President's Report - September 2015
Firstly, best wishes to everyone for a successful and enjoyable new season.
Since our AGM in May, I have participated in a Master Point Workshop, the Scottish Cup (a couple of wins but soundly defeated by a strong Piper team), the National Summer Congress, a Tournament Director Training Course, Central District Congress and the Clarendon Bowl. I would like to extend my thanks to the organisers of all these events for their efforts.
The first of these was very well attended by club representatives and spawned a MEMPAD User Group under the independent chairmanship of Mike Baron – please feel free to contact him if you would like to become involved in this excellent initiative.
Between now and our next Council meeting, I am hoping to attend the Watson Trophy in Edinburgh, the Edwin Berry teams, the Diamond Trophy, the Autumn National Congress and the first weekend of the National League – please take the opportunity to say hello if our paths cross.
At last week’s Council meeting, there was much to discuss:
- The evening was dominated by discussions on SBU’s financial position which, although still healthy, has been gradually deteriorating over recent years. Although this decline is projected to be arrested by the gradual increase in subscription levels over the next four years agreed at this year’s AGM, Finance Committee feel that we cannot rely on this alone and made a number of recommendations to increase income and restrict expenditure. These include the capping of honoraria and a reduction in mileage claim rates.
- Most of our larger clubs are now submitting their master point awards to MEMPAD electronically and work continues to improve the efficiency of this process - in particular we are looking to deliver enhanced acknowledgement of award files processed electronically. Since the relaxation of minimum purchase levels, the automated approach is now proving more attractive to many smaller clubs. In parallel, the vast majority of our active players have now completed their database registration and can view their personal award records online – the associated discontinuation of paper statements is now beginning to deliver improved processing efficiency and cost savings.
- Ownership of Bridge Scorer will be transferred from Jeff Smith to the English Bridge Union with effect from the end of September. As this may result in the introduction of maintenance charges, club scorers and tournament directors are recommended to upgrade to the latest release before this change takes place.
- Council confirmed Tournament Committee’s recommendation that high-level master point rankings be standardised as follows:
- Gold: Life Master and above
- Silver: Scottish and National Masters
- Bronze 3: Senior Master and Masters, including star variations
- Bronze 2: District Masters
- Bronze 1: Local and Club Masters and Novices
Districts are encouraged to introduce events specifically for Bronze players and to apply the above sub-divisions as appropriate.
- SBU Diaries for 2015/16 were issued to District Delegates at last week’s Council meeting for onward transmission to clubs and subsequent distribution to all of our members.
- Please note that SBU Membership Subscriptions of £6 per member are now due. If you haven’t already paid for the 2015/16 season, please do so through your chosen “home” club as soon as you can. Club Treasurers are asked to forward these payments, together with the club fee of £17, to George Plant, our new Treasurer.
- Improvements continue to be made to the SBU Website to enhance the delivery of useful information to our members.
- The scope of Scottish Bridge News is being expanded to appeal to less experienced players. In particular, a new bidding challenge is being introduced from next month especially for District Masters and below – please encourage as many of your improvers as possible to submit an entry!
- Thanks to the efforts of our Education Committee, bridge classes have been introduced to a number of primary and secondary schools across Scotland – many thanks to those who have volunteered to assist with these excellent initiatives. Given the growth in demand for youth education, further volunteers are urgently needed - please contact your District Education Officer if anyone else feels that they are able to assist (minimal experience is required and teachers will be provided with support materials).
- Council confirmed Tournament Committee’s Chief TD appointments:
- Christine Walker for national events
- Horst Kopleck for national congresses
- Congress Committee reported on the success of our Summer Congress and the major improvement programme being undertaken by Peebles Hydro – we are looking forward to seeing the additional progress made when we visit once again in July. Please contact Joan Lees with entries for the Autumn and/or Winter Congresses and, indeed, for next year’s Overseas Congress in Croatia.
- International Committee reported on the revised arrangements for the Junior Camrose and the Peggy Bayer. As Scotland are the hosts in 2016, we may be able to enter two teams for each of these events – the financial implications of this are currently being investigated.
- Law & Ethics Committee are currently revising disciplinary procedures and upgrading the appeals procedure.
