Chess News

European Chess Union: A Union Of The Many

Zurab Azmaiparashvili

Zurab Azmaiparashvili

“ECU Back to Europe” has announced the platform of Zurab Azmaiparashvili’s Campaign Team for the ECU elections 2014.

In Tromsø the Azmaiparashvili Campaign will unveil the first ECU General Sponsorship contract for €400,000 over four years, with the goal of finding two more such sponsors in year two, more than doubling the ECU annual budget.

Azmai For President

GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili is the First Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth Affairs of Georgia, a manager and chess professional and a former trainer and second of world-famous players Garry Kasparov and Judit Polgar.

In his career as a sportsman, Zurab was at the top of world chess for two decades with highlights including first place at the European Individual Championship in 2003 and the best individual performance at the Elista Olympiad in 1998.

Zurab has gone on to demonstrate his leadership abilities and management skills as president of the Georgian Chess Federation (1998-2004), a board member of the ECU (2000-2004), as a vice-president of FIDE (2002-2010) and a founder and first president of the Black Sea Chess Association (1999-2004).

He has organised top events, such as the first knock-out Women’s European Championship (2000), the Europe vs. Asia Match (2001), and the Women World Chess Championship (2004).

He also distinguished himself as Top Board player and Team Captain for Georgia for seven consecutive Olympiads (1992-2004) and as Captain of the neighbouring Azerbaijan team for the 2009 European Team Championship winning the gold medal.

Campaign Supporters and Team

Zurab Azmaiparashvili is proud to be supported by Georgia’s political and financial elite, by chess players and chess lovers, and by friends around the world in his candidacy for the ECU presidency.

Supporters include the philanthropist and former Prime Minister of Georgia, Bidzina Ivanishvili, the current Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Garibashvili, chess lover and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maia Panjikidze, as well as organisations such as The Bank of Georgia and the Georgian Chess Federation.

The first members of Zurab’s team are chess professionals who are already working together on a daily basis preparing for the elections and ensuring the fulfilment of their promises once elected: Ion Dobronateanu (Romania), Vasily Filipenko (Russia), Martin Huba (Slovakia), Willy Iclicki (Belgium), Andrew Paulson (England), Jean-Michel Rapaire (Monaco), Ivan Sokolov (Netherlands), Fiona Steil-Antoni (Luxembourg) and Finnbjorn Vang (Faroe Islands). This list will continuously be updated in the run-up to the elections.

The Big Picture

Our slogan “A Union of the Many” contrasts with the current ECU: “A Company for the Few.” Our complaints are (a) lack of fairness, ethical behaviour and transparency, (b) lack of energy, innovation and enterprise, (c) lack of leadership, vision and imagination.

Danailov’s team didn’t deliver on its basic campaign promises of four years ago: they generated no sponsorship revenue and they created no new marketable products. Even their one success (the EU recognition for chess in schools) had no tangible follow-through. They did the bare minimum!

Nearly one-third of FIDE’s 179 member federations lie within the ECU. 82 of the top 100 players are from, and three-quarters of the rated games and two-thirds of the top tournaments take place within, the ECU.

The ECU has two-thirds the reach of FIDE, but only one-tenth the budget. The ECU has been seriously under-performing!

The ECU is a rights holder of intellectual property (events and titles), the intermediary between its 54 member federations and FIDE, and a provider of valuable services for its members. It is also a custodian of chess history and an advocate of public policy and public perception.

The ECU should be a model of, and laboratory for, what a great international sports institution should aspire to be. Today it not a model for anything!

The ECU is the link between its members and FIDE, no matter who is FIDE President. The ECU President sits on the FIDE Presidential Board and must be an effective lobbyist for ECU members.

The last four years of dissociation from and hostility to FIDE has meant that the ECU has not been heard. This is not a responsible or constructive path. We will re-establish a working relationship with FIDE. You will be heard!

