Reprint of social media comment from Ian Payn
One of the major problems facing the EBU is the divide between club players and county players and national players, and the challenge is luring those whose interests are only playing at club level to make the journey into the outside world. If I may be desperately simplistic for a moment, the two major factors in this are cost and fear. County events (which I personally have always enjoyed) are run by volunteers, but will still cost around £25 per day. To a club player who is used to shelling out a maximum of £6 per session, this is a big jump, and to make it worthwhile, the venue has to be amenable, accessible and attractive. But if that is conquered, the second element kicks in: what if everybody there is too serious, or too horrible, or calls the TD every time I stop to count my points again?
For national events, you can pretty much double the cost. The fear factor probably progresses geometrically rather than arithmetically.
So, what to do? For a couple of years the EBU has been trialling a membership campaign which will spread out over the country (run via counties, so some poorly-resourced counties may have to team up with each other if they want to participate). The next step is to get people playing regularly at their comfort level (the hard part) and then try to encourage them to ease outside it (the bloody hard part).
Somewhere along the way the message has been lost. Bridge "in the middle" (i.e. not playing with beginners but not playing in the Premier League, either) can, and should, be fun. Sure, over the course of a long weekend like the Pairs or Teams at the Summer Meeting you're going to meet some people who get on your nerves, but that happens in life, doesn't it? And if people start behaving badly (rather than just being generally annoying) then call the TD: that's what he's there for. And you'll be doing the rest of the room a favour, as well. I appreciate that if you are relatively new to the bridge world it can be a bit daunting, but genuine bad behaviour is just bullying, and needs to be stamped on firmly.
I remember the days when I was desperate to play in anything and everything. Now, age and other commitments have taken their toll, but I like to play whenever I can and despite booking my worst-ever result in a national competition, actually enjoyed myself in Eastbourne recently. Admittedly it didn't get off to a great start when the Chief TD asked my partner and I if we were playing together, and then when told we were, walked away shaking his head and laughing, but in the end he was proved right, so no hard feelings, eh?
Pleasing all of the people all of the time is impossible. You only have to ask any bridge club manager what his major problem is, and he'll tell you that basically it can be summed up as "someone wants the window open, someone else wants the window closed". Like clubs and counties, the EBU has to strike a balance. Comments on feedback forms and social media are noted, and correspondence is read. There was an open meeting at Eastbourne which provided quite a lot of food for thought, and this forum is one of the ideas that sprang from that.