Mahir Mammedov: Time to Bring Chess Up to a New Level!
- In your opinion, which problems, haunting modern chess, need addressing as soon as possible?

- One of the main issues is lack of corporate sponsors. If you go to the FIDE website, you will find no sponsors mentioned there. Zero! There is no even such a tab called Sponsors.

Being a representative of big business, I claim that the problem does not lie in business's unwillingness to invest money in chess, but that chess, unlike many other sports, has not developed any sort of "feedback". Currently, all our sponsors are just people fond of chess, as well as some donor countries, backing up chess on a serious basis. Our task is to reverse this trend and attract corporate sponsors, who will see that supporting chess brings them good return in terms of image, PR, promotion of their activities and services.

- What made you join Arkady Dvorkovich's team?

- I believe that Russia has been and will be the most essential player in the world of chess. The number of major competitions taking place in Russia is huge. Not a few Russian companies even sponsor competitions running abroad. It was a pleasure for me to join this team because I have always been voicing my desire to be on the same team with a strong Russian candidate. Arkady Vladimirovich is a high-profile economist with experience of working with big companies and various financial structures. He knows the psychology of business people and is aware of what returns they anticipate from their investments into a particular sport.

There is another reason of personal nature: besides chess, we both do love football, which has brought us very close together! Football has a very competent and professional approach developed to working with sponsors, and Arkady Vladimirovich and I will be able to extend this experience to the field of chess.

- What is your share of responsibility in the overall work?

- First of all, I see my task in finding new sponsors, explaining to my peers from business about benefits of investing money in chess and running tournaments of the highest level.

My share of responsibility is not limited to money, however. As you know, my native Azerbaijan has in recent years hosted almost all large-scale competitions from the world chess calendar, such as legs of the FIDE Grand Prix, the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Olympiad, which is universally acclaimed as one of the best in history from the organizational point of view. It is five years now that organized on a regular basis in Shamkir is a super tournament dedicated to the memory of our outstanding grandmaster Vugar Gashimov. I hope that FIDE will benefit from the vast organizational experience gained in Azerbaijan.

- What are your impressions of the pre-election campaign, encounters with chess players, organizers and delegates?

- When meeting people, I constantly hear about the chess world longing for changes since long ago; therefore, people are very enthusiastic about the advent of a new and strong candidate. I am very pleased that our team incorporates professional economists, grandmasters and world champions! Chess professionals, simple amateurs, and organizers speak only kind words of parting and wishes of victory!

- What will be your first actions in FIDE after winning the elections?

- It seems that after winning the elections we will, first of all, need to grasp the true state of affairs in FIDE. Financial reports available to the public are neither exhaustive nor complete. They show us only the tip of the iceberg. The treasurer's reports (which are always published with a delay and are rather limited in data) let us know that FIDE's annual budget is about 2 million euro, largely topped up by the national federations. However, we do not see all money passing through FIDE. Neither do we see the amounts passing through the company Agon. Without complying with the competitive procedures it has been unjustly entitled the rights to host a world championship cycle - the main asset of FIDE. All organizers have to face FIDE dealing with many affiliated companies like Global Chess, which is headed by FIDE CEO Jeffrey Borg (how is it possible in the first place?). The burden on chess organizers is great, but the money end up past the FIDE budget.

We need to see the total amounts passing through and past FIDE. We will have to adopt a full-fledged budget, but it can only be achieved based on every bit of data. When we adopt the budget, we will get down to topping it up and spending it transparently. In our team has no people earning on chess and chess players. Conversely, we have been supporting world chess for many years now. It is time to bring chess up to a new level!
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