Following on from last year’s interviews with the candidates for ECF President, we are once again delighted to be able to bring you interviews with both the contenders for this year’s role.
Roger Edwards is the current ECF President having been voted into the role last year. He is a self-described “Jack-of-all-trades”, being a well known player, arbiter, organiser and now ECF President. If you want to find out more about Roger, please read our interview we conducted with him last year. This year we ask him about how the last year has gone and why the ECF Council should vote him in for another year at the helm.
Q: How have you found the role of ECF President? Has it been hard work? Have you enjoyed it?
As a result of the “toothless tiger” motion passed at last years AGM, I have had to work more as an Ambassador. This meant that to a certain extent the job has been easier than originally anticipated, with a lot more just turning up, showing my “pretty” face and presenting a few trophies/prizes. It has been a bit disappointing that I couldn’t do much real work in the role of President but overall it has been an enjoyable experience. This is not to say that I have had an easy year but all the other work I do at club/league/national level I was doing long before I became President, and that has continued as before.
Q: Was the 100th British Championships as big an event as you would have liked?
This is a difficult question to answer. I would answer both yes and no depending on which hat I was wearing at the time. As President I would have to answer no, I would have liked it to have been bigger. But it was huge success and an excellent showcase for the ECF. As Congress Secretary of the British Championships, having to deal with 1201 entries (as compared to the previous record of 1010), I felt that I would have liked it to be somewhat smaller. It was the equivalent of dealing with 8 or 10 weekend congresses at the same time.
Q: What have you achieved in your first year as ECF President that you are proud of?
I think the real achievement during my year as President is that there has been a lot less strife and turmoil than in previous years. There is still some around but not as much as before. I have a feeling that the reputation of the ECF is not quite as bad as it was a year or two ago. I do admit that it is not as good as it could be, or even should be, but I feel that the downward slide has been halted and that has taken hard work which I, and other members of the Management Board, can be proud of. I am also very proud of what I achieved at the British, but that was more due to my role as Congress Secretary rather than my role as President, so maybe doesn’t count.
Q: What did you not achieve that you would like to have done?
There are still officials at all levels who need to be taught or reminded of the use of tact and diplomacy when dealing with the normal chessplayer. I would like to have seen a lot more common sense approach applied to decision making in the ECF rather than the dictatorial method used by some. A start has been made, but not as much as I would have liked. There are still too many officials who are there for the good of their own egos rather than for the good of chess. This is a problem for all organisations, not just chess. When you have to rely on volunteers you have to make do with the volunteers you get. Some need training or moulding but very little seems to be done on that front. Everybody just seems to be thrown in at the deep end. This has been brought home to me this year with various Directors having to be appointed and just being told to get on with it. I don’t know what I could have done about it or even if I could have done anything, but I feel I should have tried something. If anybody has any suggestions, they can pass them on to me through the usual channels.
Q: Last year you wanted to be “hands on” and work closely with the “grass roots”. Have you managed to do this?
I have always been “hands on” and working with the “grass roots” through my involvement with the British, 4NCL, various congresses and leagues that I am involved with. This year I have done even more with my Ambassadorial role. I have tried to “mingle” a lot more at the events just to get the grass roots views on various topics. I have also done several “simuls” to schoolchildren and have offered to do more in any part of the country but haven’t received any invitations yet. As I am only an average player (grade c150) I did have to put some restrictions on who played but nevertheless a good time was had by all and hopefully gained some new recruits in years to come.
Q: Have your thoughts on the ECF Membership Scheme changed since last year?
My thoughts on the Membership Scheme are the same as last year, the scheme is sound but over-complicated. I would rather have seen just 3 levels instead of 4 (bronze and silver being combined), but that is only a personal preference. What I don’t like about it is the enormous amount of administrative work it causes. Not only for the staff who operate it, but also for all congress organisers and league controllers who have to use it. As a “toothless tiger” who wasn’t allowed to change anything because the Scheme is so wonderful, I am tempted to ask “Why then did Council spend so much time debating exemptions?” at its last meeting. The dictatorial manner used by some administrators has also not endeared the Scheme to some people. So I still think the idea is fine but needs a lot more work on it.
