Rules and disputes committee

Last update 11/09/18, Francis Best

Complaint by Joe Watson, secretary of Ludlow Chess Club on 30th August 2018

Email From: Joe Watson [mailto:joewatso1@gmail.com] Sent: 30 August 2018 17:43
To: Francis Best <francis.best@gmx.com>; Matthew Clark <mdhc@shrewsbury.org.uk>
Subject: Complaint by Ludlow Chess Club 

Gentlemen 

I regret to inform you that league controller Nat has poached a Ludlow registered player, Nick Arkell for Newport for the current season. He turned down my request to take back this action, hence this complaint. 

Nick emailed me through his brother Keith on 18 May 2018 to say: 

“hi Joe, we play together otherwise it’s very difficult for Keith to get all the different venues. I just play for fun so I am very happy to return to your team. I think the league will be more balanced as well.“ 

Keith copied this email to Nick, and on 18 May I confirmed to Nat that Nick was a Ludlow player for 2018/2019. Nat replied immediately to say: 

“Yep I’m aware Joe, I’ve been in touch with both Arkells. Adding them definitely makes you the favourites now, massive favourites, but we will give it our best shot.“ 

In the meantime Nick expressed concern that he wouldn’t make many home matches for Ludlow as his main club, Halesowen, also play on Tuesday. We therefore changed our club night to Thursday, principally to accommodate him. 

We had no more contact with Nat until the fixtures appeared on the Shropshire website. Seeing Nick Arkell registered for Newport without contact with us was a considerable shock as you can imagine, throwing our plans for the new season into disarray. We feel the action Nat took in silently poaching our player is grossly inappropriate for a league controller, who should manage the league for all clubs, not take sly action to make sure his own club has a much improved chance of taking the title again. 

What makes all this particularly galling is that Nat did a similar thing last season, pinching both Arkells from us for 2017/2018, again when they had committed to us, and again without telling us. We complained last year, but Nat was not reprimanded on that occasion and clearly feels he can do it all again with impunity. 

This leaves us feeling steamrollered yet again, and we have no faith in Nat carrying out his duties as controller impartially. 

Nick is overworked and stressed. I have not tried to phone him or put him under any pressure, because Keith thinks he may walk away from chess altogether. Had I spoken to him instead of Nat, I am certain he would be a Ludlow player now. However I am not going to talk to him on this issue, and I think it’s a shame that Nat contacted him at all in these circumstances. Nat said to me last year that he was aware of Nicks problems. 

We will be discussing this further at our club meeting tonight, and would be grateful for a swift investigation as our first match looms. 

Yours: Joe Watson 

Response of Rules and Disputes Sub-Committee to Complaint by Joe Watson 

6 th September 2018

Dear Joe 

I am writing to set out the formal response of the Rules and Disputes sub – Committee to your complaint sent to Matthew Clark and me by email on 30 th August 2018. As you know, the panel to consider your complaint comprised Matthew Clark, Toby Neal, Glyn Pugh and me. The panel met on 6th September and considered the following evidence: 

a) Your written complaint
b) Nathanael Paul’s written response to your complaint .
c) An email dated 4th September 2018 from Keith Arkell, in response to the panel’s request for clarification regarding your complaint .
d) A written note of my telephone conversation with Nick Arkell on 4th September 2018 , in which we discussed the circumstances surrounding your complaint .
e) A copy of an email from Nick Arkell to you dated 6 th August 2018 

Our findings in respect of your allegations are as follows: 

1. “That league controller Nat has poached a Ludlow registered player, Nick Arkell for Newport for the current season.”

In general, it was the panel’s view that individual players are free agents, who make their own decisions as to which clubs they represent . They should be able to play for any club they wish, and they should be able to leave that club at any time they wish and for any reason whatsoever. Although issues of club loyalty, commitment, and obligation arise, these matters are entirely for the players and the clubs themselves.

