Friday, May 25, 2012

The Great Chessboxing Swindle: within the next six months

Remember this?

Following Tim Woolgar's claim that his chessboxing circus was "on course for official recognition by Sport England within the next six months" I emailed Sport England and discovered that in fact Sport England had received no application for recognition from chessboxing at all. This was not wholly consistent with what Mr Woolgar had said. Though, come to think of it, what is?

In the minutes of the ECF AGM held the day after that blog post, we read:
TW stated that Sport England had been approached but that it was a time-consuming process.
I'm sure it was. I'm sure it is. Though the same gentleman making this observation had, when applying for the Marketing Director post, said that the amount of time likely to be consumed was to be measured at six months.

Shortly after that meeting, with their memories still fresh, a couple of attendees offered their own recollections of Mr Woolgar's explanations. One stated:
The Marketing Director [presumably actually the candidate for that post at the time of speaking - pedantic ejh] responded that he had preliminary discussions with Sport England and was informed that it was necessary to have two years' certified accounts. Chess Boxing did not have this, but he felt the effort was justified, and will complete the requirement this year.
Another added:
To be precise, he said that he first spoke to Sport England 2 years ago, and they explained the process which he has been following and recognition will follow in 6 months.
I am not sure quite what that means, but I am sure what "within the next six months" means, to use the phrase Mr Woolgar chose to use. It means "within the next six months".

Those six months now having expired - actually, having expired some time back - I looked up Sport England's list of recognised sports confidently expecting to see Chessboxing taking its place between Caving and Chinese Martial Arts, with Mr Woolgar's organisation identifed as the governing body. Yet, remarkably, it was not so.

Quelle surprise. Well, I thought I ought to check, so once again I emailed Richard Clarkson at Sport England.

From: Justin Horton
Sent: 21 May 2012 11:45
Subject: Chessboxing applications

Dear Richard

Sorry to bother you. About eight months ago I wrote to you and asked whether Sport England had received any recognition applications in respect of chessboxing. You were kind enough to reply and inform me that you had not. I am now writing to you again to find out whether that remains the case, or whether any such applications have since been received.


Justin Horton

Huesca province, Spain

Mr Clarkson was kind enough to reply promptly. His reply said exactly what you think his reply said, but for the record, here it is:

From: From: Richard Clarkson (
To: Justin Horton
Sent: 21 May 2012 12:03
Subject: RE: Chessboxing applications

Dear Justin

Thank you for your email. I can confirm that we've not received any applications to date.


Of course. It was never going to be anything other than that. The whole thing is an absolute nonsense. It was a nonsense from the start.

Now I have to say that personally I don't give a monkey's, in principle, whether or not Mr Woolgar and his freak show make a futile* application for recognition from Sport England. They can make one to the United Nations for all I care. It's an entirely trivial matter. Except that Mr Woolgar has a liking for making claims that don't stand up, even in the most trivial matters. It is almost as though it were a habit.

Besides, it was Mr Woolgar who chose to make the claim and to make something of it. He has only himself to blame when it turns out to be, like so many of his claims, a load of old rubbish.

But I don't give a monkey's about the application per se. I do give a monkey's when people persistently say things that we cannot believe, especially when such persons are nevertheless given house room and more by the chess community. I've written here and elsewhere on this subject and will no doubt do so again (and again) but to cut a long blog post short, English chess seems generally incapable of recognising a wrong 'un. Especially when there's any thought that the wrong 'un might promote, or put money into, chess. (Also see de Mooi, CJ and any number of others.)

Because Tim Woolgar is obviously a wrong 'un. He is not a person in whose statements one can put any trust. We would do well to do better. We would find it hard not to do better. In Mr Woolgar's case, rather than appoint him, rather than promote him and his freak show, we would do better by doing nothing at all.

He's ringmaster and clown in his own circus, and welcome to it. But his association with chess is neither to our benefit nor our credit. The chess columnists who promote him, not to mention the people who approached and nominated him for an ECF post, do not, in the end, promote chess by doing so. All they do is to add to, and reinforce, the all-pervasive spivviness of English chess.

[* Sport England rejected the recognition of chess in September 2008, making it hard to see why they would recognise chessboxing instead]

[Thanks to Angus French]
[Chessboxing index]


Anonymous said...

It's quite a clever reply, saying that the process of recognition takes six months. It avoids answering whether there's any possibility of recognition in the first place. With hindsight, this was another issue alongside legal action against FIDE and financing the Sheffield British where the questioning at the ECF's October AGM could, even should, have been more searching.

David R said...

In fairness, I imagine chess-boxing might stand more of a chance than chess itself in gaining recognition because of its aerobic content. Of course, the same argument holds for chess-pole-vaulting; chess-triple-jump; and chess-marathon.

Martin Smith said...

During the week I couldn't help but notice a flyposting calling allcomers to witness "Accordion Boxing" somewhere in the East End.
I now realise what a sheltered life I've been leading.