collectively, dominate due to the size of their memberships.

    Angus French.

  6. It's pretty clear, by deduction, that OMOV means 'membership of ECF'; hence, direct individual membership of ECF is the corollary. Since I support both, in principle anyway, I'm named on the petition. But there's some further thinking to do yet, not least on an OMOV on the annual budget. That's frankly preposterous.


  7. There's no doubting the sincerity and integrity of a great many of the names on Peter's petition ... and Peter, himself, is one of the most admired of all the ECF officers ... but, really, there needs to be a little more detail on just what would comprise his so-called "major decisions".
    Peter puts his finger on the same problem by pointing to the satire of the union officials who argue for hours before calling a mass card-vote on whether to have coffee or tea at the start of their meeting.
    As example of something as silly, but closer to home: The choice of wallpaper for the ECF Office is quite important to the folk who work there, but would a OMOV be called for it? [argumentum ab absurdo].
    My second misgiving is, of course, how much it is going to cost the membership for all of these 'OMOV jobs' on some matter or other which many of us would not consider sufficiently "major" [argumentum ab inconvenienti].
    So, let's have a specific list of exactly which decisions would be classed as "major decisions" ... then we could all indulge our urge for 'greater democracy'[abusus non tollit usum].

  8. Dear John & others,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments ... I appreciate it.

    I've tried to answer some of the points raised on my own blog, specifically why OMOV would make a difference and how it might work in practice.

    I do not envisage a costly postal voting process. We can do these things via the internet.

    The marketing information is from 2005/06.

    There are loads of initiatives that the ECF could undertake ... I fear they are just not going to happen as things stand. Take one example ... there is the possibility of running a prestigious international event on the back of the 2012 Olympics. But it would require many more people to be actively involved with the Federation than is currently the case. And a much more commercial approach.

    Best regards,


  9. I am from India. Here in India also real democratic value are supressed in all the National Sports Federations. Real players who actually play the game are denied to express their views in the organisation. Its in Hockey, Chess and other sports. It also exist in Cricket but Criceters are now very well paid after players formed a forum to express thier views.