- Our representative reported on Bridge Great Britain (BGB) and European Bridge League (EBL) developments, Scotland now being represented on the latter’s Communications Group. An EBL seminar is to be held in Rome in January and it was agreed that SBU will be represented.
I am acutely aware of the magnificent efforts made by every one of our Council Delegates to undertake the work of Council and the administration of bridge in Scotland – many thanks to you all for your support and unstinting service.
3 September 2015
President’s Remarks – Annual General Meeting - 26/5/15
As I complete this first of my two-year term as President, I hope that you will agree that Council has continued to build on the progress made under my predecessor Mike Ash and that you will share my optimism for the future of Scottish Bridge Union.
There have been several developments during the year and further change is in the pipeline:
- A zero-based budgeting process has been put in place to address the changing profile of our income and expenditure streams – this AGM is facing a proposal to amend our financial year-end to 31 August, bringing it into line with the playing season
- Tim Wickens has indicated that he wishes to stand down after many years of loyal service as SBU Treasurer – subject to the approval of this AGM, welcome to George Plant who is proposed as his successor
- The scope of the National League has been expanded and developed as a tool to assist with the selection process
Law & Ethics Committee:
- Advice and guidelines continue to be issued to players to help improve behavioural standards at the bridge table
Member Services Committee:
- Ongoing development and improvements to our website will be undertaken
- The provision of SBU diaries to all members was well received and will be continued
- Training activity in primary schools has widened extensively as evidenced by record entries for this season’s schools’ MiniBridge championship
- We have also seen continued growth in adult education with many more novice players taking up the game
- MEMPAD functionality continues to expand with many of our clubs now submitting their master point awards electronically – further developments in computerised scoring will be addressed by a workshop to whom club representatives have been invited
- It is appreciated that some will be dismayed at the imminent withdrawal of paper master point statements – members are encouraged to log on to MEMPAD to track their awards and personal ranking
- We are currently doing all we can to maintain master point processing following the recent resignation of our Master Point Secretary – a permanent solution will be put in place as soon as possible
- Centralised recruitment has helped to arrest the decline in entry levels for many of our national tournaments
- A training programme has been put in place for tournament directors to improve the quality of service provided to tournament players
- We are working closely with our selected partners to improve the quality of offering provided to those who support our domestic and overseas congress programme
- Reviews of master point policy are regularly undertaken – in response to feedback from smaller clubs, lower minimum purchase levels will be applied to those issuing computer-generated paper certificates
I am extremely grateful for the support provided by all Council delegates and co-optees for the work they do for all of these committees.
The undoubted highlight of this season has been the hosting of the Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship in Glasgow. Complimentary feedback has been received from many participants, international and domestic alike. The magnificent contributions of those on the organising committee and the plethora of volunteers ensured that all went smoothly, on the surface at any rate!
During the year, I have tried to play in as many events as possible. I would like to express my thanks to the Districts who invited me to their congresses and to all those individuals who helped to run them. Despite occasional criticism, I believe that our tournament directors do an excellent job and they are all due a big “thank you” from all players.
I have also been able to support players at the European Championships in Croatia, the Commonwealth Nations Championship, the Camrose Trophy, the Lady Milne Trophy and the Schools’ MiniBridge Championships. In addition, I have tried to visit clubs in as many parts of Scotland as I could manage – if I haven’t made it to your local club, please send me an invitation and I will do my best to pay you a visit.
Report from Council - April 2015
Since my last report, I have attended a number of events:
- Mixed Swiss Pairs & Teams: Well done to Cathy for generating such an encouraging level of entries and to Horst and Maureen for running things so effectively.
- Senior Trials: This was my first experience of playing in a pairs trial and I enjoyed it immensely. It was most encouraging to see that 18 highly experienced pairs had entered. Angus and Anne ran the event like clockwork and I was most impressed at the friendliness of all our opponents, despite the fact that selection for the Teltscher Trophy team was at stake. Congratulations to Danny Kane, Irving Gordon, Charles & Vi Outred, Harry Smith & Roy Bennett for their selection and best wishes to them for a successful result in Dublin next month.
