ETHICS COMMITTEES - the cure for indiscipline
When I turned up for the start of the Director`s course at Juan les Pins, the Instructor told us all
"Becoming a director is a very good way to lose bridge friends*
My diploma arrived 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. Partly 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 - 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 Tournament Director are limited. A `no-win` situation if you want to keep your friends.
My Instructor 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. 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. Bizarre but true.
Fortunately something was then done. The FFB (2nd largest federation after the USA) decided to encourage Ethics Committees that were totally independent of the club committee. No members of the General committee could stand for the Ethics Committees. And these Ethics committees could ask Federation HQ for guidelines over what warnings or punishment should be given. In the particular 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 serial offenders intimidating, belittling or insulting other members. The fact that the guilty ones were friends of the President could no longer be used by the offenders to escape punishment. In other words, unsavoury incidents can no longer be swept under the carpet.
To be fair to the club Presidents, let me say that most do a fantastic job. They not only work tirelessly in the interests of their club members, but they are sometimes the victim of unacceptable behaviour themselves. On that point, I will give an example of the sort of problem I and my fellow Ethics committee members had to deal with in France. To show how the Ethics Committee functions to protect and help ALL members. To show also why it is essential that they are independent of the main committee. And to illustrate the committee`s powers - and why all clubs should affiliate to their national bridge federation in order to exercise those powers:
The German President (and Director) of my Riviera club was racially abused when called to deal with a dispute at a table. The abuser refused pressure from all quarters to apologise and bring speedy closure to the affair. It ultimately became a federal case after our President rightly put in a written complaint addressed to the chairman of the Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee convened and, because it was one of the first cases in France brought before such committees, we followed advice sought from regional and Headquarters staff at the French Federation. The advice we were given was that the lady should reasonably be banned from the club for a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of twelve. We were also told that the matter could be referred by us (Ethics Committee) to FFB HQ in Paris for them to deal with. And that we should do this anyway in the event that we felt the lady should be excluded from the three other local clubs of which she was also a member. In the end, we excluded her for the minimum period and took no further action. On account of her age.
For the record, she was 84 at the time. I happen to know because I had partnered her on her birthday prior to this incident. We had a pleasant game, but she obviously ignored my advice to keep her tongue under control!
This innovation will be adopted by the ACES Academy.
ETHICS committees act as a deterrent to bad behaviour.
Their existence helps to quickly calm troubled waters -
Which in turn makes the Director`s thankless task almost bearable!