EBU Strategic Plan

A limited discussion between counties in the Midlands Counties working Group about the future of the game of bridge was the driving force behind the creation of this forum, although it will, I hope, have many other uses.

The EBU has had a Strategic Plan for the last decade or so (visible under the tag of "Bidding for the Future", in the Official Documents section of the website) and is now embarking on the next generation of that. Here are some thoughts from the Gloucestershire discussion on where we go ...

On the context

  1. The Articles of Associate of the EBU (the fifth Object) capture “through the medium of the Union, to do all such things as from time to time may be necessary to elevate and maintain the status and procure the advancement of the game of bridge in England”. There is no limitation here to Duplicate Bridge (or competitive bridge), and in any case non-Duplicate bridge should be encouraged as players of non-Duplicate bridge are always prime candidates for the Duplicate game. So all forms of bridge should be in scope.

  2. A large part of the bridge playing population of the country lies outside the affiliated clubs, and the EBU would clearly like these people to be player members. It needs to do this by understanding the ways in which these people enjoy playing bridge and what these people need of a National Body, and by adapting to be that, rather than by trying to persuade these people to join a National Body which was created for a bridge playing population with a much more competitive streak.

Why do we as Counties care?

  1. The Counties can manage bridge activities within their area, fairly independently of the EBU Strategic Plan, but Counties and EBU-central working together for the promotion of bridge must generate a better outcome. Furthermore many active County players make regular use of the services the EBU provides, and the Counties need to ensure the best possible Strategic Plan in order to best serve those people.

  2. For these reasons the Counties want to engage with the Board on the development of the EBU Strategic Plan.

Comments

  • Had to rush off to play bridge just as I posted that last night. It's an issue for County Associations as well as for the EBU (whose attitude will get captured in their Strategic Plan, which prompted the thinking).

    The key thought I wanted to raise in people's minds was whether we as County Bridge Associations, like the EBU, have had too much of a focus on the well established competitive bridge player, to the neglect of the greater number of players who don't participate in non-local events. We are trying in Gloucestershire to engage with this (forgotten?) part of the bridge playing population, but it is early days in this venture. Have any counties tackled this problem yet, and had any success in doing so?

    Patrick Shields (Glos)

  • I have been talking with Chairs of non-affiliated clubs to try to understand what value they do or do not see in the EBU and, consequently, what relationship with the EBU they might contemplate.

    The emphasis of many of these clubs is social rather than competitive but they do recognise the important role of the laws, education and publicity in ensuring the health of the game and are prepared to make a financial contribution accordingly. However, the cost of affiliation and, as they see it, the subsidising of the more competitive players represents an obstacle to affiliation - particularly for clubs charging table money of, sometimes, only one or two pounds.

    That strongly suggests to me that an important aspect of the strategic plan should be a set of actions to investigate the possibility of developing a range of different affiliation options. I fully recognise that doing so may be difficult, or even impossible. However, unless such a set of actions is included in the plan even a consideration of that possibility is not going to take place.

    I'm Chair of Worcester CBA, a relatively small county association, and would welcome the experiences of other counties, both large and small, in respect of the value that socially orientated/non-competitive clubs consider that the EBU can offer. Just to be clear, I do recognise that an emphasis on the competitive aspects of the game need not preclude enjoyment of the social side - indeed, I hope we all enjoy that!

    Mike

  • @patricks said:
    Had to rush off to play bridge just as I posted that last night. It's an issue for County Associations as well as for the EBU (whose attitude will get captured in their Strategic Plan, which prompted the thinking).

    The key thought I wanted to raise in people's minds was whether we as County Bridge Associations, like the EBU, have had too much of a focus on the well established competitive bridge player, to the neglect of the greater number of players who don't participate in non-local events. We are trying in Gloucestershire to engage with this (forgotten?) part of the bridge playing population, but it is early days in this venture. Have any counties tackled this problem yet, and had any success in doing so?

