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A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME . . . TITANIC 2

The comment of Terry Wingrove on the current situation of English Karate, its politics, achievements and pitfalls as of 17th April 2008.

A lot of people have asked me to comment over the past year on the current situation of English Karate and how things have changed over the past 2 years since the demise of Karate England (2005) Ltd. I have held back so as to try and be objective and now I think the time is right to comment. Let me say upfront that I am a full supporter of the
ENGLISH KARATE FEDERATION
which has brought together karate groups from all over England and has provided a democratic and fully transparent administration that has earned the confidence of its members. I am not a board member nor wish to be at any time as I think that too many of us throughout all levels of administration in English karate have reached our “sell-by-date”.

Two years ago we saw the dramatic failure of KE (2005) Ltd with fingers pointed at individuals and excuses made but in the end you can’t get away from the fact that a lot of money, hundreds of thousands from Government and individual Associations was inexplicably dissipated by an administration that apparently knew little or nothing about what was going on. This resulted in a dramatic halt almost overnight to all the tremendous impetus and goodwill that had formed KE (2000) Ltd by the amalgamation of the major groups in England such as the EKGB, FEKO KUGB, NAKMAS etc. The vacuum that was left caused more bad feeling, mistrust and was inflamed further by the lack of information or apparent interest of all parties concerned.

At this point following the KE (2005) Ltd disaster I got involved and my group sponsored the English team to the WKF World Championships in Finland in October 2006. Following this I was asked to attend and support the formation of a new group with the idea of trying to bring like minded karate-ka together. The first thing I did was set-up a website for the group for £9 not the £46,000 charged to KE (2005) Ltd then I said I would support the group (subsequently named the
ENGLISH KARATE FEDERATION
) only if it was totally transparent and only if any decisions were based on a democratic vote. I must admit I was very sceptical at the time and thought that the EKF would founder if it did not have the full cooperation of everyone concerned. Slowly since October 2006 the EKF has grown into a formidable group that has obtained the mandate of the British Karate Federation, The European Karate Federation & the World Karate Federation but as of today does not have the recognition of Sports England as the governing body for karate in England.

WHY ?

I think that English karate is now divided into 2 distinct groups plus a few “also rans”. On one hand we have the EKF and on the other we have the NNGBEK (or as it's just been renamed Karate England) and slap bang in the middle is Sports England who over the past year have tried to arbitrate to get a reunification of English karate. I must say that it appears to me that SE have been fully motivated to assist the reunification for 2 reasons;

  1. Karate is a major sport in England and the Government wants all sport to be under the direction of a unified governing body.
  2. To clear up the mess of KE (2005) Ltd which it was, in my opinion, partly to blame for by the lack of administrative control of the funds given to KE (2005) Ltd and its apparent lack of interest in karate as soon as the KE (2005) Ltd problem hit in Aug/Sept 2006.

In 2007 Sports England had meetings with representitives of both “Governing Bodies” and then hosted a joint meeting in December at Sports England. All of this was against a background of failure to reach a compromise when both the groups set up a joint working group in early 2006 which could not agree and broke up.

Both groups pitched for funds from SE and SE seems to have turned it on both groups by dangling the “possibility” of funds after a reunification, not a certainty by any means but SE has requested a Sports Plan to be completed in an impractically short period so as to meet a funding cut-off date or face going on the backburner for funds until 2013. The only reason I can see for the ongoing dialogue via SE is the possibility of funding and the awareness by both groups of the current bad economic situation therefore the difficulty in getting sponsorship or any form of funding other than member's fees.

Now to the 2 groups and where they stand: I think the groups are more polarised than ever with both convinced that their way is best and maybe its the case that they will have to agree to differ and enter a long “war of attrition” until one group gives up or fades away. However, to the grassroots karate student it just seems a “jungle of politics” that frightens them away from joining either “Governing body”.

A major stumbling block is that whereas the EKF is a democratically elected body the NNGBEK wants to impose a voting scheme based on proportional representation of their stated members. If you look back to the EKGB and KE (2005) Ltd days and the numbers stated by the present members of NNGBEK, there is an enormous (tens of thousands) discrepancy between then and the number of members claimed now plus the fact that some of these figures include all types of Martial Arts practitioners, not just karate. Therefore any membership totals need to be independently audited and checked both in the EKF & NNGBEK.

