FIDE has very little to do with a huge majority of chess activity in the world today, and this represents a huge failure of the current administration and a huge opportunity for the next one. For most federations, FIDE today is more of a burden than an asset thanks to additional bureaucracy that provides few services and the fees paid to FIDE. As the Kasparov campaign has said from the beginning, this is backward; FIDE must support the federations, not take from them.
Commercial sponsorship that will flow to a new and professional FIDE will fund initiatives and development programs for the federations. Sponsors will be attracted not only to Garry Kasparov’s reputation and the professional team he brings with him. The other key factor in reversing the flow is for federations and FIDE to benefit from all of the chess activity that is currently ignored, online, over the board, and in schools.
“Don’t give us money or fees!” Kasparov says to the federations. “Give us activity, events, players and names to show sponsors how big chess really is! It doesn’t matter if your federation is big or small or from a nation that is rich or poor. If you are active my FIDE administration will support you because you will be helping us get more sponsors.”
Today everyone knows that “people are the product” for sponsors and many big companies. Facebook and Google are free to use; they want information to sell more and better advertising. When every chess game, everywhere, and every player, everywhere, is rated and listed and part of a vast social network it becomes a very attractive product for sponsors and advertisers.
Title sponsorship based on massively increasing the number of registered players via the federations and online is a key element of the new business model for FIDE. The Ilyumzhinov model is based on taking money from the federations and players. There are several reasons for this.
- Ilyumzhinov’s FIDE is incapable and unwilling to obtain commercial sponsorship due to a terrible reputation and a lack of transparency. With no consistent sponsorship FIDE uses its power to take money from the federations.
- Ilyumzhinov wants the federations to be poor because poor federations are easier for FIDE to control. Ilyumzhinov and his Continental leaders have years of experience in using illegal forgiveness of federation debts to FIDE and other monetary enticements for political purposes. In the past 19 years, dozens of national federations have gone bankrupt, required bail-outs, or become inactive due to lack of funds.
If the federations were financially stable and independent, Ilyumzhinov’s team would not be able to make these shady deals every four years. The federations would not have to beg for events and airplane tickets in exchange for their votes.
- Even large federations in relatively rich countries like Spain are not immune, as the current scandal there illustrates. The Spanish federation has a large debt to FIDE, so in a tight election Ilyumzhinov offers to sponsor an event there and to cancel the debt in exchange for the vote. This sort of transaction takes place in dozens of places every four years. Similarly, FIDE training events and tournaments are handed out for political capital to reward loyalty and are withheld to punish political opponents.
- Ilyumzhinov and his group need money and depend on FIDE to provide it. The myths of Ilyumzhinov’s personal wealth and that he supports FIDE ended long ago. He no longer has access to the Kalmykian treasury and he seeks to personally profit from his FIDE powers. If Ilyumzhinov is so wealthy, why sign a secret deal with Agon that would pay him and his FIDE executives? Why spend over 200,000 euros of FIDE funds for his personal travel expenses in one year alone? Ilyumzhinov and his officials take from FIDE and FIDE takes from the federations.
The solution? Eliminate federation fees to FIDE. Bring commercial sponsorship that will allow FIDE to support the federations. Provide guidance to the federations to develop local and regional partnerships and sponsorship. This is what Team Kasparov will do.
An important New In Chess article by Nigel Short explodes these and many other Ilyumzhinov myths, documenting the corruption and abuses that are still taking place.
- “The public exposure of a secret, signed agreement with Agon, in which Kirsan awarded himself 51% of the commercial rights to FIDE events, puts the onus firmly on him to explain how and why he is not guilty of robbing the organisation over which he presides.”
- “Kirsan even claimed expenses for attending FIDE meetings.”
- “Brazenly uses the FIDE website to vigorously promote his own re-election.”
- “Instructing FIDE staff to collect nominations.”
- “The long Kirsan reign has been characterised by overt favouritism. Typically arbiting jobs – even wild card qualification to FIDE tournaments – are all doled out disproportionately to Kirsan loyalists.”
- “Invincibility is another cornerstone of the Kirsan myth. Almost no one – and I mean that quite literally – votes for Kirsan because they think he is any good. They vote for him either because they have been offered something or they think he is going to win. Or both. The moment enough people start to doubt his invincibility, he is finished.”
- “After 19 years in office, the morally bankrupt Kirsan regime has shown that it will stop at nothing to remain in power.”
You can download the entire Short Stories column here.