Message from the EBU Chairman

May 22, 2021

It’s been a busy week for the volunteers at the EBU. As the County Chairs’ meeting draws near, various subsets of the Board have been beavering away, agreeing and honing their presentations, and the County Chairs have no doubt been reading papers that have been sent to them. The Selection Committee has had to start confirming plans for the Premier League, and dealing with revived events, including the online qualifier later this year for the World Championships, now due to take place in February or March of next year. On top of that, this week we have had five, five disciplinary hearings. I won’t go into details because there are appeals floating about, but that means there have been five cases that have been investigated by the Online Ethics Investigation Group (OEIG) (this week’s cases were all online), five cases scrutinised by the Prosecution Panel and deemed worthy of charge, five cases which have then had Disciplinary Panels appointed, and five cases which have had a prosecutor and various expert witnesses. Then there will be some appeals, usually presided over by a panel of three. And let’s not forget that there are a couple of staff members who have to devote all their time to this as well.

The overhead to dealing with online cheating has been horrendous. I can’t imagine how many man hours go towards the completion of the case. And some cases – the more confrontational ones – can be very stressful. Disciplinary Panel members are just normal members – people like you and me. They are in situ as peers of whoever is accused of anything, not in any sense as some sort of superior beings. And further down the line, the prosecutors and the investigators take on a great deal of work and carry a heavy burden of responsibility, which, I happen to know from talking to some of them, they take very seriously indeed. And yet they are willing to carry on, as everybody is, with one intention: to clean up the game, to make it a level playing field for everyone. There is a mistaken belief that the idea behind these cases is to target cheats and punish them. Well, that’s partially true, but it’s not the only reason that we have to go through all this. The ultimate aim of a Disciplinary Panel, supported by everyone who has helped a case get before them, is to find out the truth. As simple as that. The truth can be anything – it can be that someone has been cheating like the clappers, or it can be that it’s all a mistake, and that everything can be explained away perfectly rationally (this happens less with online cases, which tend not to get as far as they do without a reasonable expectation of a proven case) – but the truth is only one thing – it doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s objective. And that’s the burden the Disciplinary Panels bear.

So, why am I banging on about all this now? Well, five cases in one week was one prompt (the number of hearings per week can be as low as zero, of course, five in a row is exceptional), the other was the results of a survey carried out prior to the County Chairs’ meeting. It seems that amongst many things that the respondents appreciated about the EBU, one was “keeping the game clean”. Bearing that in mind, I thought I’d take the opportunity to go on record and express my gratitude to those who make it come about. To the dozens of members of the Prosecution Panel, the Disciplinary Panel and the OEIG, to those who give their time to help their friends who have been subjected to a charge (yes, really), to the pro bono advisor, to the appeals committees, to Nick and Jeremy in the office, I offer, on behalf of all the membership, my thanks for taking on such a taxing task, and running with it.

And I hope you don’t all take this the wrong way, but I really, really hope that by this time next year, you’re all pretty much redundant.