- Men's Pairs: Despite encountering a number of technical problems, Ian Hunter did manage to complete a somewhat complex movement (34 pairs over two floors) without any other TD assistance and only discovering that he would be left to run the event at the last minute. Feedback from participants has resulted in the introduction of advanced TD training courses over the next few months (see below).
- South District Congress: Many thanks to Cathie Forbes for extending me an invitation to participate in the Congress Pairs and to Ian Ellison for agreeing to partner me.
- West District Congress: Convener "rookies" Peter Edmond and John Glen did an excellent job of organising the Congress which had moved from Peebles to the New St Andrew and Buchanan Clubs in Glasgow. Horst and Maureen did a great job of running the main Congress events smoothly and Angus did the same for the Bronze section.
I also attended the Southern heat of the School's MiniBridge Championship in Stirling - what an uplifting experience due to the enthusiasm of the children taking part! Jenny, Ann, Liz, Tim and all the teachers are to be congratulated for all their work which culminated in 13 teams in the Southern heat and 20 in the Northern heat which was held the following week in Elgin. This was a record entry for the event with over double the number of teams that had ever participated in previous years. Well done to the Kings and Queens team from Balloch Primary School who were declared the overall winners.
Between now and the AGM at the end of next month, I am looking forward to participating in the New Melville Congress, the Harrison Individual, the Scottish Swiss Pairs and my first ever SBU Overseas Congress which, this year, will be in Corfu. I look forward to seeing many members at these events. Best wishes to Sam Punch, Paula Leslie, Anne Symons, Helen Kane, Liz McGowan & Michele Gladstone who will shortly be doing battle with the other home nations in the Lady Milne Trophy in Birmingham. On a similar theme, all the very best to Jun Nakamaru-Pinder, Stewart Pinkerton, Olivia Bailey, Soozy Nesom, Liam O'Brien & Ronan Valentine who will make up Scotland's under-20 team at the Junior European Championships in Tromso in July - they will be accompanied by an under-16 team from Hutchesons' Grammar School who will be our representatives in the first ever "Kids Event" which runs alongside the main Championships and to whom we also extend our best wishes.
As ever, your delegates faced a lengthy agenda at our latest Council meeting:
- Council have agreed to recommend to next month's AGM the appointment of Ian Hunter as our first ever President Elect. This role was agreed at last year's AGM and will provide greater continuity as we would expect Ian succeed me as President in 2016.
- Sincere thanks are due to Sandy Duncan who published the final version of his MEMPAD Report. This will shortly be posted on the website and Council have undertaken to take his conclusions on board as further development is undertaken. In particular, the priorities and needs of clubs will be factored in and members who have expressed an interest will be invited to a workshop to specify requirements for the next phase of development.
- Revised minimum purchase levels for master points (based on usage) already available to clubs submitting awards electronically will be extended to those few clubs still printing off paper points.
- After a number of years of exceptionally hard work as our Master Point Secretary, including overseeing the launch of MEMPAD, Janet Rixon has decided to vacate this position to allow her to focus on other activities. Interim arrangements are currently being put in place by Bill Whyte, Convener of Member Services and we would ask for members' continued patience while these are being bedded in.
- In-depth discussions were held on the revised budget and financial projections for the 17-month period to 31 August 2015 and the budget for 2015/16, all of which had been presented by Fiona Greenwood, Convener of Finance Committee. Due partly to the extension of the current financial period from 12 to 17 months but also to increasing costs and decreasing income, we are currently looking at significant deficits for both these periods. Although our overall capital position remains healthy, such deficits are unsustainable in the long term and remedial action plans will be put in place. In particular, proposals for modest increases in the level of subscriptions for 2016/17 and 2017/18 will be submitted to next month's AGM.
- After many years of dedicated service as SBU Treasurer, Tim Wickens will be stepping down from this role at the end of August. Interviews have been held to identify a successor and I have great pleasure in advising that George Plant will take over with effect from September.
- Teaching of MiniBridge in primary schools continues to make great progress but, so much so, that we are now in danger of becoming victims of our own success! Additional volunteers are needed to build on existing activity - if you feel that you can assist in any way, please contact Ann Wickens, our Education Convener or your District Education Coordinator.
