Currently before the Australian Chess Federation is the following motion:
That effective 1st April 2006 players banned by their respective State Associations are not permitted to play in any ACF Grand Prix tournament and if another State Association, the tournament organiser or the tournament arbiter in the knowledge that a player is banned permits that player to play, then the tournament will not be ACF or FIDE rated and will not be counted towards Grand Prix points and, furthermore, the ACF Council at its discretion may take action against the offending State Association, tournament organiser or tournament arbiter.
Based on informal poll on an internet chess forum, the motion and its ramifications are unpopular. In terms of unpopularity, it is probably akin to the French CEP. And this is understandable. As it is, the motion is manifestly unjust.
I do not disagree that some chess players may, indeed, deserve a national ban. Somebody who commits physical assault, or threatens such, during a tournament may be one example. These offenders, in my view, deserve nothing less than the ire of the entire Australian chess community.
The problem with this motion, in its present form, is that it ignores degrees or types of offences. Take the much celebrated case of one Mr Matthew Sweeney. Mr Sweeney is presently locked out of all NSWCA events. Actually, at this moment, no one can say for certain exactly why he was banned. The most common understanding seems to be that the NSWCA were none too impressed with Mr Sweeney's pronouncements on his internet site. In other words, his banning was basically due to a squabble between himself and the state association - largely an internal matter. If the above motion, before the ACF, were to pass as it is, then poor Mr Sweeney would also be persona non grata at all tournaments Australia-wide. And herein lies the problem. Such a national banning would be clearly unfair and improper insofar as Mr Sweeney's case is concerned.
Let's be clear. Mr Sweeney assaulted no one. In fact, he is a very popular figure amongst numerous chess players. He is a gentleman and a scholar (literally). Why in the world should he also suffer from such a stupid rule as "your banned in this state, therefore you're banned in this other state, period"?
Thankfully, there is a voice of reason within the ACF. Selections coordinator Dr Kevin Bonham has requested that the following escape clause be added: "except where the ACF Council decides otherwise". This is apparently to avoid further banning someone, like Mr Sweeney for instance, who may have been "unjustly, excessively or invalidly banned by their state association". Still, however, we have more questions. We want to know, in particular, the specific terms of reference that the ACF can consider when someone is placed before them for national banning.
We wish cooler and wiser heads within the ACF will ultimately prevail. My dear readers, this is one of those situations when I might again pick up my rosary beads and pray a thousand Hail Mary's so that sanity may win.