EWGC2016

First off, let’s just point out that there is absolutely no Irish dimension to this story. If you were looking for Irish history you were close, but no cigar I’m afraid. No, this is a little account of some peculiar EGF nonsense.

This should essentially be a non item, but somehow its importance grew. On the surface the EWGC 2016, held in Anvers, Belgium, was an enjoyable and well managed tournament, loved by all its participants. Yet underneath this wry facade an administrative cock-up festered away, a cock-up which would go on to cause not one, but two separate appeals to be launched.

A championship should always have clearly defined rules. If it doesn’t, and something goes wrong, or simply goes in a direction which one or two people did not expect, then disputes are bound to start. So it was the case here, as Murphy looked on, that a dispute started. Between them, neither the hosts (Belgium and its referee WW,) nor the European Go Federation Executive Board (Exec) were able to manage this initial step of clearly defining the rules. What did they do wrong?

Well the Exec sent out an email partially explaining how the championship should be run. However, they omitted to say that their Official Rules had no Official Status, and they omitted to ascertain that their instructions were actually followed.

Meanwhile Belgium appointed a qualified referee (WW) to run the tournament, who didn’t publish his choice of rules online before the tournament, and they didn’t check that the rules they conceived matched the expectations of the Exec. WW chose rules which, at the level of tiebreakers, were compatible with the Official Rules, but he was unaware that they were un-official, and that his rules were incompatible with the unpublished expectations of the Exec. WW also made a mistake in seeking to apply SOS-2, SOS-1 and SOS as tiebreakers, since the Official Rules (which were not official) do not allow this. WW also made a mistake in the way he implemented direct comparison, although again this is going on the Official non official rules…

Now wait. We had better take a moment to clarify something here. What are these Official Rules which are not official?

  • The EGF website has a page called « Official » : http://eurogofed.org/egf/ on which you can find
  • EGF Tournament System Rules (New July 2007)
  • EGF 1997 Tournament Rules are now replaced by the above rules.
    but , despite replacing the 1997 rules, the 2007 Official Rules are actually not official. This has only become clear as a result of the second appeal. This is a piece of information that most people will not know.

The response to Appeal #2 states: « it is difficult to say how much it is ‘in force’. It was developed by former Rules and Rating Commission  as a guidance for ‘unexperienced’ tournament organisers and was immediately contradicted by ‘experienced’ tournament organisers » [...] At the end, it was accepted because General definitions parts are OK and Recommended parts (e.g. ‘Recommended Order of Equal Players or Tiebreakers’ [...] are just recommended and it is up to tournament directors and referees how to use them. »

We can mention in passing that today (6-June), the EWGC 2017 still advertises the European Tour Rules (which we can only assume use the above mentioned 2007 rules).

We should also mention in passing that it is true that many people did not like the Official rules which the AGM voted in, but unfortunately the wisdom of democracy voted them into place, and nobody made any subsequent effort to correct the rules.

Now that we have explained this, we can proceed a little to look at the timeline of events.

  • Tournament takes place 20-21 August 2016.
  • Appeal #1 is made on 22 August by MM.
  • End of September a request(s) is|are made to change the results, perhaps to WW perhaps to LA.
  • 5th of October an official request (by the Exec) is made to change the results – or perhaps we can better say that the results are officially changed.
  • 14th November the Rules Commission is notified of the request by a third party (well it was me).
  • 14th November an executive board member cannot give me a yes/no answer as to whether or not the results of the EWGC have been changed.
  • 15th November some participants learn of the change via an email from JH.
  • 15th November the Exec promises to make clear rules (tournament system rules) and better appeals procedures.
  • 23rd November EGF website is updated with the official results, no notifications are made to all parties.
  • 24th of November MM is notified of the result of the appeal #1 (her appeal).
  • 25th November the Appeals commission receive Appeal #2.
  • 25th November WW informs the board of his views.
  • Time unknown: Exec informs the Appeals commission that the Rules commission does not work properly, it is not known if the Rules commission was also informed of this.
  • 16 March 2017 Appeal #2 is completed, with the recommendation that the Exec create new rules and report them to the EGF AGM.
  • 16th March the Rules commission resigns.

 

The sequence of events should strike most of us as a little irregular. Let us ask ourselves what is supposed to happen in an appeal. Normally we have something like a dispute in 1 game. There, first you appeal to the referee, then to a tournament appeal committee which is appointed before the tournament, and then ultimately to the Rules Commission. Here, the subject matter is not about a game, but about the choice of tiebreakers. The complaint went to the referee then to the Exec. Now that is irregular. (EGF General Tournament Rules 7.1. « The arbitration procedure used to resolve disputes has three levels of operation: the referee, the appeals committee, and the EGF rules commission« ) There was nothing irregular about making a complaint, the referee supported the complaint to be made. The irregularity starts with who handled the complaint.

