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Letters & Opinion
October 10, 1999
Design and layout by Reuben Edwards

The croquet logo debate
International team selections - open or closed?
Johnny Osborn sidelined at the USCA Nationals
Should the new USCA Grand Prix be scrapped?
More reflections on "the other game" - Golf Croquet

We depart from our usual format and devote most of this space to an extended sampling of recent opinion from the Nottingham Board on some current issues in the croquet world. At any given time, any of the croquet associations (or any croquet personality, for that matter) may be subjected to this kind of scrutiny. In this case, the target happens to be the English Croquet Association. But there is no doubt that the issues being debated are relevant to all the croquet associations - which makes them fair game for coverage in Croquet World Online Magazine. We hope that in abbreviating many of these messages we have still managed to represent the writers fairly. Not everyone is included, and at the time of this posting, both these conversations are still in progress on the Nottingham Board.
The croquet logo and the croquet image

"Fifty-seven old farts"?

Some of you may have noticed that earlier this year, the Croquet Association produced a new logo. It was clearly similar to the one used in the past but updated, using a square mallet and looking modern - projecting the image that the [English] Croquet Association would wish to project - or so you would think.

This new logo, which was moving with the times, and, in my professional opinion, is a move in the right direction, was designed at no charge by Paul Castell. The going rate for designing a logo is 550 GBP plus VAT. THE CROQUET ASSOCIATION COUNCIL, UNBELIEVABLY, REJECTED THE NEW LOGO AND WANTED TO STAY WITH THE OLD ONE.

The main reason was, I understand (and like a journalist I won't reveal my sources) that the Council should have been asked in the first place if they approved the new logo and because they were not asked, decided on a pathetic vote of five to four (with three absentions) to reject the new logo.

If croquet is to really shrug off its old fashioned image, it has to have a strong, modern, corporate image, and the more up to date the better. A corporate image reflects the organisation; and while a modern image ultimately won't disguise an old fashioned outlook, it can go some way to mitigate this. (Of course, many may argue that the old logo perfectly reflects the Croquet Association's outlook.)

The publicity committee were shown the new logo earlier in the year, and unanimously accepted it. It appears that the Council of the CA don't listen the specialist committees' advice. In which case, one asks, why bother?

PS: How many people play with a round mallet these days?

PPS:For those of you who do not know, Will Carling, Captain of the England Rugby Team, called the committee Rugby Football Union "57 old farts." He was stripped of his captaincy. (His troubles over Princess Di came later.)

--Liz Williams
[PR advisor to the CA Publicity Committee]

The old logo.

The new logo rejected by the Council.

The organizational fix

Liz may be encouraged to know that earlier this year the CA Council's Constitution Working Party made recommendations to improve the efficiency of Council and its committees. Council accepted the proposals regarding a new committee structure, and these will come into effect later this month. The up-to-25 member Council has recognized it should not try to manage the CA's affairs in any detail, and it intends in future to concentrate on the big picture: deciding on the broad policies its committees should follow. A new 9-member Management Committee is charged with ensuring that Council's policies and plans are carried out by all its committees - including a new one dealing with Marketing, Publicity and Membership....

--Quiller Barrett
[member of Council]

"Backwards and upside down"

Council's decision to stay with its existing logo had nothing to do with round mallets or square mallets. Nor did Council question Paul's competence as a designer: it just did not like the design. The principal reason was that in starting to wrap THE CROQUET ASSOCIATION around the logo from a different position it appeared by normal convention that ASSOCIATION was backwards and upside down. I don't know whether the publicity committee realized this and disregarded it. Reportedly, Paul also declared that he would retain copyright over his new logo.

