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 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 - or even 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 of à regular tournament at a well known club for a second time. Following a dispute with his partner during an early round of thé session. 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 Committees 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 their Federation 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 very soon 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. Significantly, the fact that the guilty ones were friends of the President could no longer be used by the offenders to escape punishment. In othger words, written complaints detailing unsavoury incidents can no longer be swept under the carpet.
In my view, this innovation should be adopted by clubs elsewhere. Mot least because ETHICS committees act as a deterrent. Their existence helps to quickly calm troubled waters - which in turn makes the Director`s thankless task almost bearable!!!