At all levels in Yorkshire there has been a concern for some time over the declining numbers and rising average age of those who play duplicate Bridge. We have always been aware of this but real concern was probably triggered by the EBU Strategy Report published in April 2008.
To underline this point the average EBU member is 62 years old. That simple statistic is a stark pointer as to where we are heading if radical action is not taken.
In Yorkshire the figures paint a similar picture with the vast majority of players who are in the 55 80 year bracket.
Figures (Nov 2011) compiled by David Musson, Membership Secretary, YCBA
We pressed for the establishment of Development and Education Committees both in Yorkshire (YCBA) and at our Club, Leeds. Our views were welcomed at both levels in fairly quick succession. To be fair education facilities existed already but needed a tonic with a new approach and priority. Our approach was to place Education centre stage by making it the core of Bridge Development.
The County Committee was set up 2 years ago and the Leeds equivalent got going 6 months later. We were aware that we needed to concentrate on providing lessons as a means of attracting people into Clubs. This was to be the vehicle for driving forwards the development and maintenance of Bridge in the future. Lesley had been on the original EBU Clubs Committee. Her contacts from this as well as her experience at the YCBA and as a former Chairperson of Leeds gave her the contacts and standing to push this forward.
Meanwhile Ron persuaded the Millennium Fund to donate £3000 towards the development of Bridge in Yorkshire. The argument that was made and accepted was that Bridge could be crucial in preventing the early onset of Dementia. Everyone at Yorkshire was enthusiastic that results could be achieved. Under the Chair of David Waxman this sum was matched by the YCBA to spend on our campaign. Our work included a new bespoke Website developed specifically to encourage Bridge education - www.learnbridgeyorkshire.co.uk. With a further contribution of £500 from Leeds we now had a campaign fund of more than £6000.
Without a seriously expensive and penetrating marketing campaign it is probably impossible to make Bridge a Sexy game like Poker. Indeed we are not sure that we would want to achieve results in this way.
What we have achieved is as follows...
With all the effort that has been put into developing Bridge education in the Yorkshire area there are certain things that are needed to be successful:
Whilst we have been successful, this has been limited to the Leeds, Bradford, Wetherby and York areas. We are acutely aware that in other areas many Clubs soldier on with only one or two lone teachers. Sometimes they have abandoned teaching altogether. This situation is made worse because the potential Bridge population is small or very little is known about the game in the area where they teach. The danger for the future is that Bridge will become restricted to a few major centres of population with nothing beyond.
Once newcomers have started a series of lessons they may then be lost to Bridge. They drop out half way through or more importantly, they disappear off the radar to play social Bridge, away from their local Club. In the long term we see the need to develop a system of personal follow up, so that all the effort that has been put into teaching has not been in vain.
So far, although it has taken a lot of time, the work has been comparatively straight forward. Now we will need to raise interest in the smaller towns, villages and rural areas where Clubs may be either struggling, or not gaining any new membership.
This next stage will require a lot more effort, patience and resources.
Remember that from April 2010 the EBU has trained 202 club teachers representing approximately a third of all affiliated clubs. The numbers are growing. If your club hasn't taken advantage of a Partner Teacher course yet, please visit http://www.ebu.co.uk/education/partner-teacher/courses or contact Lisa@ebu.co.uk