It was a Council decision to have the logo about 10 years ago and, as in any organisation, Council has the right to accept changes or not. The matter came before Council on two occasions and was fully discussed at both. The voting figures quoted by Liz...were those on the second occasion at a poorly attended meeting, which confirmed the decision at the previous meeting (by 10 votes to 8, I think). The decision was close, but that is democracy....Whether some of us are regarded as old farts and others as sweet smelling roses is irrelevant. We all work for the benefit of the CA but we accept that we cannot please everybody all the time.

--Bill Lamb
[Former Chairman of Council]

"The new logo is a model of clarity"

Bill Lamb's comment on the new logo is as laughable as it is risible. In the new logo, the word association is NOT upside down. It is the right way up. The words 'The Croquet Association' read from left to right, with 'The Croquet' at the top of the logo and 'Association' at the bottom. How else do you read, Bill? (right to left? roundabout?). Not only was the new logo a more modern image, it was also a model of clarity.

The whole point of getting a designer to design a logo is that they know what it should achieve - as opposed to the amateur. I find it appalling that the Council, none of them designers, should take exception to the fact that they could read the logo.

I take grave offense at the comment about the publicity committee....We saw a first class new logo which was step in the right direction. Why did the Council not accept our advice? We are the specialists, after all.

You say it has nothing to do with square mallets and round mallets; well, it does - the whole point of the new logo was that it has been updated, in toto.

Of course Paul should retain the copyright. You haven't paid for it, have you? Which brings me back to one of my original points, it appears the CA Council does not value what it hasn't paid for. Perhaps you should start paying for these services: you would not glibly reject such a recommendation from a committee then.

--Liz Williams

Is the primary purpose of a logo to attract nonmembers or to amuse existing members?  I have always assumed that the former is correct.

"A rather more punchy image"

It's a sad reflection on my powers of observation, but until I read the e-mails in this thread I had no idea that the logo had changed! I now realise that the 1999 Fixture Book and all the 1999 Gazettes carry a different logo. I agree that the square mallet, "professional" hoop and one ball convey a rather more punchy message than the previous logo. The lettering arrangement makes you think for a moment - which I suppose is part of the purpose.

All in all it does seem a somewhat odd decision by the Council to scrap the new logo and all the more so for being in relation to a specialist subject such as design. After all, is the primary purpose of a logo to attract nonmembers or to amuse existing members? I have always assumed that the former is correct. Unless the Council has received significant complaints about the new logo being positively offensive, it is hard to fathom why they would want to change it.

...There are some decisions, such as those with a significant impact on croquet's public image or standing, which should be made by the entire Council and not just by the few who happen to turn up to a particular Council meeting. In this electronic age, what is to prevent Council members being asked for their views by e-mail? This is not to suggest that meetings are redundant, but that some decisions must require the votes of all Council members.

Stephen Mulliner
[former member of Council and former chairman]

"Frustrated by the pedestrian nature of proceedings"

As a member of Council, I would like to sympathise with Liz Williams' concerns. Regrettably, due to pressure of work, my attendance at Council during the last year has not been as regular as I had hoped, but the many meetings I have attended during the last five years have left me frustrated by the pedestrian nature of proceedings. Individual committee meetings are often productive and contain lively debate, but full Council meetings seem to me to do as much harm as good. Liz quite rightly says that we do not appreciate expertise in certain areas unless we are paying for it. Council's decision to revert to the old logo leaves us wide open to justifiable allegations of failure to move with the times.

However, there is change, as Quiller points out, and it is to be hoped that this will result in many improvements. Associates must remember that Council members give their time freely and should look at their successes as well as their failures.

Chris Clarke
[member of Council]

Minutes and a summary of voting are requested

...As someone who sat in the meetings that led to the revised logo it is nice to know that the time of myself and many others was wasted. Perhaps the CA office would provide minutes of the meetings that led to this decision and a summary of who voted and which way they voted. My guess is the "old farts" will doubtless stand for reelection. Strange also that the subject was not covered in the Gazette!

