To be fair the old Yeovil Bridge Club was ailing well before Covid cut a swathe through our favoured game. YBC had ended up in Johnson Park, a somewhat ‘gamey’ sports club in the northern suburbs of Yeovil Town, a not so appealing venue for a cold winter’s evening. More significant, YBC had acquired a reputation for being unfriendly, snooty even. There was little enthusiasm amongst members to the idea of starting up again between lockdowns in the autumn of last year.
Encouraged by the Somerset Contract Bridge Association, a rump of the old YBC sought to reinvent itself at a new location and with a re-polished image; a new name was thought wise too. Golf and bridge have long gone hand in hand and Yeovil Golf Club had both the space and understanding to welcome what was to become the Yeovil Phoenix Bridge Club when it started up the first week of April this year.
There was much from the old club that helped; an amendable website (already connected to both Somerset CBA and the EBU), computers, boards and the wherewithal to run duplicate sessions, plus sufficient funds to help Yeovil Phoenix get going. Somerset CBA have this year made money available to help clubs get up and running again. Through them a new set of bridge mates were acquired on a never-never scheme that will be paid off if as and when Yeovil Phoenix is seen to be successful.
Diverse talents were needed to get Yeovil Phoenix started. Above all word had to be spread that a revitalized bridge club was starting up and that it would welcome all levels of player. Ads and editorials in local magazines, posters in all sorts of unlikely places and little calling cards handed out over a couple of months led to 48 players turning up on day one, April 7th!
There was always the hope that Yeovil Phoenix could have an ‘assisted’ section running alongside the ‘main room’. In view of the big first day turn out, that idea became reality immediately and in a small area off the bar there are up to 3 tables for lesser lights, supervised by club members and from where already one couple have advanced to the ‘big game’.
With the shape of Yeovil Phoenix established, table money (£2.50) started in May, 24 players a week being needed to cover costs. In an increasingly cash free world, scratch cards (£20 to cover 8 playings) have proved most successful, 30 being taken up in the first month.
Even as we move into summer, our 2.00pm start on a Thursday is proving popular and surely to be more so in winter. This will do nothing to encourage younger, still working players into the game, but social media and IT already make it increasingly difficult to interest the next generation. Yeovil Phoenix is doing much to broaden the appeal of bridge locally, attracting the young will have to happen elsewhere.
By Tony Russ