Friday, 15 June 2007

Australian Championship(?)

The murmurs of the future of the Australian Championship are getting louder. As of this time it appears that no one has placed a bid for the 2007-08 Championship, and given that it is only 6 months before it is supposed to begin, I would be surprised if a substantial bid is submitted.
As one of the organisers of the 2006-07 Australian Open, I for one, am not surprised by the state of affairs. But more importantly, neither should the ACF be, based on the circumstances of the Australian Open bid. And here's why.

The ACF generally will only accept bids from State Chess Associations. They even have a roster of states who have first refusal on a tournament, although this has rarely been followed in practice. There was an expectation that the ACT Chess Association would put in a bid for the 2006-7 Australian Open, an expectation heightened by the fact that the ACT Junior Chess League was going to bid for the 2007 Australian Junior. The ACTJCL even invited the ACTCA President along to their meetings where the bid was discussed in the hope of organising a combined side by side bid. But the ACTCA failed to do anything towards bidding and the ACTJCL submitted a bid for their events only.
The deadline for Australian Open bids was the 31st October 2005, and I suspect there was a belief in the ACF that the ACTCA would come through at the last minute. Certainly there did not appear to be any effort from the ACF to solicit bids from other sources. However on the 31st October 2005 I received a phone call from Jey Hoole, who was both the Secretary of the ACTCA, and of the ACF. He informed me at a hastily convened ACTCA meeting earlier that evening, they had decided that "they were incapable of organising such an event", and decided that the only people who could do it were myself or Stephen Mugford.
After much begging from Jey, and much invective from me concerning the adequacy of both the ACTCA and the ACF, I said I would talk to Stephen and consider it.
Now there is more to the story than just that, but I can tell that another time. Instead I would simply point out that the ACF has been struggling for a while to attract event organisers and that more than anything State Associations (and not just the ACTCA) have been failing them. And to add a wry observation from Stephen Mugford ...

"Hope is not a method"


Libby said...

Just one correction ...

ACTJCL needed to submit a bid via the ACTCA to the ACF - as we are not able to bid directly. This was accomplished by copying the documents to the ACTCA although not getting any feedback on them.

It was NEVER my intention - as the primary organiser of the junior events - to engage in any joint bid. Indeed, had ACTJCL wanted to do that it would have been without me.

There are many benefits to running joint events but it seemed to me the primary benefit was likely to be an opportunity for one organisation to "piggy back" on to the work of another and of one person in particular.

"Sharing resources/responsibilities" can be code for "we'll take the money raised by junior participants, leave you to get things organised and try to remember to thank you at the end."

ACTJCL is a junior chess organisation. Our people, parents & players volunteered to do everything for this event. And our interest was in running an event where we could focus on the needs of junior players with respect to scheduling, venues, prize structures and "extras." In recent times - without ever suggesting our event was perfect - we felt some or all of those points had been compromised in jointly run events.

Oddly enough, we managed to make a profit. Now maybe that looks easy with record entries but anyone who looks back to our original bid will know we were set to break even with 60 less participants and without a cent of sponsorship. By having modest, understated estimates of the anticipated income and being generous with our expected expenses we were able to provide further returns to participants rather than create a windfall for anyone's bank account.

Maybe if people started 18 months out (with planning), made their estimates realistic (rather than overstated) and avoided real or in-kind sponsorship arrangements that were contingent on meeting "best-case" conditions - they'd find it's not so hard to put together an event that can gain in momentum.

It isn't rocket science but then maybe that's the problem (with chessplayers). Too much rocket science, not enough common sense.

Shaun Press said...

"combined" wasn't the right word, so I have amended it to "side by side". I believe it was the intention that while the management (and finances) of both tournaments would be completely separate, the two events could possibly utilise the same resources (ie venue/publicity)

Anonymous said...

Over the ditch, the kiwis have the next two events mapped out for Auckland (2008) and Queenstown (2009). In Australia we have awarded the Juniors to Sydney (2008) but maybe we should not allow the junior championships to be awarded until after the adult championship has been awarded, otherwise it precludes a joint bid with the benefits of venue-sharing etc.


Anonymous said...

Combining venues is fine as long as the adults are prepared to compromise and have a venue that is junior friendly. I've been to two combined events. Sydney 1996 and Brisbane 2006. Both were the pits as far as junior friendly goes. The kids had no-where to go after the round and spent their time travelling up and down in the lifts and going feral on the stairs.

The other problem is the adults give very little respect to junior competitors and thus are quite happy to walk into playing halls talking loudly, or stand in the doorways doing the same.

In Sydney they actually sat at the back of the hall playing games and talking loudly, while critical games were happening.

I'm not saying it couldn't be done, with intelligence and goodwill on both sides, but as both of these seem to be in short supply in the chess world I don't hold out that much hope.

I agree with Libby's view that the needs and aims of the juniors are different to the adults.

I can't see why the adults aren't addressing what is going wrong with the organising of flagship events, rather than papering over the cracks by combining with the juniors.

Brian has shown it is still possible to hold large quality adult events....