Fixtures Secretary’s Report

 

24th May 2010

 

The season got off to a rather difficult start due to an unusually large number of changes to team entries.  On the positive side, we were pleased to welcome an entirely new club in the form of Bexhill College.  An additional team was entered by each of Brighton & Hove, Horsham and Woodpushers, while Lewes restored their entry to 3 teams.  After their difficulties last season, the Aldrington House team re-formed under the new name of Clarendon Bumbles and rejoined the League, but unfortunately they again ran into problems supporting away matches and withdrew mid-season.  On the debit side, Crawley Chess Club closed down, while East Grinstead and St Francis & Haywards Heath each reduced their entries from 3 teams to 2.  In the case of East Grinstead, this change, which was to withdraw their highest entered team, was only notified after the fixtures list had been drawn up and circulated.  Finally, Eastbourne 1, who won Division 2 last season, exercised their option under the Rules to decline promotion to Division 1.  These changes resulted in significant alterations to the standard “2 up / 2 down” promotions and relegations.

 

Further problems were encountered as the season progressed.  Periods of severe weather both before and after Christmas led to a number of matches being re-arranged at short notice.  These changes were deemed to fall within the meaning of “exceptional circumstances” in Rule 2.6, as was one instance of a team setting out for an away fixture but experiencing a car breakdown en-route.  However, a number of other matches were also called off at short notice due to shortage of players or lack of transport.  In some cases the defaulting team was willing to forfeit the match as a 5 – 0 victory to their opponents.  In others, a change of date was requested.  This finally resulted in a formal complaint from one club who felt they had been significantly disadvantaged by this request.

 

It may be that we (and that might strictly be the “royal we”) have been remiss in recent seasons in not taking action in similar circumstances.  However, when presented with a formal complaint the Committee had to review the situation and the diktats of the League Rules.  It was concluded that shortage of players or lack of transport could not be considered “exceptional circumstances”, particularly towards the end of the season when the fixtures had been known about for several months.  Consequently, Rule 6.2 for “seriously defaulting teams” had to be applied and a 1 match point penalty imposed on teams defaulting in this way.  Furthermore, League Rules preclude matches being defaulted on all boards, so any such match had to be re-arranged for a later date suitable to the non-defaulting team.

 

Despite these difficulties, we did finally complete all fixtures except for some matches involving Clarendon Bumbles.

 

I shall not report on results on I’m sure Don will cover that in his Match Recorder’s Report shortly.

 

It has become apparent that a number of teams have experienced difficulties in fulfilling their away match commitments.  This may have involved players unwilling to travel or having time problems due to work commitments.  Alternatively, lack of drivers seems to have been a problem, perhaps aggravated by an aging membership with players no longer driving or, at least, not comfortable driving longer distances after dark.  I suspect some of these aspects may come up later when the proposals for Rule changes are discussed, particularly on whether or not the Rules for Nominated Players have an undue impact.  I do not wish to pre-empt that discussion but would like to make a few observations from my perspective of needing to draw up, and then monitor, the fixtures programme.

 

With regard to nominated players, my presumption has always been that the objective is to ensure, with a certain amount of flexibility, that clubs entering more than 1 team are indeed entering distinctly separate teams.  Another point of view is that we should do all we can to encourage as many entries, and as much chess playing, as we can and that rigid nominations rules can hinder this, particularly towards the end of the season.  It’s noteworthy that since the Agenda for this AGM was published, contributions to the website Forum from both extremes, in terms of number of team entries, have urged caution in imposing too rigid a set of rules.  Without taking sides in this debate, from my responsibilities I would urge the membership to be clear on just what the objective is of these Rules and whether or not they currently achieve that objective adequately.

 

Turning to problems getting a sufficient number of players to away matches, I think there will always be inherent problems for a League such as ours covering quite a wide area and playing on weekday evenings.  Despite the Mid-Sussex title, our Rules stipulate that entry is open to any club in Sussex.  While I do not seek to argue either for or against such a drastic change, an alternative would be playing on weekend afternoons.  While that might better suit some players, I suspect many others would not be in favour.  Clashes with County matches and other well established chess events would be another problem.  Assuming, therefore, that such a drastic change would not be welcome, the issue of getting teams out to away matches on weekday evenings in mid-winter will remain.  While understanding the problems some teams have, and that the existing Rules can appear rather onerous on defaulters, I would point out that with a typical division made up of 10 teams, no team is called upon to play more than 4 or 5 away matches other a period of 5 months.  This does not seem an unreasonable commitment to expect teams wishing to play in the League being able to fulfil, particularly as these fixtures will have been known about for between 2 weeks and 6 months.

 

I’m sure the Fixtures Secretary will always find a way of accommodating whatever Rules are in place. What I do ask, however, is that the Membership make clear decisions on the Rules they wish to have and appreciate the implications of those Rules being followed.

 

Julie Denning

Fixtures Secretary.