Controversy Mars Prize-giving At British Champs

Controversy Mars Prize-giving At British Champs

| 177 | Chess Politics

cj_de_Mooi.jpgThe exciting finale to the British Chess Championships has been marred by a controversial decision regarding the prize-giving ceremony.

The president of the English Chess Federation, CJ de Mooi (pictured), was barred from presenting the prizes because he was wearing a t-shirt promoting the gay rights organisation, Stonewall.

CJ de Mooi is a colourful character and well known to the British public from his appearances on the popular quiz show Eggheads.

He also seems to be a popular president of the ECF and has received much praise for his work in that capacity and his wider efforts to promote chess.

The "offending" T-Shirt, from CJ's twitter feed



CJ gave this statement:

At this morning's prize-giving ceremony of the Darwin Strategic British Chess Championships 2011 an arbiter approached me saying she had "personal reservations" about me wearing a Stonewall t-shirt when presenting prizes to juniors. It was apparently inappropriate for me to wear something mentioning "sexuality" in such an environment.

I did not consider this an issue as I had worn it the previous day in the playing hall and no objections were raised. I am fully CRB checked and was registering my public support of a charity.

The other 2 arbiters said "no problem with it" and "I hadn't actually noticed" but after a discussion returned and suggested if I wanted to wear it, I could just present to the adults. I refused saying "I either present all the prizes or none" but I would leave it as their decision.

After another consultation (I point out that this whole series of events took 5 or 6 minutes in total) I was asked if I would reconsider, to which I responded "Will you?" This gentleman then said he had been told there had been "some complaints" but I have seen nothing to corroborate this so cannot comment.

I took a seat and the awards party was named with Roger Edwards (who has done a wonderful job for the fortnight) taking the honours.


The story has already been picked up by British newspaper The Guardian.

CJ has since offered his resignation to the ECF according to his latest tweet.

What do you think? Should CJ have been allowed to present the prizes wearing the T-Shirt, or was it inappropriate for the occasion?

UPDATE: The arbiter in question has given her side of the story:

Here is my side of the incident (I am posting against the advice of some, but I am getting hate emails claiming that I am homophobic and need to clear this up).

I spoke to David and Alex before the prize-giving suggesting that the T-shirt in question may not be advisable seeing as children were going to be in photographs with it and the charity in question was promoting a sexuality-based issue. (I personally raised over £200 for the same charity on the Sunday night quiz to 'buy' CJ's membership of John Edwards' team!) I was just worried that children who had come for chess may be exploited in photo opportunities for a different issue/charity.

They were reluctant to speak to CJ about it and I said that I would. I told CJ that we usually dressed up more formally for the prize-giving and that it was only my opinion that his t-shirt may be controversial. He said "well I won't present the prizes then". When I told David Welch this he said that I had made a mistake in his opinion. I then left it to the 'officials' to make any decision. I believe that they still wanted CJ to present the prizes to The British Championship for which he had made a large financial contribution and huge publicity effort. He declined, saying 'all or nothing'.

May I add that, and many of my friends know already, it would be highly hypocritical of me to 'oppose' any gay-equality charity as I have had gay relationships in the past. Any thought of 'anti-gay' anything was never in my mind when I suggested the t-shirt was inappropriate for a national chess championships prize-giving, it was just inappropriate. I have many Wytchwood Brewery T-shirts promoting real ale, but I would not wear them to The British Championships prize-giving. My only fault may have been being naive to the controversy that this brought up.

RE: The Sunday Times article:
• CJ’s claim that he was ‘banned’ from wearing the t-shirt is just untrue.
• There is a dress code for the event, on page 7 of the programme “smart casual”
• He was never asked to ‘take it off’. I only queried whether it was appropriate, had he said ‘yes, I believe it is’ then I would not have had anything further to say at the time and he would have gone ahead with the prize-giving. He is the president of the organisation for which I do voluntary work and I would have bowed to his authority.

FURTHER UPDATE: The issue has been settled amicably, and CJ's offer of resignation has been declined (see the statement by the ECF Chief Executive Andrew Farthing, reproduced in the comments by alexholowczak).

Pictures from CJ de Mooi's personal website and twitter feed.

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