Don Beck

The editor speaks, sans crystal ball

Why is it strange that this matter has not been covered in the Gazette? You were at all the meetings, and you didn't pass on the information, so why should anyone else? I was supplied with a laptop to perform the task of editor, not a crystal ball.

Gail Curry, Editor
[The Croquet Gazette]

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On team selections: Shall they be open or closed?

Banned and barred - another retrograde step

When I announced the GB Mac team ten days ago, I said that the minutes would be available from the C.A. Office. I regret to inform you that the Chairman of Council has barred this from happening. He has also barred me from distributing them personally.

It has been policy that minutes of selection meetings be available for around 18 months now. I do not believe that the Chairman has the right to request that the minutes are withheld, but will abide by his decision nonetheless.

I would like to thank the many C.A. members who have supported the publication of selection minutes during the last 18 months and who have commented very positively on their format and content. I would also like to thank the many members of overseas associations who have applauded our attempts to become more open and accountable. I can assure you that I will do my best to overturn what I believe to be another retrograde step by the C.A.

--Chris Clarke
Selection Committee Chairman

"A democratic attitude which is totally misguided"

I had not realised that minutes of Selection Committee meetings had been published recently. I believe it is a very retrograde step to do this. It has long been held that Selectors are not accountable for their decisions, and rightly so. There will always be some who disagree and will argue the cause of candidates whom the committee have already considered, but discarded. It achieves nothing to publish minutes, except an attempt to establish a democratic attitude, which, in this case, is totally misguided.

--John Solomon
(President, Croquet Association)

Ensuring against risk of defamation

In the case of Selection Committee minutes, when there is an intent to publish widely, it is particularly important that Council should scrutinise the minutes before general release to ensure that there is no risk of defamation. Whether you call this process "reporting" or "approval" is a matter of taste.

--Stephen Mulliner

Dirty laundry in the dressing rooms

What a good idea to publish the selection committee minutes! I am all for 'glasnost' and look forward to reading remarks such as "XYZ is an excellent player but his/her abrasive personality will wreck the tour," or better, "ABC is strong and would make a good team member - pity about his/her habit of pilfering from dressing rooms." I also look forward to the consequent actions and reactions.

P.S. Do any other sporting bodies publish selection committee minutes?

--Eric Solomon

"Open selection can and does work in other sports"

According to our newspapers [in Australia] the English cricket selectors gave an official explanation for the omission of Phil Tuffnell from the test team, saying that he did not get on with other players or comply with the requirements of team discipline. In recent years our cricket selectors have also given reasons for the selection or omission of particular players. Some time ago I copied some articles of this type and sent them to our croquet administrators in an effort to convince them that open selection can and does work in other sports.

It is important that such things be known so that the player can do something about it. In the case of the pilfering people also need to know, for obvious reasons. The publishing of such information guarantees, at least to some extent, that it has been checked out and is reliable. Otherwise a player can be omitted because one of the selectors believes that he has been guilty of something which he did not do and which cannot be sustantiated; and neither the player nor anyone else will know that the unfair discrimination has taken place.

Of course, that is the reason people want to keep such things secret: they WANT to be able to discriminate against particular players and treat them unfairly without them being able to find out that it has been done.

P.S. - I hope no-one imagines that my remarks on this subject are intended as criticism of the CA's selection procedure. Ours [in Australia] is even more secretive, and I have been campaigning for years for more openness in all aspects of croquet administration....

--John Riches

The oral tradition and constructive feedback

The way people are selected should be kept confidential; perhaps adopt a similar stance to that of a job interview. If a person wishes to enquire as to why they were/were not selected then they should be entitled to constructive feedback. If a person wishes to find out why a third party was not selected then they can ask that person themselves.

If your country's MAC team gets slaughtered, then have a go at the committee for their selection procedure, but if they win or put up a good show, then as far as I am concerned the selectors are doing things the right way.