Leaving aside this general point for a moment, the implication of your complaint is that Nat was the principal agent responsible for Nick’s change of club. Nat’s statement contradicts this: “ I was then contacted out of the blue from Nick stating that he’s unsure whether he will in fact play for Ludlow because they play on Tuesday evenings, so clash with his main team Halesowen. Nick then contacted me again stating that he’s now seriously considering remaining with Newport. I said that if that’s the case then great, but if he decides that then he must let Joe know . I did not contact Nick first it was the complete reverse, so for Joe to suggest that I in fact poached Nick off Ludlow, and in some way manipulated and hounded him into joining Newport, is clearly completely untrue. ” (Evidence ref (b))

Nat’s version of events was corroborated by Nick himself in our telephone conversation (Evidence ref ( d)). “Nick explained that he then went along with Keith’s next action, which was to correspond with Joe about switching back to Ludlow. Nick wasn’t quite sure who initiated this exchange. However, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with it. It was essentially agreed between Keith and Joe, and Nick went along with it initially. When he saw the fixtures and the potential clash with Halesowen fixtures, he realised it wasn’t going to work, emailed Joe to say that he wasn’t going to switch because of the club night clashes and that was the end of the matter as far as Nick was concerned. ” The text of th e email from Nick to you (Evidence ref (e)) was, in the panel’s opinion , unambiguous and unequivocal , when Nick wrote, “I think I am best to carry on playing for Nat in his team because home night doesn’t clash…Sorry to send this Joe but its best said now rather than as the season starts . ” 

Furthermore, Nick stated that “ any reply after this was ignored, not in an ignorant way but because I didn’t want any to and fro . . . ” As far as Nick was concerned, his decision was final and entirely his.

2. “ We feel the action Nat took in silently poaching our player is grossly inappropriate for a league controller, who should manage the league for all clubs, not take sly action to make sure his own club has a much improved chance of taking the title again.”

” Your use of the term “poach” raises the question of whether the league controller’s conduct in the matter fell so far short of that which is expected of his office that he should be reprimanded or removed from his position. In other words, did the league controller , Nat Paul , abuse his position by “poaching” a player and acting in an unscrupulous manner.

As already covered in point 1, it is the panel’s view that the decision to change clubs was entirely Nick’s . Technically, of course, Nick had played for Newport the previous season, so wasn’t changing clubs, although Nat recognised that , initially, Nick had intended to play for Ludlow . Subsequently, Nat explained to Nick that he should inform you, which Nick did (email, Evidence ref (e)). It is clear that you subsequently sought to change Nick’s mind and continued correspondence through Keith , making the assumption that Nick was on board too. However, Nick’s decision was final , a fact he would have clarified at once to you, as he did to me, had you spoken to him directly.

3. “ What makes all this particularly galling is that Nat did a similar thing last season, pinching both Arkells from us for 2017/2018, again when they had committed to us, and again without telling us. We complained last year, but Nat was not reprimanded on that occasion and clearly feels he can do it all again with impunity.”

First of all, it is not clear to the Panel how you made a complaint on this point last year. Had you raised the matter with me or the General Secretary at the time, it would certainly have been considered along similar lines to this current complaint.

I discussed this point with Nick in our telephone conversation. Although last year it is fair to say that the initial approach was made by Nat, Nick responded to Nat’s request principally for his own reasons : “Keith, as a professional chess player, needs to make money out of most of his chess and only played for Ludlow when he happened to be in the Midlands, stopping at Nick’s house and relying on Nick for transport. Nick lives in Tenbury, would spend the day at work, have to drive back home to pick up Keith, then drive to Ludlow, play the chess, make the journey back and, by the time this was over, Nick was driving 3 – 4 hours round trip whenever they played for Ludlow. Also, Nick had to balance running his business, family life and supporting his children’s activities. Geographically, Newport was much more convenient for Nick, than Ludlow and this is largely what motivated Nick’s change to Newport. ” (Evidence item (d)) .

As stated in point 1, players are their own free agents. Probably every club (certainly all those represented on the Panel) has experienced the benefit of players joining them from other clubs and the disappointment of players leaving their club to join others. Nick stated that in no way was Nat’s approach persistent or pressuring but Nick made his own decision for the reasons set out in the paragraph above. 

Conclusion

The Panel’s decision was unanimous that the complaint should not be upheld, for the reasons and on the basis of the evidence set out above.

I realise this will be a disappointment to you . However, we have tried very hard to investigate this matter thoroughly, as I hope is clear to you , and believe that the evidence points us very clearly to this conclusion.

You have mentioned to me that Ludlow is considering withdrawing from the League, should you not receive a satisfactory response to your complaint. Of course, that is a decision for you to make , although I would urge you to reconsider that view. In the final reckoning, we are a group of like – minded amateurs , trying to facilitate friendly, albeit competitive, chess playing across the County and we would all continue to do our best to embrace Ludlow in that context.

Yours sincerely,

Francis Best

President, Shropshire Chess Association

cc Matthew Clark, Toby Neal, Glyn Pugh, Nathanael Paul