Labour of Hercules?

As the debate over the funding of the 2011 British Championships rumbles on, the facts continue to dribble out gradually, one by one. On the Egregious Forum yesterday afternoon, there was some discussion of what was said at the ECF AGM last October, about the matter. The federation’s Director of Home Chess (and possibly its next CEO, if rumours are true…) “Odious” Adam Raoof, was quoted as having said something to the effect that “From the ECF’s point of view, a single payment was received from CJ and we do not know how much each event/ activity contributed to this”. I should emphasise that there is some uncertainty over exactly how accurate a recollection this is of what OAR actually said, but if he did say that, it sits rather curiously against another fascinating titbit of information, that has come my way today.

I have obtained details of an invoice dated 7 April 2011, from CJ de Mooi, addressed to the ECF office at Battle. The rubric reads blandly “British Championship Sponsorship Fund” and the  invoice is in the sum of £12,600. I would emphasise that this is an invoice from CJ, to the Egregious Federation. A covering note describes the amount concerned as being the whole of the Darwin sponsorship money £15,600 (being £13,000 plus VAT), less £3,000, which CJ says “the ECF is due… from me for the British Champs”. The covering note and invoice both ask for “immediate payment”, which, as far as I am aware, was made.

“Can you spare £15k for the British Championship, Mr Micawber?” (photo: victorianweb.org)

So, we have rather a curious situation. Odious Adam refers to the ECF receiving a single sum from CJ, whereas here we have CJ invoicing, and apparently receiving, a sum representing effectively the whole of the sponsorship money, from the ECF. How can we explain this?

Well, strictly speaking, I can’t, but I can shed some light. One source has told me that CJ had wanted the Darwin money paid directly to himself, but that Darwin insisted on transferring the money via the ECF account. That would explain the invoice referred to above.  Another source has said that CJ himself handled the payment of fees and expenses to the titled players, which would also explain why he demanded that the sponsorship money should come to him.

But what about the £3,00o deduction made from the invoice, apparently being an amount that CJ owed the ECF for the British Championship? My first thought was that this must be the money raised for the Championship at the 2010 Staunton Dinner. The trouble is that, as the Bedlam Brigade have pointed out, although the Dear Leader has provided a bewildering variety of different figures, for how much was raised for the British Championship at that event (£7,500, £7,000, £1,500…), as far as I can see, none of them is £3,000.  Perhaps it is a combination of £1,500 (perhaps) raised at the Staunton Dinner and another £1,500 raised from the Nigel Short 2010 charity simul tour? Indeed, on both 30 March 2011 and 23 May 2011, CJ did indeed confirm that the tour had raised £1,500 for the British Championship. So that must be the answer, mustn’t it? Er, no, I am afraid not. On 12 July 2011, he said that there was only £500 raised from the simul tour, “and I gave that to Women’s Chess instead” (once again, I am indebted to my good friends at Streatham & Brixton for this information).

“Even the little grey cells of Poirot, they are beginning to ache, mon ami!” (photo: en.wikipedia.com)

So, we are not much further forward. I have no doubt that it is all above board, and that CJ has put money into the event, but the chaos of the record-keeping sounds as though it would do credit to Harry Redknapp. In a previous blog post, I equated the sorting out of the Sheffield accounts with the fifth of the Labours of Hercules. The more one learns of this shambles, the more one feels that Hercules is indeed the man we need to get to the bottom of it. Hercules Poirot, that is. After all, it is “the affair most curious, n’est pas?”

POSTSCRIPT: 17.15pm, 3 Feb.

Yet another source (ah yes, Giddins has more sources than Woodstein!) has been in touch, and clarified an important point about CJ’s motivation for wanting to handle the sponsorship money himself. This source confirms that CJ was very anxious that the Darwin money be paid directly to himself, something which Darwin were unable to do, for various, obvious reasons. But CJ’s motivation was nothing to do with any desire to hide anything. The problem was that he had made promises to all the top GMs, regarding conditions, and wanted to ensure that the sponsorship money was spent only on the payment of those amounts. His big fear, apparently, was that the longer the money remained in the ECF’s clutches, the more chance there was that it would be nibbled at and spent on various other items, rather than going to the purpose for which it was intended, namely to secure the participation of the top GMs. This is an understandable fear, perhaps, although it does not say over-much about relations between CJ and the Congress Managers, even in those pre T-shirt days.

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