ETHICS COMMITTEES - the cure for indiscipline
When I turned up for the start of the course at Juan les Pins to qualify as a Director, the Instructor told us all "Becoming a director is a very good way to lose bridge friends*
My diploma came at a critical time for French bridge. During a period when indiscipline had become rife. When lifetime bans from all clubs were having to be dished out by Federation HQ because the problem had not been nipped in the bud at an early stage locally.
One of the most common unacceptable occurrences was for players to argue with their partner and for one of both of them to walk out. Normally the President would deal with the matter. But when it is the President of the Club himself who is guilty of the offence, the remedies for the Director are limited. A no win situation if you want to keep your friends. My teacher was right.
Although I was not the acting Director at the time, I recall the time when a President walked out for a second time. Following a dispute with his partner during the second round of a tournament. When he later refused a rather meek request from the committee to resign, the ingenious solution they came up with was for the whole committee to resign instead. So that the President had nothing to preside over.
Fortunately something was then done. The French Federation decided to encourage Ethics Committee that were totally independent of the club committee. Elected by members at their AGM`s. No members of the General committee could stand for the Ethics Committees. And these ethics committees could ask HQ for guidelines over what warnings or punishment should be given. In the case of someone walking out of a tournament, a 3 month ban was the minimum penalty for a 1st offence..
Bravo to the French for this initiative which was made compulsory for all affiliated clubs. Knowing that anyone could complain to an independent committee certainly stopped many serial offenders intimidating, belittling or insulting the less experienced members. The fact that the guilty ones were friends of the President could no longer be used to excuse their behaviour. Nor could unsavoury incidents be swept under the carpet.
An innovation that should be adopted by clubs elsewhere in my view. We should all try to win of course. In trying hard, it is human nature for us to get worked up at the table for some ridiculous reason or other. I will put my hands up and say that, as a player, I have occasionally been guilty myself of overreaction when an adversary is out of order. Sometimes, as an off duty Director, I need to be reminded by the Tournament Director that two wrongs do not make a right. I always apologize to both the Director and the players concerned.
Yes, ETHICS committees do act as a deterrent. Their existence helps to quickly calm troubled waters - which in turn makes the Director`s thankless task almost bearable!!!