FIDE introduces player licenses... and then retracts them
Due to the Tata Steel chess tournament the news escaped our attention at first, but now it's definitely on our radar: the introduction of "player licences" by FIDE. At the end of January this was announced by the World Chess Federation, and it was subsequently criticized by many national federations. Earlier this week, in a very brief email distributed by FIDE, the plan was retracted. At least for the moment.
The FIDE Presidential Board mid-January in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia | Photo courtesy of FIDE
The article on the FIDE website is still there. On January 25th, Ignatius Leong, Chairman of the Qualification Commission and FIDE General Secretary, informed the world of the approval by the Presidential Board of the new Regulations on Registration & Licensing of Players. The PB had a meeting in Tsakhkadzor, Armenia from the 18th till the 21st of January and this is what was agreed upon:
REGULATIONS ON REGISTRATION & LICENSING OF PLAYERS
Approved by 2013 Presidential Board
These measures led to a huge storm of protest – just Google "FIDE player licence" and you'll see the dozens of discussions at websites and forums. And indeed, there are several issues that could lead to problematic situations.
It would have been necessary for every player who wishes to participate in a FIDE rated event to first register with their national federation and send their passport number. There are the obvious questions about privacy, and probably many national federations would not have the manpower and equipment to keep such sensitive information while following national and international regulations about storing this sort of data.
It is likely that a big number of players would simply not agree to the new rules and stop playing FIDE rated tournaments. As was mentioned at the ChessPublishing forum,
If you get other FIDE officials making it both more expensive and more bureaucratic for events to be rated and for new players to take part, that seems likely to have the opposite effect, namely to discourage players from taking part and organisers from running them.
The other issue with the new system is that Federations can 'delist' players ie remove their license to play. At the 2012 Congress the FIDE Ethics Commission rules that while NCFs can sanction players belonging to their own federations, they cannot extend these sanctions to prevent players from playing in other countries. But under this new system, a Federation can apply a financial disincentive on such players, by removing their players license, and forcing any organiser who accepts their entry to pay an extra 50 euro penalty. A kind of 'end-run' around the Ethics Commission.
Bill Goichberg, USCF executive board member and organizer of the majority of the large USA tournaments with FIDE rated sections, has made it clear that he's not going to cooperate with FIDE (taken from ChessChat; unfortunately we could not find the original):
Continental Chess will not participate in the FIDE registration/licensing process, and does not plan to hold FIDE rated tournaments which begin after June 30. The idea that we have to register players for FIDE before the first round is ludicrous, and would probably cause that round to start very late. We also are not going to do the work of contacting advance entries to try to register them for FIDE online.
The leader of the "opposition movement" seems to be Herman Hamers, FIDE delegate of the Dutch Chess Federation. He sent the following letter to the Presidential Board.
Dear Board Members,
On 25 January 2013 all national chess federations received an email from FIDE in which Regulations on Registration & Licensing of Players were announced. These Regulations were proposed by the Qualification Commission (although not all members of the QC had knowledge of this proposal) and had been approved by the Presidential Board.
These regulations imply that each NCF should register his players with FIDE by providing information such as the player’s name, gender, place and year of birth, photo, passport number, FIDE ID number (if any). This system should be effective from 1 July 2013. There were penalties announced for organizers who allowed non-licensed players to compete in FIDE-rated tournaments.
In 2011 in Krakow a proposal to introduce a license system for players including a license fee was removed from the agenda after objections by the Chess Federation of the Netherlands. In 2012 in Istanbul a proposal of this kind was not included in the agenda of the General Assembly.
It is highly peculiar, to say the least, that the PB takes such a wide-ranging decision now, without consulting the EB or the GA of FIDE.
The proposed regulations are bureaucratic, expansive and impracticable for the national federations and for FIDE. Indeed, FIDE is at this moment implementing a license system for arbiters, who should have received a license card before this year. It is now February and no-one has seen such a card yet. If FIDE is not equipped to distribute cards to a relatively small group of arbiters in due time, how will it distribute cards to tens of tousands of players? But this is only a practical quibble compared to our real objection.
The proposed regulations for players are not only bureaucratic, but the system is also an intrusion into the private sphere of players. Something we oppose wholeheartedly. Furthermore, these regulations have been passed by the PB without giving a thought to what it would entail for national federations. For, the introduction of such a licensing system would require national federations to hire extra staff, and this in a time in which many federations are faced with diminishing revenues and budget cuts due to the economic crisis.
The federations that support this letter reject the decision of the Presidential Board to introduce the proposed license system for players. These federations will not cooperate in the introduction of such a system and will not send FIDE the requested information mentioned in the decision of January 2013.
The federations, supporting this letter, urge the PB to withdraw its decision concerning the license system of players on short notice.
FIDE Delegate KNSB
Retraction by FIDE
On Monday, February 11th we received the following, very brief email from FIDE, sent from their Elista office:
The licensing of the players has been cancelled. The new documents about registration will be presented in due course.
According to a report on the website of the Dutch Chess Federation, the "opposition movement" has grown to no less than 24 chess federations, including Russia, Ukraine, France, Spain and Hungary. This might have been the reason behind FIDE's email of last Monday. (We've contacted FIDE but haven't been able to reach them yet. We'll try to add their comment as soon as possible.)
Jeroen Bosch, Sports Director at the federation, mentions that with these player licences, for instance the games of the Dutch league could not be FIDE rated anymore as excessive administrative work would be required. Another interesting point he makes is that the decision about the licences should not have been made by the Presidential Board in the first place, but by the General Assembly.
This story probably needs to end with another "to be continued..."
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