--Shaun Carter

Transparent, but anonymous

I pay my subscription and I want details of what my elected representatives are doing. The CA, unlike freemasons, have an elected committee and I can see no reason why their decisions cannot be transparent. By all means write the minutes in an anonymous form: rather than AB said BC was a rotter, report the committee felt that BC would not be compatible with the other members of the team, but to totally obfuscate matters and hide behind total secrecy is not acceptable. The CA needs to demonstrate that it is not a collection of old fuddy duddies.

--Ian Plummer
[Webmaster, Oxford University Croquet Website]

What you have to do is obvious: you have to win

I was on the CA Selection Committee for some 20 years and was Chairman for about half that time. We never even wrote any Minutes, let alone publish them. We merely made an announcement that the following had been selected for the Presidents Cup (in alphabetical order) and the other eights in ranking order. The MacRobertson Trophy was a separate consideration but treated similarly.

What is the fuss about knowing what you have to do to be considered for selection? I should have thought it was obvious that you have to win, or be a finalist / semi-finalist in as many major events as possible. How will the publication of minutes alter that?

I see nothing wrong with the Chairman of the Selection Committee announcing at the beginning of the season that "the following events will be taken into account..." so that likely contenders know what their targets are.

--John Solomon

>From Mulliner to Solomon

The answers are:

(1) Times have changed and openness and accountability are more generally accepted concepts than may have been the case when you were involved. As soon as people ask for Selection Committee reasoning to be made public it is difficult to justify a refusal without seeming high-handed and secretive.

(2) It is not always possible to decide the issue simply on the basis of semi-final or final appearances because the same top players may hog these places or a fluke result may unbalance the analysis. Having been a selector for some years, I would say that we take a more rounded view and try an assess each candidate's current playing strength and general form over the past season. This is a process with a significant degree of subjectivity. As a result, sometimes the selection decisions are close, as on this occasion, and the individuals who were not selected are certainly entitled to know why. Once that is accepted, it is hard to see why any other aspirants should not also know what factors were taken into consideration.

--Stephen Mulliner

Here's how to join the debate

The existence and growing popularity of the Internet is inevitably affecting the nature and processes of organizational democracy in the croquet world. The two series of excerpts from the Nottingham Board above illustrate exactly how croquet's newsgroups - or e-mail conversation boards - facilitate active and spirited debate on any and all issues. No more than several hundred people currently subscribe to these boards. If you'd like to receive e-mails from the Nottingham Board (England) or the Wyoming Board (America), click here for instructions on how to subscribe and/or unsubscribe.

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Patience rewarded at 1999 USCA Nationals

Here's a picture of Johnny Osborn at the Meadow Club patiently waiting for his opportunity to snatch victory from the hands of Bill Berne with a last turn, last ball break for five wickets to win the 1999 US Croquet Nationals.

--Bill Hoy

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To USCA management: Scrap the new Grand Prix

The new Grand Prix has proven to be one of those projects that sound great on paper, but turn out to be more than the USCA can handle.

Since the original announcement of a new Grand Prix ranking system, the posted results have faded from relevance, with the current rankings reflecting results from no later than early May.

On the other hand, the USCA handicap system has been kept current and the numbers posted on the USCA website throughout this year. As a system that incrementally adjusts player ratings based on each win or loss, the handicap system does a good job of ranking active players. Using handicap tracking points to rank active players of the same nominal handicap, it is possible to create a fairly accurate ranking index of the competition at a given level of play.

The Grand Prix was never advertised as a replacement for the handicap rating system, and no tournament director would use its results for seeding a tournament draw. The only reason it was created was to encourage participation in USCA-sanctioned tournaments by giving players another "reward" for success. To serve this function and meet players' expectations, the rankings can't just be a year-end summary -- they need to be kept current and publicized throughout the year. If this is beyond the capabilities of the USCA's limited resources, the effort involved in keeping this program going would be better placed elsewhere.