From what we can see, the Exec did not consult the Rules Commission, nor did they consult the Appeals Commission. Nor actually did they consult the referee or any of the other players involved in the tournament. They made a decision on their own to change the results. By the way, as we can see in the timeline, it is not clear if they all initially decided this together, but we have to assume that they did. What the Exec did was irregular and in fact unprecedented. I suppose one might, if one wanted to make trouble, query if the original appeal of MM was in fact a valid appeal at all as it was not submitted to the correct authority, but I can’t see any genuine merit in that kind of approach. This is only a diversion, and we have to admit that the Exec (and MM) were correct that mistakes had been made. In correcting them though, they (the Exec) adhered to past practice/traditional thinking, and not the Official Rules which we now know are un-official. It is important to note this, because of course normally when we make a decision, we use the official rules as a basis for that decision.

Once this decision to correct the results was made, it was communicated in a really irregular manner. The players, most of whom did not know an appeal had been made, were not informed about its decision. The player who made the appeal was not informed about its decision. We are not sure sure if WW or the Belgian Go Federation were informed about the appeal once it had been made. What happened instead was that nothing appeared to be disclosed openly until LA asked why the results were being changed. At that point some information was disclosed to a select group of players.

As a result of all this, Appeal #2 was submitted, this time to the Appeals Commission. This appeal asked 4 questions

  • Is it valid to change the results of the finished event in this case?
  • Was the correct process followed in making the change?
  • Has the correct change been made?
  • Whether it is correct not to publish in public the details of the change?

The findings of this Appeals Commission are interesting.

Considering article 3.4.2 of the Constitution, the founding and prevailing ruleset governing the EGF, stating that « The Executive Committee shall decide on all matters not otherwise reserved to another body of the EGF.[...]« , this gives the Executive Committee the authority to decide and act on the matter of the requested case, even if the specific action ‘change the results after a tournament’ is not mentioned in the regulations.

As the Executive Committee is the body specifically appointed to « define [...] sport policy » (article 3.4.1 of the Constitution), it is the maximum authority that can decide and rule on this matter directly or establishing a relevant Commission, and only the General meeting can surpass its decisions.

Given the current complicated status of the Tournament rules and Tournament system rules, the Appeals Committee urges an intervention of the Executive Committee to restore a shared and accepted ruleset governing tournaments and then give a proper visibility to the changes. The Executive Committee already committed to improve the ruleset for European Championships and set up procedures to better manage communication in case of controversies to improve transparency and speed of the process. The Appeals Committee invites the Executive Committee to report these decisions and actions during the next General Meeting.

Obviously, we don’t have a very direct answer to the 4 questions posed in the appeal #2. Yet with some careful analysis, it would seem that the answer to all 4 questions is Yes (it was OK). I wonder if this answer of Yes is arrived at because

  1. The Exec decided that the Official Rules were not official.
  2. The Exec decided that the Rules Commission did not work properly.

It seems obvious that these 2 points cannot pass without comment. 1 is undoing, in private, a decision of the Annual General Meeting. 2 is strange, given that there is no indication of this on the EGF website.

To my mind I can accept that the board can ultimately have the right to change a result post tournament. However, for the next 3 questions I find it hard to say that they can be answered with Yes. The EGF board cannot simply rule that it doesn’t accept the decision of an AGM, it must come to the AGM with this information and ask for a change, stating its reasons for doing so. The final ordering is not unreasonable, but given the confusion I find it fairer to simply dispense with tiebreakers in this case. As to not publishing the result, I think the communication around it speaks for itself. It is nothing to be proud about. That said, it is nice that the Executive will now (after 10 years) take it upon themselves to create a new set of rules which we can all know to be official. Perhaps we can also have some effort put into the task of having a fully populated Rules Commission and a fully populated Appeals Commission. We can also note that the Appeals (#1 and #2) will now be reported on at the EGF AGM, so that everyone will know what has happened. I think that it is good to have this kind of open approach. It clears the air and (all things being normal) ensures mistakes are not repeated.

 

Now the Exec also promised 2 things, which I see no sign of yet (July 19 2017), perhaps they will appear soon, lifting the words directly from the appeal…

1)Therefore, we also set up procedures how to communicate in such cases, to improve transparency and a speed of the process.
2) Therefore, the precise rules for all championships will be developped and published in short time, before any championship will take place, the ruleset for it must be ready

These are good proposals, but perhaps I would formulate them differently.

1) All championships should have their rules agreed and announced in advance of the tournament ideally 1 month before.

2) The appeals commission and/or the rules commission should actually exist

3) The current rules should be updated an validated by the AGM – an example here

 

Postscript: It is of course interesting to see what happened at the EGF’s 2017 AGM. Here the matter was discussed. The decision of the EGF board stood, as we expected it to. Several sensible comments were made about how things should or could have been done better. For instance, Germany suggested that the Appeals Commission should have been directly contacted. What did not happen?

No new rules were forthcoming.

Nobody mentioned that the upcoming Women’s Championship in Ukraine was not using Official Rules, but non existent or out of date rules.

In other words, broken promises. I would have hoped that this event would teach the EGF that rules which are fit for purpose should exist and be used.

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