"Rules Governing ICU Membership and Participation in TournamentsPat Fitzsimons
With effect from the 1st of February the following rules will apply to all tournaments (other than international team tournaments held under the auspices of the ICU, such as The Glorney Gilbert International) held in Ireland which are ICU rated:Essentially, despite the ICU Executive's two well-known attack dogs blithely claiming tht the ICU was merely implementing existing policy, this was an attempt to make tournament organisers cough up membership fees for players resident outside Ireland (and for "Ireland" read "Republic of Ireland"). Previously players from outside the island of Ireland had never been required to become ICU members if competing in ICU-rated tournaments. The position with regard to Ulster Chess Union players is admittedly more complex and I'll come back to it later.
All participants in such tournaments, irrespective of their nationality or native chess federation, must be fully subscribed members of the ICU.
No person can be accepted as a participant in any tournament governed by these rules unless he/she fulfils the above condition.
The responsibility rests with the organisers of the tournaments in question to ensure that these rules are fully implemented.
Where a person wishes to become a member of the ICU in order to participate in a tournament or event, the organisers should facilitate the collection of the requisite fee prior to the commencement of the tournament or event through the use of the ICU online subscription form.
Where a player who is not a member of the ICU participates in a tournament governed by these rules, the tournament or event organisers will be liable.
The ICU reserves the right to take action in cases where it perceives that the organisers of a tournament have been negligent in applying these rules or have been persistent offenders in this regard. Such action may include refusal to rate the tournament as a whole, withdrawal of grants to the organisers in question, and any other action which the ICU deems appropriate."
However, to return to the general point, it does seem extraordinary that the ICU would change membership rules in the middle of the season and particularly without any consultation with tournament organisers. It may also have been in breach of Article 5.2 its own Constitution. The suspicion is that the ICU saw how many non-ICU players were entering Bunratty, Ireland's biggest Congress, and decided it would like to get a bigger cut of the money flowing into the Congress coffers.
Well, Bunratty was having none of it: this appeared on its website
"Due to some uncertainty regarding the recent posting by Pat Fitzsimons on the ICU web regarding ICU membership and entry into chess tournaments I have set out below the position regarding the upcoming Bunratty Chess festival.
We have a contract with players who have entered the event, these are set out in our Terms and Conditions and are binding on all players; http://www.bunrattychess.com/terms.php.
We also have a contract with the ICU in their Bye-laws for Membership of the Irish Chess Union http://www.icu.ie/icu/membership_byelaws particularly paragraph 10.
Therefore we will run Bunratty 2015 as we have run the event since 1994 namely:
- Foreign based players including those of the Ulster Chess Union will be exempt of ICU membership as per the aforementioned Paragraph 10.
- First time players and those with no rating will not be required to have ICU membership.
We will assist the ICU Membership Officer in these matters as we have done in the past.
- Established players resident in the Republic of Ireland will be subject to our aforementioned Terms and Conditions.
Signed, Ted Jennings FA
On behalf of the Bunratty Chess Festival Committee."Rumour was that Bunratty was heading up a number of major Irish Congresses who were making it plain that they wanted this new edict withdrawn - and were just as happy as the ICU to play hard-ball. The ICU quickly had a re-think; this announcement went up on its website on 1st February, the day the amended Membership Rules were intended to kick in:
"Since announcing the decision to strictly apply the above policy with effect from 1 February 2015, a number of concerns about its operational impact have been expressed to the ICU Executive by tournament organisers. Having regard to these concerns, the Executive has decided to:
- defer the implementation of the decision; and
- establish a working group representative of the ICU Executive and tournament organisers to examine all of the issues involved and to report back to the ICU Executive with recommendations/options for the implementation of the policy.
The terms of reference and the membership of the working group will be posted on the website in due course."Now to return to how this affects Northern Ireland players. In 2005 the Ulster Chess Union left the ICU. When that happened, attempts by the UCU to forge a new relationship with the ICU got nowhere. The UCU Constitution was changed so that it became a Northern Ireland-only body. Also, despite expressing its regret at the UCU move, within months of the split the ICU Constitution was altered significantly: Article 2 had read:
"GENERAL POWERS AND AUTHORITY OF THE UNION
2.1. As the Union is affiliated to and officially recognised by the International Chess Federation (F.I.D.E.) it shall have the sole power and authority to confirm the entry of all individual Irish players and teams invited to tournaments or events directly sponsored by that body and shall have the right to confirm the entry of any Irish player or team invited to compete in an International tournament or event as a result of F.I.D.E. membership. It shall also have all necessary powers to enable it to act as the supreme authority in Irish Chess (including the power to award national chess titles and other titles connected with Irish Chess and to recommend to F.I.D.E. the award of F.I.D.E. titles) provided however that in the exercise of such powers it shall have due regard to the powers and duties existing at the date of adoption of this constitution of:
(a) The Leinster Chess Union, the Ulster Chess Union, the Munster Chess Union and the Connacht Chess Union in their own functional areas.
