Minutes of Nottingham Contract Bridge Association
Date of meeting 18th January 2017
1. Apologies for absence. Irene Auld, Chris Clark, Keith Rodgers
2. Approval of minutes of meeting held on 6th June 2016 these were accepted and signed.
3. Matters arising. There were no matters arising
4. Chairman’s’ Report John had not much to report. He had sent everyone on the committee a Christmas card which hoped they had received. He hoped that things were improving but felt that the committee could do better in terms of communicating to clubs. He wanted to put more on the website about individual clubs.
5. Received correspondence. County needed to complete the annual return for the membership fees for the year. It was noted that the EBU had increased their component. Also received details from Oxford about Bridge festival and Wessex youth weekend.
6. Treasurers report The balance on the current account was given as £1584.54p as of 5th December. Monies had been spent on expenses for the Tollermache. New cards and boards. £110 had been given to the university bridge club to help get it up and running. A new method of implementing travelling expenses for county games had been set up.
7. County Captains report Keith had sent an email which had been circulated to all members. He ask the committees opinion on team selection. It was decided to look at this at the end of the season.
8. Teams of 8 Chris sent a report to the committee which had been circulated to all members. The committee had no further comments on this.
9. Teams of 4 Jane Hall agreed to help Keith Spencer update the rules for this competition. The league had been advertised in the newsletter and will run over the summer months.
10. Events secretary. Graham Brindley thought moving the mixed pairs competition to December had been ill-judged. It was decided that this tournament should take place in November. Graham asked the committees advised on the number of teams that could qualify for the Knock out teams the committee decided that if the final number of entrants was more than 9 then 8 teams should go through and with 8 then the number would be 4.
11. Communications update Toni asked if all members of the committee could be involved in writing articles for the newsletter. Toni showed the committee the Yorkshire newsletter. Toni was concerned about the distribution of the newsletter. All affiliated clubs to be contacted personally by members of the committee regarding improving the situation. The allocation as follows:
East Bridgford and Retford Toni
Woodborough, Newark and Sunday Tigers Jane
Nottingham and Mansfield John
Keyworth and West Bridgford Ian
Toni also asked if we could get together a strategy on improving support for bridge in the county similar to one proposed by Yorkshire to hopefully put together a funding proposal to the EBU.
12. University Bridge Anthony gave us an update. The numbers were small and mainly beginners. They had got a team together for the Portland bowl
13. AGM; This will take place on 10th May starting at 6.30. There will be a free game of bridge afterwards. Tim said that as he was moving away from the area then there would need to be a new county TD. Toni Smith has offered to do the county TD course but there may well be other people interested.
14. Date of next meeting. It was agreed to have a short meeting before the start of the Winter Pairs in April starting at 5.30. This meeting would only have 2 items on the agenda namely the organisation of the AGM and the strategy on improving engagement. The notes of this meeting are attached as an appendix to these minutes.
Notes from Meeting held on 8th March starting at 5.30
The following committee members were not present. Tim Anderson, Chris Clark, Keith Rodgers, Jane Hall
The members present looked at the strategy document presented by Toni Smith. (A copy of which is attached to these minutes.) It was discussed what areas we should focus on. Toni was thanked by John Auld for her efforts. It was felt that members of the committee should pass their ideas back to Toni who produce a summary for the AGM. Any comments should be sent to Toni by 22nd March. Clare will send out paperwork for the AGM on 12th April once she has received the final information regarding the strategy from Toni.
The format of the AGM was discussed and it was decided to try and finish the AGM by 8pm to allow for a game of bridge. The AGM will start at 6.30 and there will be wine and nibbles provided. It was felt that we should try and get more people to try and serve on the committee and Clare was asked to try and contact members on this matter.
The position of county TD was likely to be vacant as Tim has indicated that he is leaving the area. So far no one has come forward following an ad in the last county newsletter offering for people to be sponsored by the county on this course. We urgently need more county qualified TD’s. Clare is to write to all the club TD’s in the county who pass the course with a distinction to find out if they would be willing to do the course. It was pointed out that they must also be willing to direct the county events.
