Dear Club and County Representatives 

A few Clubs have asked us to consider, particularly in the light of shorter online sessions whether there might be a fairer way of structuring UM payments.

We are therefore asking Counties and Clubs for quick headline comment (the specific questions is at the end of this letter) on what seem to be the practical options for change. We do need to recognise that any changes which introduce fractions of 1p into calculations would require investment in our systems. Any proposal for change will be considered by our Board on 4 November, and then our AGM on 25 November. If the Board then decide to go ahead would be introduced from 1 April next year, providing any required system work could be completed reliably in time.

Current system

Before moving on to the choices let us remind you of the current system. There is a flat EBU charge (currently 40p) per session up to 36 Boards, with a rebate of 1/3rd for any session of less than 15 Boards. Added to this is a County charge which can vary from nothing to 20p per session, which for less wealthy Counties is an important element of their income. Price changes happen on 1 April each year.


UM is the main source of income for the EBU. This has reduced drastically with the Covid crisis and we do not know how long this crisis will last. Even when things do return to some level of normality, it seems likely that the amount of online bridge being played will increase, and the amount of face-to-face bridge will correspondingly decrease. For the EBU, in terms of services to Members and cost, there is virtually no difference between an online and face-to-face session, so the EBU Board cannot see any justification for a difference in charging structure between face-to-face and online. The EBU continues to look at its cost base, and is making savings where it can, without unduly hitting services to Members. So broadly any new structure will need, at least in the short-term, to raise roughly the same amount of incomes for both the EBU and its Counties as at present. There will also be an annual increase in fees annually usually at or below inflation levels. With this as a backdrop, the following outline structures are offered for consultation and comment:

Option A: Stay as we are for the year 21/22

The current structure works in a mechanical sense, and the argument runs that at a time of great uncertainty and volatility it would be foolish to change now, as opposed to in a year or two, into a new structure where income levels would be even more difficult to forecast. However, the current structure is not perceived as fair by some running shorter, particularly online, games.

Option B: Move to a charge per Board

The likely charge per board under this system would be, based on current prices, in the range 1.7p-1.9p, depending on future estimates of session lengths, plus an awkward add-on in small fractions of a penny for the County element. It has the advantage of simplicity and fairness and would reduce the cost of many shorter online sessions. But it does not reflect cost structures which are not fully variable, and we are probably talking about calculations of the actual price per board to two decimal places, at least. This would require a significant system change inside the EBU. There would inevitably be winners and losers.

Option C: Move to a fixed plus variable price

An illustration of this approach would be a price per session of 18p (plus the County element) plus 1p per Board. But the numbers would possibly be less simple in practice and as inflation rolled forward. The option has a better relationship to costs and would more easily handle the County supplement. It would also dampen the extent of winners and losers, but there would still be some. However, it would still require the same level of system change as option B, and the gain for those shorter online games would be less.

Option D: Move to a more multi-tiered system

The current UM structure has just a few tiers, but these could be extended, say, to tiers of 0-12 boards, 13-20, 21-30, 30+ rates (or even more tiers). Such an option would require less investment in system change, but still a little, and would critically depend on where the tiers are set. It would establish a few more cliff edges and the setting of the tier-rates would be more arbitrary than for options B or C. Maybe in the above example the core rate would for the 21-30 range, with a 20% reduction for 13-20, a 40% reduction for 0-12, and a 20% premium for 30+, possibly capped at 48 boards. It is likely that there would be spikes of activity at the top end of each tier ie 12 and 20 Boards in the given example.


Please send a response to umconsult@ebu.co.uk by 26th October.

1)    ranking the above options in order of preference eg C-A-B-D. Leave an option out if you feel strongly that it should not be considered eg if you respond B-A we would understand that to mean you are very opposed to both options C and D. Please let us know which County or Club you are responding from.

2)    (optional) let us have some other ideas or thoughts or consequences we might not have considered.

There is likely to be a wide spectrum of opinions on this tricky subject so not everyone will be happy with the outcome, but we will consider all views and responses that we receive, so please participate. 

Thank you.

Jerry Cope
EBU Treasurer


This email has been sent to sam@ebu.co.uk in your capacity as an EBU club or county official. To amend your details please email kay@ebu.co.uk

Read online at https://www.ebu.co.uk/dynamic/sendy/w/7T23x892tG2qCDn0i2srlXSQ

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