- In the run-up to December's retirement of Ian Ross as Chief Tournament Director, Horst Kopleck has agreed to take over the role of manager of our Peebles Congresses and will be working with Ian during the rest of this calendar year. The Tournament Committee continue to investigate alternatives for Ian's other responsibilities.
- During this summer, two advanced training courses will be held in Glasgow and Dundee for our more experienced tournament directors. They will focus on use of technology in an effort to eliminate some of the problems encountered in recent years and improve the level of service delivered to tournament players. Participation will initially be by invitation but additional places may become available if number constraints permit.
- Liaison officers have been appointed within each District and in some of the larger clubs to help encourage tournament entries. In particular, clubs will be encouraged to hold heats of the Celtic Simultaneous Pairs which help generate additional funds for the SBU.
- A trophy has been sourced for the 2nd Division of the National League and will be presented to this season's winners.
Apologies for the length of this report but I hope it gives you a flavour of the vast array of topics that Council need to look after on your behalf. Hopefully, as many members as possible will attend next month's AGM - we would particularly like to see the winners of all national events being presented with their trophies.
Report from Council - July 2014
It gives me great pleasure to provide my first report from Council as your new President. My first meeting has been described by some as a baptism of fire but I regard robust debate as healthy within any democratic organisation and would have been disappointed if there hadn't been a number of differing views expressed on some of the more sensitive issues on our agenda. The key thing for me is the enthusiasm and dedication of your elected delegates and how they all rally round behind the majority decisions.
The first thing I wanted to achieve is to make all our members aware of the structure of Council's various committees and which delegates serve on each one of these - this can now be seen from the structure chart which has been posted on the Admin section of our website. Committee conveners will be submitting their draft action plans to an Executive Committee meeting in September - once these are agreed by Council in November, they will form the basis for development activity during 2014/15 and beyond. Executive Committee will also be examining in more detail the recommendations of the working party report into Council's future structure and will be developing their own action plans to address the issues raised.
Three Scottish teams (open, women and seniors) recently participated in the European Bridge Championships in Croatia - although it is fair to say that their results were a little disappointing, it only goes to show how fierce the competition is at this level and further emphasises the magnificent achievements of our medal-winning senior team in Dublin in 2012
Council's main focus for now is the Commonwealth Nations Bridge Championship which is to be held in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow from 8-14 September - please have a look on our dedicated website at www.commonwealthbridgescotland.com to see how this is shaping up. This will be the highest profile bridge event ever to have been held in Scotland and Fiona Greenwood and her team are doing a great job of bringing it to fruition. They urgently need the help of volunteers in the following areas:
- Airport meet & greet
- BBO operators (training provided)
- Board dealing
- Information desk
- Venue set-up
- Accommodation (for volunteers from outside Glasgow)
Volunteers are vital to the smooth running of the event and I would urge you to get in touch with Fiona or myself if you feel you can help in any way, even if it's only for a few hours.
As agreed at our Annual General Meeting, an independent review of MEMPAD is to be carried out to ensure that its continued development accurately reflects the needs of our members and that cost/benefit procedures are sufficiently robust. Sandy Duncan has kindly agreed to undertake this review and we are currently working on his terms of reference - please feel free to share your thoughts with Sandy.
While some clubs are closed during the summer months, others are already starting to collect members' subscriptions for 2014/15. Club officials are reminded that SBU subscriptions should be recorded on MEMPAD as soon as possible after each payment has been received and the funds subsequently forwarded to the SBU Treasurer for confirmation - most club officials seemed to cope extremely well with the new system last year but, if further guidance is required, this can be found in the secretaries' and treasurers' guides which can be found through MEMPAD's help tab on www.mempad.co.uk.
During August, members' diaries will be distributed through Districts and then on through your home club - if you don't receive yours, please ask your club secretary to chase this up on your behalf. This year, the diary will replace the Competition Handbook. Another change for 2014/15 is that entries for national tournaments will be collated by a central convener, Cathy Ferguson.
Finally, may I extend to you all my best wishes for an enjoyable season. I am planning to attend as many events as I can and hope to meet as many members as possible. If, however, I don't have an opportunity to meet you face-to-face, please don't hesitate to drop me a note with your views on any bridge-related issue - I welcome feedback and will do my best to answer any points raised as openly and honestly as I can.