Next we have the problem of the former directors of KE (2005) Ltd all of whom were initially barred from directorships of any similar organisation but recently applied to the court to to have the ban lifted. This was agreed by the court on 25th March 2008 although the liquidators are far from finished with the investigation into the affairs if KE (2005) Ltd. What seems so strange is that 2 days later, on 27th March, the same 7 former directors formed a new group (and/or renamed the NNGBEK) “Karate England” which means you have the same people in the driving seat as KE (2005) Ltd. I personally don’t think it’s a good choice of name as it seems to many people that it brings to mind TITANIC 2 with the same crew !!!

Whatever the case the members of the EKF have made it very clear they will not accept any former director of KE (2005) Ltd in any administrative position in the EKF although they would be welcomed as members of the EKF. The EKF has reiterated on many occassions to SE and all Karate groups in England that the EKF is open to all to join as long as they accept the constitution and rules of the EKF.

So now we come to the crunch time lets look at the facts not the hype or misinformation:

A) The EKF has a democratically elected board with a proper constitution and administration that has built on the wishes of its members so that now the EKF is recognised as the official governing body for English Karate by both the British Karate Federation and World Karate Federation.

The NNGBEK/KE is self appointed and does not have a formally adopted constitution neither is it recognised by the BKF (where it was rejected) or the WKF.

B) Transparency this can easily be demonstrated by the facts of the website and the abilty to contact the administration:

The EKF website (www.englishkaratefederation.com) speaks for itself in quality and visible content and the supreme fact that since its inception 409 items have been published on the EKF site on all aspects of karate against 7 (Yes, seven only) from the NNGBEK/KE. The EKF has an administration of designated officials that are contactable by phone and/or e-mail 7 days a week. The NNGBEK/KE has yet to offer any coordinated administration.

C) Achievements over the past 18 months, the EKF has arranged sponsorship and sent English teams to compete in WKF events in Trieste, Turkey and now Estonia and soon the World Championships in Tokyo in November 2008. The EKF has arranged National, Southern & Northern Championships and instigated regular National Squad training - all of which can viewed on the EKF website. The NNGBEK/KE held their National Championships recently we understand that approximately 300 people including spectators attended which seems a very low turnout for a group whom (to quote the FEKO website) “Our three bodies have a combined membership of around 70,000 and represent the majority of Karateka in England“.

Every effort has been made by the NNGBEK/KE to obtain recognition from letters to the WKF to personal representation yet in every case they have been refused.

Now to the problem of the infamous “21.9” statue of the WKF that forbids any member of the WKF (therefore the EKF) with having any sporting relationship with any other karate groups that are outside the WKF. This has been discusssed at every level and the impasse is still there. The NNBEK/KE wants WKF recognition yet it still states (again from the FEKO website) “Ensure that all our members have the freedom to enjoy national and international relationships with karate bodies of their choice, without unfair or unreasonable restrictions and in a way which reflects the Olympic Spirit of the pursuit of sporting relationships amongst citizens of all nations as embodied in the Olympic Charter.”

The EKF at its AGM this March put it to the members if they wanted to adhere to the WKF and all its requirements (including “29.1”) and it was a unanimous YES so the impasse continues. We may not agree with this rule but like any other club if you want to be a member you have to stick to the rules or join and try democratically to change them (don’t forget there are 54 million members, in 170 plus countries, of the WKF so you will need a lot of influence).

I think any unification would be very difficult at this point in time as it seems that the NNGBEK/KE has much to gain from a merger whereas the EKF will of course have to insist on only WKF affiliation and cancellation by all the NNGBEK/KE members of all other affiliations plus overcome a number of other serious differences.

I think to be objective over the whole of English Karate there is far too much “dead wood” well past their sell-by-date who refuse to retire or take a back seat. Look at all the Karate Associations. Where is the “young blood” being groomed to take over the administration ? Why do so many top karate athletes give up in their early 30’s ? Yesterdays men won’t stand down and still hanker after the “golden years” that will never return. The reality is now with all its current problems and what we we can do now to solve them.

On the optimistic front I must say how very much I’ve been encouraged by the attitude and actions at all levels of the EKF. I have seen the board members, instructors, coaches, students, parents and individual Associations polarised as never before in my 51 years in karate as they all seem to realise this is the last time round the block for many of us and I’ve found the collective enthusiasm and commitment infectious and has given an added dimension to the continueing development of the EKF.

My advice for what its worth is to judge the present organisations on their actions & achievements over the past 18 months not on their words or promises. Ask questions, see for yourself and help karate achieve its well deserved place in organised sport in this country and internationally.

Terry Wingrove
17th April 2008

Important Disclaimer!
The opinions expressed in this article are solely the personal thoughts of Terry Wingrove and do NOT express the opinion or intentions of the EKF and/or its members.

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