Specific Initiatives Among ECU Member Federations

Above all, the ECU is a service provider for its 54 federation members, large and small, enabling cooperation and collaboration. In the first two years we will launch the following initiatives:

1. Establish a European Grand Prix format from a set of major events, supporting them with a common marketing strategy and additional prize fund.
2. Encourage Zonal Championships to build bridges between neighbouring countries, especially for Junior Team events.
3. Establish ECU Internet Championships (Open, Women, Team and School) in Blitz and Rapid formats.
4. Build cooperation with other continental associations and promote a new competition: the Inter-continental Cup for men and women
5. Sponsor regular cross-border multi-lateral informational and educational symposia on ‘best practices’ for federations in areas such as governance, marketing and communication for chess leaders.
6. Provide shared bilateral professional resources for its members in the areas of organisation, PR, government relations, and sponsorship sales.
7. Support joint events for training and development of arbiters, coaches, commentators, journalists and players.

Asset Review

The ECU is a rights-holding organisation (events and titles) which owns 11 individual events and 6 team events. We will conduct a marketing audit to answer these questions:

1. How well do existing events respond to player needs, how to increase demand?
2. How focused are existing events, how broad their appeal?
3. How well differentiated and well separated is each from other events?
4. How to improve bidding procedures to improve transparency and to increase federation participation?
5. How can we improve revenue models so events will be more attractive to organisers and profitable to the ECU? Are ECU subsidies required for certain events.
6. What new formats should the ECU inaugurate to increase public interest, player satisfaction, sponsorship revenue?
7. How can we support existing major independent international events that are facing financial hardship?

Players and Training

The President of the Association of Chess Professionals will be an invited (non-voting) member of the Board of the ECU. 80% of the ACP Members come from ECU federations. This will allow the ACP to better serve its members and the ECU to better serve its top players. The ACP in association with the ECU will also support improved training and coaching for promising juniors who are heading toward professional chess.

Chess in Schools

Chess education is a top priority for a healthy chess ecosystem. New opportunities are constantly arising which require concrete initiatives and projects: sometimes innovation and sometimes standardisation.

Chess in Schools is largely a local issue managed by national federations. However, the ECU must play a leading role in lobbying, supporting research and sharing results: establishing ‘best practices,’ promoting ‘success stories’ and engaging celebrities.

ECU Commissions

Europe has long been the thought leader in world chess, but no longer controls its own destiny: the ECU must assert itself in the all-important commission structure of FIDE where decisions are made that effect our lives.

We will create ECU ‘shadow commissions’ made up of member federation nominees plus current European members of FIDE commissions to lobby ECU interests. The first three targets are: the Events Commission, the Schools Commission, the Arbiters Council. We will seek both to influence decisions from outside and develop a new generation of FIDE commission members for the future.

Public Relations, Media and Marketing Strategy

A perfected schedule of ECU, FIDE and leading independent chess events will lead to a 365-day media strategy. This in turn will provide a product more readily marketable to sponsors.

The ECU must support all digital and traditional media, as news and information sources and as playing and entertainment platforms. The media must not be politicised or shown favouritism.

The ECU’s new management will create a portfolio of marketing products and tools to help organisers attract sponsors, players and audiences to their events.

Creation of “European Chess Heritage”

There are elements of chess history in Europe that need to be preserved for future generations: private libraries, historic venues, long-lived tournaments, and venerable periodicals. Federations must be encouraged and supported in protecting and preserving chess history for future generations.

European Chess Heritage is also people: we will institute a consistent and prestigious system of awarding prizes to individuals: journalists, authors, commentators, arbiters, organisers, federations, etc.

These prizes and others will be awarded at an annual ECU Gala Event. The winners of the European Grand Prix and Internet Championships will also be unveiled during the awards ceremony. This will be the highlight of each year, a new asset for sponsorship, and a global marketing opportunity.

Revenues & Investments

The ECU has an annual budget of €250k, deriving revenue from tournament fees and membership fees. We need to add new sources of revenue: sponsorship, media fees, donations.

At Tromsø we will unveil our first General Sponsorship contract for €400,000 over four years; our goal in year two is to find two more such sponsors, more than doubling the ECU annual budget.

We must increase spending to improve the quality of the services offered to ECU federations and their players: this will result in yet further private and corporate sponsorship. That is sustainability.

For the team,
Zurab Azmaiparashvili


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