I hope this finds you well as we continue in these unusual times with little certainty as to when traditional club over-the-board (OTB) chess might be able to resume. ECF and SCCU business has been continuing, albeit by email and virtual meetings. For example, its nearly 6 months since the ECF Board met in person.
Despite the ECF’s Articles of Association stipulating that a Finance Council Meeting shall be held in April each year, the decision was taken that this was impractical, and parliament has since passed legislation to give companies some leeway where they have such Articles. However, the Finance Council meeting is going to take place as a virtual meeting this coming Saturday (18th July). The agenda and other papers for this meeting can be found here. The meeting will be almost exclusively concerned with financial matters. (The only exception, other than things like Minutes of the last meeting, being a very minor change to Regulation No. 2 reflecting that responsibility for the safeguarding policy has been transferred from the Director of Junior Chess to the Chairman.)
The management accounts being presented to Council suggest that the ECF has actually done rather well during the current (2019 / 20) financial year. A budgeted loss of around £12.5k is now predicted to disappear, with the ECF achieving break even over the year to 31st August 2020. This reflects the fact that whilst the bulk of membership income was received before covid-19 struck, expenditure since then has been curtailed. As well as events having to be cancelled or postponed, the ECF office was closed down, with staff being furloughed under the Government’s financial support scheme. However, going forward to the 2020 / 21 financial year, the position is very uncertain. The ECF anticipates that with the suspension of OTB chess, a number of current members may not renew their membership in 2020 / 21. The Director of Membership has put forward various scenarios for levels of renewal and a budget has been put together assuming a baseline level of anticipated membership income. The Board is also proposing that the previously proposed increases in membership rates for 2020 / 21 be set aside, and the rates remain the same as for 2019 / 20, save for the Supporter Category, where an increase from £5 to £10 is proposed. The budget envisages a small profit over the year of around £7k, but reserves will still be well short of the longterm goal of £100k following significant losses of the past couple of years. Council is being asked to approve this budget, but also to agree that the Board has the freedom to amend it over the coming months as circumstances become clearer. On your behalf, I propose to vote in favour of this, but any contrarian views are invited.
The situation regarding the ECF office is worthy of note. You may recall that around 3 years ago the ECF took over increased office space which enabled the Chess Library, that had been in storage for a couple of years, to be accommodated as well as the office staff. Negotiations have recently taken place with a university to house the library, negating the need for the increased space. This has coincided with a break clause option in the tenancy agreement which has been activated. This requires the ECF now to vacate the office by 1st November this year. A final decision has yet to be taken over whether a smaller office will be sought, or whether the staff (which is being reduced from 3 to 2) will be asked to work from home after coming off furlough.
Regarding ECF membership for 2020 / 21, I appreciate that many people have experienced serious financial hardship as a result of covid-19 and that any discretionary expenditure over the coming months will need to be critically considered. However, wherever possible I hope we can all encourage our local members to renew in order to keep the ECF ticking over and give some certainty to the activities that can be undertaken.
Council is also being asked to adopt the draft accounts for the previous financial year, up to 31st August 2019. These show a loss of £64.9k, this being £14.5k higher than budgeted. This is largely due to reduced entry fee income from the British Championships and increased costs in the Junior Directorate, as addressed in the Finance Director’s report.
Draft accounts have also been published for the BCF and for Chess Centre Ltd. These are being shown to the ECF Council for information. No BCF Council meeting is taking place at this time.
The SCCU held a virtual AGM last Saturday. There is great uncertainty regarding the ability to resume regular competitions, and very mixed feelings over whether or not it would be appropriate for the Union to run online events, not least for want of people to organise them. Any definite proposals will be put to the Executive Committee as and when they arise. In recognition of this reduced activity, a proposal from the Treasurer for much reduced affiliation and entry fees for the coming year was accepted. These will be reduced as follows:
2019 / 20 2020 / 21
County Affiliation Fee £50 £5
Non-County Member Affiliation Fee £25* £5
County Championship Entry Fee (per team) £20 £5
U14 / U130 League Entry Fee (per team) £35* £5
* £20 if paid by 1st December
All existing Union Officers were re-elected to their same posts. This included the President who will serve for a 3rd year, contrary to the tradition of a change every 2 years. Chris Bernard from Kent was elected to the vacant post of Secretary. The post of Deputy President remains unfilled.
Finally, as a personal note, I have previously announced my intention to relinquish my roles as Sussex Delegate to the SCCU and the ECF this autumn. So far I am unaware of any volunteers to take on these roles. (They need not necessarily be done by the same person.) It remains my intention to step down following the ECF AGM due in October, at which time my tenure as an ECF Director will also cease. I’m still hoping someone will come forward, otherwise Sussex will be unrepresented at regional and national levels.