    Patrick Shields (Glos)

  • The MCWG response to the EBU on draft Strategic Plan (http://www.ebu.co.uk/documents/official-documents/EBU-Strategic-Plan-2018-2023.pdf) and its questions

    1. Do you believe achievement of the individual strands of the proposed new Plan, as a whole, will secure a financially sustainable EBU, valued and supported by its Members? Please give reasons for your answer.

    2. Are there any additions or deletions you feel should be included in, or excluded from, the more detailed elements of the Plan? Please give reasons for your answer.

      was as follows :

    The Counties are very interested in the EBU Strategic Plan because they share with the EBU responsibility for the future of the game of bridge in this country; moreover county members are the core of the EBU and we want to represent their interests. We welcome this consultation and ask to be kept involved in the continued development of this plan.

    The core context of the EBU’s proposal is the EBU Player members, but the responsibility of the EBU goes wider than that, as it is the National body for bridge in England. The EBU (our EBU) has a responsibility to all bridge players, whether members or not. This means that it must understand and care about less/non competitive players and about unaffiliated clubs as much as active members and affiliated clubs.

    ANSWER TO QUESTION 1 : Even within the context the EBU had given itself, the plan is too coupled to the world of competitive bridge in which its creators have grown up; and even without that issue the proposal is not in a state which gives us confidence that its objectives will be achieved. Many useful strands of activity are identified, but much more work is needed to make this into a robust plan, so the answer is NO.

    REASONS :

    The vast majority of EBU player members do not avail themselves of the services offered by the EBU, while they make the majority P2P contribution. That which has been presented does not place enough focus on the understanding and support of these people, and so “a valued range of services to Members” is unlikely to be achieved.

    Much is known and has been written on what makes a good plan; some of the key concepts are the clarity of the objectives, their achievability and testability, and the availability of the necessary resources to carry these out. The line items in the current Strategic Plan lack many of these attributes. Plans are often well served by having a hierarchical structure, which brings out the logical relationship of low level activities to the top level goals. The current layout does not allow any easy tracking from low level items to the top level objectives. There is also concern that – even within the restricted context - the top level objectives are incomplete; they say nothing about the development of the game, which is surely a pre-requisite for its success in the future.

    ANSWER TO QUESTION 2 : In response to question two, there is nothing we would delete, although a number of items concern the Values of EBU as an organisation (reflecting how it runs the business) and would be better managed independently of the Strategic Plan. We see gaps on two fronts.
    a. Actions needed of a National Body, reaching out to non-bridge-players and to the Press, and raising the profile of the game of bridge across the country, which includes making everyone more interested than they are today in the performance of our International Teams.
    b. There are some, but insufficiently concrete, actions on the development the game of bridge in a way that makes it appeal to new generations of players (where other interests challenge for their limited time) - encompassing Youth Bridge, Teaching and Technology.

  • I was encouraged to see that the Board has recognised the need for the strategy document to feed into "firm operational plans" (http://www.ebu.co.uk/node/3075) - that is extremely good news and I look forward to the Board consulting with the Counties and County Working Groups on those. I'm a little puzzled by the reference to what had hitherto been called, and headed up as, a "Strategic Plan" as a "directional document" however. I've been involved with business strategy for more years than I care to remember and have never come across the term before. Nor was Mr Google able to provide any useful assistance - can anyone help?

    Hopefully this isn't a simple renaming or rebranding and more will become clear when the document is re-published in due course.

  • The strategic plan attaches importance to publicising the performance of international teams. Just as this can help to create a "joined-up" feeling within our national body the idea can be extended to county and club level where the feeling of unity as a county or a club can equally be enhanced by publicising the performance of our representative teams.
    There are players at all levels who see playing representatively for country, county or club as an honour - and like me, once their work and family commitments allow them the time to do so, they want to "give something back". Others may see it as a service that they provide to the national body by giving up their free time to represent their country, county or club but they did not have to make themselves available for selection and no doubt there were others who would have loved to take their places and who would have seen it as an honour to do so.
    Would it be safe to assume that the majority at all levels of representative bridge take the former view?
    If so it follows that part of the EBU's strategic plan should involve creating easy paths for representative players to "give back" to the bridge community that selected them and paid for their participation in representative events.
    People may like to share ideas for how this can be done here.

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