One place where this effort could be well spent would be in making it easier to get tournament formats and results prepared quickly and accurately. This has long been a problem affecting the USCA's mission of serving its members. One way this could be done would be to sponsor a standardized computer program for tournament scheduling and reporting. The headquarters staff, USCA clubs, and tournament directors would all benefit from a well-designed system that automated many of the steps in formatting and reporting croquet tournaments.

While the goals of the new Grand Prix are worthy, the burden of making this admittedly redundant system work on an ongoing basis seems likely to divert attention from what may be more pressing needs in the USCA. It is time for the USCA management to scrap the project and move on.

--Stuart Lawrence

The new USCA Grand Prix has not functioned as it was designed to function, largely because the USCA headquarters database still has kinks which prevent the extraction and reporting of accurate numbers - and consequent frequent updates on the USCA Website. A project to remedy these errors has been funded and planned for early next year. Creators of both the handicap system and Grand Prix are careful to point out that neither system is designed as a true national ranking. Rather, they are "performance indicators" which, although reflecting relative prowess on the playing field, also reward players for entering sanctioned tournaments. The USCA has no legitimate national ranking system in place. - editor

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More reflections on "the other game"

Our recent story about the emergence of Golf Croquet as the focus of "serious" tournament play was prompted by the Beverly Hills Invitational in late August, 1999. It was the first major tournament to be played in the United States under the World Croquet Federation Rules. One of its organizers is still reflecting, as follows....

As the (albeit unacknowledged) co-founder of the Beverly Hills International and one of the very few who watched every day, I have some thoughts on golf croquet in general and the BHI in particular.

JUMP SHOTS: Shortly after the WCF golf croquet rules were announced, we had a club tournament. Lawn damage was difficult to judge and faults that were or were not called caused a few hard feelings. Some members who had played quite a bit of Egyptian golf croquet were dismayed at losing the finesse of 'jawsing' their ball. On the plus side was the possible added excitement (for spectators, TV etc) of seeing these shots played.

Talking to some of the Egyptian players at the BHI, I got the impression that jump shots had not yet been accepted in Egypt. (So much for universal rules). Referees who were called out on the lawn to watch jump shots didn't really know what they were watching for and were very hesitant to call a fault even when it was clear by their expressions that they felt one was probably committed.

While there was one ESPN-worthy shot by one of the Abdelwahabs (a "hammer" shot from corner 1 that hit the top of the hoop!), I say the jump shot is a bust.

HALFWAY POINTS: The simplification of the halfway points is a great improvement and, with slight modification, should work out fine.

Current WCF rules say that "A ball beyond the halfway line is returned to a halfway point after the hoop in order is scored and all balls have stopped." This works fine and is easy to follow but, in my opinion, there is no risk if, in lagging to midcourt you go a little too far, you don't really lose much. I suggest that such a ball should be returned to the previous corner (at opponent's option). Only then will players think twice about lagging.

THE TOURNAMENT FORMAT: While the better tournament directors (in all croquet tournaments) try to minimize it, the truth is that players in anything less than Championship flight are frequently treated as second-class citizens. In the Beverly Hills International, there was much grumbling from the "others." While championship flight featured 19-point games in block play, "amateurs" played only to 13 points. Where the championship ladder featured 2-out-of-3 game matches, first flighters played single games. While the finals of the amateur flight played ONE 19 point game for the championship, the Pros played best 3-of-5. (Near the end of the match, many on the sidelines agreed that 2-of-3 would have been plenty.)

These people all paid the same entry fee and should have been treated a little better.

There was a young lady on the sidelines all week who should have gotten a trophy. Huguette (hope I spelled it right) - actually joined the Beverly Hills Croquet Club during tournament week - deserves to be recognized as "Spectator of the Week," "Volunteer of the Week" and everything else in between. Her great attitude proved infectious on the sidelines. She would do any croquet club proud.

Hoping to get my knees well enough to play some more croquet,

--Marc Gilutin
President, Southern California Section, USCA

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