Developing A Strategic Approach
for NCBA 2017-2020
The aims of Nottinghamshire Contract Bridge Association (NCBA) are:
· to promote and further Bridge in Nottinghamshire, and,
· to organise competitions in the County, and to participate in matches with other Counties.
It is proposed that the NCBA Committee should adopt a strategic approach to achieving these aims; if we have no strategy we are directionless and achieve little other than either the status quo or knee-jerk initiatives, neither of which are effective in our arguably declining activity.
It has been said that Bridge is on the decline yet it has also been shown that with effort, Bridge can be brought alive again and membership increased. The benefits of Bridge are numerous; our task is to promote and protect Bridge for current and future generation’s enjoyment.
Therefore we need to transparently utilize our funds and assets, balancing our efforts across both aims to proactively build capacity and standards across the County. The key strand in our Strategy will be effective Communication and Engagement both within and outwith the Bridge community. This may seem a daunting task but the skill base within our largely professional membership should supply the necessary resource, if we are prepared to be proactive and secure
Promoting and furthering Bridge
This has several strands. Judicious advertising and marketing can help raise the profile and promote the game. Probably the image of Bridge amongst the general public alternates between one of the blue rinse to the boring cerebral nerd. We can alter that image to attract a wider and younger range of players. We can make Bridge a more dynamic activity with a definite place within County and District leisure facilities.
As well as tackling the public perception, we have a reputation within the Bridge Community itself to maintain and develop. It is understood that Nottinghamshire was once the hotbed of Bridge in the Country. What happened such that status was lost? And is it feasible to want, as a longer-term objective, that backs again? Do all Nottinghamshire clubs understand and support NCBA aims? After all we take a percentage of their funds, and are here inter alia to support them.
Effective 2-way communication and engagement is key; if we can build an engaged group of volunteers and supportive network of clubs it is easier to deliver an ambitious programme. Working towards commonly held goals can be fun as well productive. Bridge could be said to be overly ‘serious’ which, whilst not surprising given its sedentary, cerebral and competitive nature, is rather unfortunate. Reflecting on this aspect could well reap dividends.
As well as building capacity in terms of the number of clubs and the number and age profile of actual players in the County we can help to raise standards across all grades and abilities. This can only bring dividends in the long run; as our current ageing cadre stop playing we will need County standard players to take their place in County competitions. Most players relish the idea of developing and improving their performance so this should be an easy win.
We need energetic enthusiasts in all Clubs to keep Bridge thriving- it is after all an activity run solely by volunteers. This means that building and supporting a cohesive club network and being visible in all clubs, whether affiliated or not, is essential. A key aspect is building a competent base of club and County TDs. This is vital to improving capability, as a TD can actively raise standards at a local level as well as managing the club drive. This resource needs to be cherished.
NCBA currently has significant funds in reserve. Whilst one has to be prudent given that in recent years NCBA appears to ‘just break even’, a plan to utilize funds for the benefit of Nottinghamshire Bridge should be developed. In a time when some clubs are struggling, some support may need to be considered, more on a self help basis rather than simply shoring up clubs that market forces may no longer consider viable. We must be alive to the fact that our resources should be earmarked for Countywide, not individual club, initiatives.
At the same time as developing an external strategy we should not omit to undertake a root and branch review of the internal workings of NCBA. Are our constitution, polices and rules fit for purpose? Are they known and publicized to all? Critically examining our own performance will require grit but invariably improvements will result as we evolve to move ahead of the times. Failure to adapt will lead to stagnation.
Finally we need a transparent and dynamic NCBA Committee prepared to work proactively as a team to achieve these ambitious goals. Otherwise we can be open to the charge of nepotism, laissez-faire and certainly doing nothing, does nothing to improve the negative image NCBA somehow has developed in certain areas of Nottinghamshire Bridge.
County matches and competitions.