Q: Are you happy with how the ECF Council currently operates? Would you like to see One Member One Vote?
Now there’s a leading question or two. People will probably think I am biased after last years AGM, but I am not happy with the method of Council votes. There are certain people who go round collecting proxy votes and can have a disproportionately large influence on any meeting and vote. My own preference would be that all proxies for non-attendees should be given to the Chairman or Company Secretary, along with voting instructions, so that there could be no accusations of vote-rigging. In the not so distant past I was much in favour of reducing Council’s influence and moving towards OMOV, but have lost a bit of enthusiasm recently. The turning point came when trying to use OMOV for the Player of the Year. I was surprised and dismayed by the number of silly/stupid/ridiculous entries that were submitted. Also, only 1% of those offered the vote actually did vote. So whilst I think that OMOV is a good idea in principle, there would need to be some tight controls on it. It would also have to used on topics that the ordinary member could raise some enthusiasm for. Operationally it might cause a few headaches as well. I think the final solution will have to be some sort of compromise between Council and OMOV, but turkeys voting for Christmas is the thought that comes to mind in trying to get agreement on that subject.
Q: Chess boomed in this country as a result of the Fischer – Spassky Reykjavik match which received so much exposure in the media. Would you consider ‘buying’ in a world champion to represent the England flag if it would bring that kind of exposure again?
Fischer-Spassky (before anybody asks, I am old enough to remember it) and to a lesser extent Short-Kasparov were one-offs which are unlikely to be repeated very frequently. I am told that Anand-Carlsson is generating a lot of interest in India, but doesn’t seem to be getting much exposure over here. The one thing that I think would increase media exposure is for chess (as a recognised IOC sport) to actually be part of an Olympics. That would also probably be the one thing that would push our government into recognizing chess a sport. No I wouldn’t be in favour of “buying” in a world champion. I would like to see more international tournaments taking place in this country and giving our home-grown players more chances of competing against top overseas players. If you start “buying-in” players, then I believe you will start going down the football route eventually leading to the degrading of standards in England, and Scotland and Wales and Ireland. Chess could go the same way, observe the top division of the 4ncl on some weekends. Every body has bought-in “stars” and home-grown talent is excluded. My own club is as much at fault as everybody else, because the “sponsors” want to see stars and success.
Q: Andrew Paulson is a much more recognisable name and face in worldwide chess than you. Is this a serious handicap to your campaign?
Andrew Paulson’s ultimate goal is to become President of Fide. For that he needs to be known internationally. I have no such aspirations therefore I don’t need to be so well known abroad. I was, and hopefully will be, elected to serve the players in this country. If any major international problem comes up, then there is an International Director and a FIDE Delegate to guide me in the right direction. It is the elector’s choice, do they want somebody who cares passionately about English Chess, or do they want somebody who cares about England’s place in world chess.
Q: You claim to have overseen a period of consolidation and aim to improve things by “evolution not revolution”. What are your specific aims for the upcoming year?
I think the best example I can use is the British Championships. In the 25 years I have been involved with them as an arbiter there have been numerous changes to make the event totally different now from when it was at Plymouth in my first year. These changes have taken place gradually over the years, nobody has ever said stop, scrap it and start again. There are various things, such as the Membership Scheme or the County Championships, that certain people seem to want to change everything. Whilst I would tend to agree that a lot of things need changing, the changes need to be gradual. There have been enough upheavals in recent years to last a while, so let us change/improve things gradually for the time being. There is likely to be a big upheaval in the coming year or two with the application and conversion for Charitable Status. One upheaval at a time is enough for anybody, so let us do everything else gradually.