(b) The Irish Correspondence Chess Association.
(c) The Braille Chess Association of Ireland.
(d) Any club or other organisation involved in Irish Chess.
2.2. The Union shall also have the power to bestow honorary offices in or honorary membership of the Union for Life or otherwise on any person whether such person is a fully paid-up member of the Union or not."This was changed to:
"2. The Union is the governing body of chess in Ireland, and is affiliated to the World Chess Federation (FIDE) and the European Chess Union. In this capacity it has the sole responsibility to nominate individual players and teams to represent Ireland in international chess tournaments or events organised under the auspices of these bodies."Article 4 had read:
4.1. Individual membership of the Union shall be open to all persons who agree to be bound by the provisions of this Constitution (which shall be deemed to include any amended version which may be duly passed in accordance with rule 15) and who comply with the bye-laws of the union. In addition the Leinster Chess Union, the Ulster Chess Union, the Munster Chess Union, the Connacht Chess Union, and such other bodies or organisations connected with chess in Ireland as the Executive Committee of the Union may from time to time decide to admit to membership, shall on payment of their affiliation fees as prescribed by the bye-laws mentioned in rule 4.2. be members of the Union and shall be entitled to send two voting delegates to every general meeting of the Union.
4.2. The fees and subscriptions to be paid for such membership, the subscription years, the affiliation regulations for affiliated bodies and the venues for general meetings of the Union shall be regulated by bye-laws entitled "Bye-laws for Membership of the Irish Chess Union". Notwithstanding the powers of the Executive Committee in relation to bye-laws generally the said bye-laws shall only be made repealed or amended by the Committee after 8 weeks notice of the intention to make or repeal the same and the text of any intended amendments have first been given to members of the Union."A new Article 4 was inserted in relation to a Code of Good Conduct for Children and the old Article 4 was replaced by new Articles 5 and 6:
5.1 Membership of the union shall be open to all persons who agree to be bound by the provisions of this constitution and who comply with its bye laws.
5.2 The fees and subscriptions to be paid for membership shall be determined by the Executive annually in advance of the Annual General Meeting and shall be reported to that meeting in the Treasurer’s Report.
PROVINCIAL CHESS UNIONS
6. The Union recognises the special role played by provincial chess unions in helping it to promote the sport. These bodies are affiilated to the Union and have a right of representation on its Executive and to send two delegates each to General Meetings of the Union. The Union may recognise other bodies or organisations connected with chess in Ireland as affiliates."In relation to Provincial Chess Unions, at this page on the ICU website, it is explained that Bye-laws for affiliation are "rules for bodies such as the Connaught, Leinster and Munster Chess Unions." ]
So, post 2005, it is clear that in its formal documents that the ICU has removed any reference to the Ulster Chess Union. Also the ICU has not made any attempt to organise in Northern Ireland. The one place where a different approach is taken is at the heart of this recent dispute - Article 10 of the ICU's Bye-laws for Membership of the Irish Chess Union:
"Foreign players whose ordinary residence is outside the island of Ireland shall not be subject to payment of any fee or subscription to the ICU for participating in Irish tournaments (other than the Irish Chess Championships), upon production of proof that they are affiliated to another national body which is a member of FIDE."When the UCU left in 2005 it was with the intention of becoming a member Federation of the world governing body, FIDE. However, with amendments made to FIDE Rules, this became an impossibility and the UCU will have to accept that, despite England, Scotland and Wales all having separate membership of FIDE, this will not be extended to Northern Ireland.
It may well be that Bunratty and other Congresses in Ireland will push to retain the status quo since 2005 of not requiring Northern Ireland players to be ICU members and that they get their way. However, if the outcome of the negotiations between the ICU and tournament organisers results in a membership fee being payable by "foreign" players, Northern Ireland competitors would just have to accept it.
However, at the moment, my understanding is that the ICU proposal is that "foreign" players would pay a reduced 20 euro fee, whereas UCU players would be required to pay the full 35 euro fee. So, while this membership issue is being addressed by the ICU, it may be a good time to re-examine the precise nature of the 2005 split and finally to establish a sensible working relationship between the ICU and the UCU.
It seems to me that such a relationship must accept that the ICU and UCU are separate bodies but that they would mutually recognise that members of one body would be eligible (without any additional fee) to compete in competitions in the other jurisdiction. [In view of the lower membership fees in the UCU, it would probably be necessary to restrict UCU membership to those born or resident in Northern Ireland].
I would also suggest that, as proposed by it in 2005, the UCU accepts the right of the ICU to organise various "all-Ireland Championships" - the advantage to the ICU would be that if these events were to be held in Northern Ireland, the financial responsibility would be borne by the UCU.
There is a small window of opportunity here - I reckon it would be a good idea for the UCU Executive to take action as soon as possible on this.