Bridge is a competitive game. Whilst some players only want a gentle social club night, there are others who like the variety and range of different types of competitions and events. We have a duty to cater for all requirements and standards, using competitions additionally as a way to build capacity and ability.
Whilst County leagues are clearly important, they do not affect the majority of Nottinghamshire Bridge players. We clearly need to value and invest in our leading players but vitally ensure an ‘elitist’ culture does not result. So at the same time we should be seeking a return contribution from those players who do benefit, back to the NCBA and membership through a variety of ways. NCBA does not exist to provide fun and games for the few; rather the few are part of the many whom we should cater for in a planned comprehensive fashion.
Reviewing the websites of various County Associations, one can see a wide range of different competitions and activities. Learning from other’s successes is a good way to develop our own plan of action after conducting an honest review of the performance, attendance and costs of our current competition diary. Likewise a proper review of our County selection and achievements on a yearly basis should help with the ‘hotbed’ concept previously mentioned.
The following-high level Objectives form the Strategy for NCBA to achieve its two prime aims. These goals are supported by the attached action plan.
The Committee is invited to ratify and publicise these Objectives as constituting NCBA’s Strategy for 2017-2020.
1. NCBA will raise the profile of Bridge through delivery of a Promotion & Advertising Plan to the wider Nottinghamshire public.
a. This will lead to improved entry and retention rates particularly amongst the younger age groups.
b. This collective input will support local clubs, leverage off EBU initiatives and improve general engagement.
2. NCBA will undertake an Engagement & Communication Review as a follow up to the 2015 Survey amongst the Bridge fraternity, both intra and extra county.
a. This will result in improved networking and sharing of best practice together with the need for any NCBA re-positioning identified.
b. A more cohesive county scene should improve competition entry levels and support fund raising for recycling back into the action plan.
c. Improved engagement provides surety that our efforts address the wishes and needs of our constituents.
d. Information in terms of membership capability and organizational support will evidence where resources should be targeted.
e. Such a review will identify where our website and other communication methods are failing to support our aims.
3. NCBA will conduct an objective and comprehensive review of its internal management and Committee teamwork to ensure efficiency and accountability of actions.
a. This will ensure our policies, rules and constitution are fit for our professed aims.
b. Undertaking an income and expenditure review will ensure we are cost efficient and targeting our spend in the most appropriate ways.
4. NCBA will develop and support delivery of a training and development plan for Nottinghamshire players, organisers and directors.
a. This will enhance enjoyment, raise standards and provide investment in the stars of the future.
b. This will ensure Nottinghamshire is endowed with sufficient qualified TD’s supported by appropriate CPD.
c. By home-growing County TD’s we can dispense with buying in out of County TD’s for major competitions and thus frank the initial outlay.
5. NCBA will undertake a review of our annual Events Schedule and performance outcomes.
a. This will allow us to target our spend in supporting and improving our competition diary and results as well as improving attendance via timely and effective advertising and management.
b. This should allow us to build funds and enjoyment as well as promoting increased inter-club activity.
6. NCBA will undertake a Review of County Selection methods and review achieved performance on all competitions and events, on an annual basis.
a. This will ensure the best current and future teams are fielded.
b. This will evidence where we need to invest resources to build capability and capacity.
It is irresponsible to assume that the purported ‘declining state’ of Bridge permits us to adopt a laissez-faire attitude. We need to be proactive. This will require effort and investment from every Committee member and the right skill set and attitude of NCBA Committee members is vital. It is pointless hanging on to funds that exist bringing no benefit for year upon year, when positive action can be taken with investment now which should repay its expenditure in achieved aims, as well as increased membership and table fees, for many years to come.
Whilst it may be unattractive to reflect on our past and current performance as a Committee we need to wake up to the fact that there is some evidence that many Nottinghamshire Bridge players are not happy with our outcomes to date. This should not go passively unaddressed.
Now is the time to make a significant change in the way we operate for the benefit of Nottinghamshire Bridge. Accordingly I commend this Report to the Committee.
TT Smith NCBA