Whilst the termites on the Forum continue wittering on about trivia, and engaging in a sickening bout of self-congratulation over the CAS court case timeline, they ignore the emergence of a story which threatens to decimate the ECF altogether. This story, concerning a Muslim family's allegations of racism against the ECF, at the latest World Junior event in Austria, could easily blow up into the biggest thing to hit the ECF since the Brian Eley affair.
Admittedly, the allegations are pretty thin in some ways. Quite how it is racist of the ECF for the Austrian tournament organisers to have failed to provide halal food, for example, is beyond me. I also fail to see why it is racist of the rest of the English delegation to refuse to give up alcohol, just because the Muslim members disapprove. Surely tolerance goes both ways, doesn't it?
But these considerations are small beer (pun intended). In practice, if this story is picked up by an ambitious journo, with access to mainstream news media, it will be a simple matter to blow it up into something devastating for the ECF itself, and British chess more widely. Bolt on last year's post-Sheffield allegations of homophobia, and it will be child's play for any journalist to present a picture of English chess as run through with bigotry and prejudice. And, once that happens, any remote hopes of attracting commercial sponsorship to English chess will have been torpedoed, once and for all.
Just when you thought things could not get any worse!
PS. 17.00, 10/8/2012
The ability of the termites to get things arse about face really is breathtaking. Even before I wrote the above blog post, I had discussed with several friends the fact that the most worrying thing about this whole affair is the likelihood, if not virtual inevitability, that the ECF will screw up their response. And sure enough, the termites are already calling for this to happen!
Several of their number are already posting stuff on the Forum, saying such things as "we must have answers and quick!", and "a full and transparent enquiry is essential". This may sound reasonable, until one thinks about what they really mean. To the termites, this means that they, who are not officials of the Federation, and in some cases not even members, should be given all the facts. They mean that their forum, an unofficial collection of self-appointed trolls, which has no official status whatsoever in British chess, and with which the ECF chose to sever its official connection several years ago, should have all the facts. They mean that ECF officials should "come to this forum" (to use the termites' own favourite phrase) and account for their actions. They mean those officials should submit themselves to cross-examination from self-appointed inquisitors, such as CITC Horton, who will act as Prosecuting Council, jury and judge.
In reality, exactly the opposite is needed. The ECF should make absolutely no public comment whatsoever, except such official statements as are agreed with its legal advisers. No officials of the federation should be permitted to make any other public comment whatsoever on the matter (a comment has already been made by one Non-Exec, on the blog where the accusations appear. It is not clear if that is official or not). The very last thing the ECF needs, in such a delicate legal predicament, is loose-lipped directors, putting in their two-penn'orth on unofficial internet forums, and thereby providing further ammunition to the opponents. In this case, careless talk may not actually cost lives, but it can certainly cost a great deal of money, and could potentially wipe out the ECF altogether.
But will the ECF learn their lesson? Don't hold your breath.