August 5, 1997

Dear District and Unit Board Members in District Two:

Attendance at the Albuquerque NABC dramatically exceeded advance predictions. It started strong and remained steady throughout the week. Final tally: 11,355 tables, well above management's original estimate of 9,800 tables and their hope of going over 10,000!

As is usually the case wherever an NABC is held, the local people provided outstanding hospitality. NABCs are where it's at! The excitement, the challenges and the opportunities are endless.

I urge all of you to consider the Fall NABC in St. Louis in November. And it's never too early to plan ahead. In 1998, we have three outstanding NABCs scheduled for Reno, Chicago, and Orlando. I hope to see some of you there!

Highlights From the Albuquerque Board Meetings:

  1. Roy G. Green announced his impending retirement as Chief Executive Officer (see Exhibit A) of the ACBL.

  2. A new colour coded convention card was approved (see Exhibit B). It will be in blue (announce), red (alert) and black.

  3. An overall budget of $800,000 annually for marketing and promotion of bridge was approved.

  4. For all knockout events below national rating, overall awards to players on five and six-person teams will be based on the percentage of participation. Effective January 1, 1998.

  5. A new large size format of The Bridge Bulletin is being test marketed and it appears to be getting rave reviews.

  6. The concept of "Zero Tolerance" for unacceptable behavior (see Exhibit C) was approved in principle. I am on a sub-committee that will propose detailed policy guidelines at the Memphis meetings in November.

  1. Tournaments & Masterpoints:
  2. There are highly influential, well financed lobbyists who pressure members of the Canadian Parliament and U.S. Congress. So it is in the bridge world. There are three issues that will put the ACBL Board of Directors (BOD) under tremendous pressure between now and the Fall meetings in Memphis.

    1. My motion to equate overall awards in regionally rated KO events with percentage participation. This is identical to the way overall awards are calculated in Regional and Sectional Swiss Team events. If you play half the matches/boards, then you get half the overall awards.

      In 1991, ACBL members earned 3.2 million masterpoints. With fewer members in 1996, we gave out 4.3 million masterpoints. A 34% increase with dwindling membership. In 1986, it took 267 masterpoints to make the Top 500. In 1997, it took 394! A 47% increase!

      While my motion will maintain the generous overall awards for KO events, as well as still allow for five and six person teams, it will mean that you must be "at the table" in order to win masterpoints. You won't be rewarded for the performance of others. This is fair, logical, and consistent with Swiss events.

      Already, I have heard that some professional players have gone "ballistic" over this motion. The critics claim that this will kill the KO events! I hardly think so.

      What's your opinion? I will ensure that all written comments I receive (snail mail or e-mail) will be passed on to the entire ACBL Board of Directors.

    2. In Dallas, we passed a regulation that defenses to natural no trump opening bids and overcalls that could show a multi-suited hand must now show at least one known suit. This applies to direct bids only, not to doubles. Effective 1/1/98.

      This motion refers to "suction", "hello", "jumpball", and various other defensive toys that have gained popularity in some areas of the country while remaining non-existent in others.

      It is my belief that these conventions do NOT belong on the general convention chart but should be on the mid-chart. There is a strong lobbying effort going on to persuade members of the BOD otherwise. What do you think? All comments I receive will be passed on to the full BOD.

    3. The issue of raising the age of eligibility for seniors events. I believe that seniors events today are discriminating against the 25-30% of ACBL members who are UNDER 55 years of age! One board member jokingly stated that now that Paul Soloway is winning senior events, it must be time to raise the age limit!

      The naysayers would have us believe that a mass exodus would occur if we tinkered with seniors events (just like a mass exodus would occur if we make eligibility for overall awards in KO events fair and just). I disagree on both counts.

      My feeling is that we should raise the age of eligibility to 62 or 65 years at once. Alternatively, we could raise it by one year every two years until we reach 62 or 65. A gradual phasing in.

      Or, we could do nothing. What do you think?

    I expect to be under a lot of pressure from special interest groups on all three of the above issues. I'm interested in what the majority of our players think about these ideas. Please let me know your viewpoint.

    Regarding other tournament matters:

    1. I tried to make it mandatory to have a registered nurse and first aid facilities available at every NABC. Defeated 18-7.

    2. Split range no trump opening bids such as the Woodson 2-Way No Trump (10-12 or 16-18 HCP) will be moved from the General Convention Chart to the Mid-Chart effective 1/1/98.

    3. The NABC Non-Life Master Swiss Team event was discontinued.

  3. Marketing & Future Plans:
    1. An annual budget of $800,000 was approved in principle to provide marketing and public relations support to the ACBL. The first step will be to hire a Marketing Director and a Sales Director. The marketing plan and budgetary considerations will be reviewed at the Fall meeting.

    2. Our current membership fee structure will remain as is, subject to review once a complete marketing program is available.

    3. Test marketing of the new size Bridge Bulletin continues. Management will provide a full report at the Fall meeting.

    4. The Future of Bridge task force suggestion to have a two-fee structure for entry fees (non-members would pay more) was defeated 18-7. A pity. In what other organizations do non-members pay the same entry fee as members?

    5. The ACBL will (finally!) invoice Canadian junior members for their Canadian Bridge Federation (CBF) fees. It is hoped that this long standing problem will be solved.

    6. The ACBL Field Office program is discontinued.

    7. Organizing and scheduling the 1998 Junior Team Trials was deferred to the Fall meeting.

    8. A "Super Senior" (65+) experimental Regional event is planned for the Spring (Reno) '98 NABC.

  4. Financial Matters:
  5. 1997 appears to be progressing well within budgetary guidelines. However, the major concern is how to come up with the large sums of money required for a full scale marketing and public relations program.

    With that in mind, a series of cost cutting measures were approved, specifically:

    1. The Bridge Bulletin will be cut back to 132 pages effective immediately.

    2. Sanction fees for Regionals and Sectionals shall increase effective 1/1/98. Regional fees up 40 cents to $4.10. Sectional fees up 15 cents to $2.75.

    3. Price increases will be felt for pretty much everything, including advertising in the Bridge Bulletin, handling fees, mailing list requests, and the cost of bid boxes (going up to $25/set from $20/set).

  6. Appeals & Charges:
    1. I chaired a sub-committee that presented a new set of ACBL Disciplinary Sanction Guidelines for approval (see Exhibit D). Approved by a 19-6 vote.

    2. A Zero Tolerance policy was approved in principle (see Exhibit C). I am on a committee that will formulate specific policy guidelines to be implemented as soon as possible, pending BOD approval at the Fall meeting.

    3. A summary of a member's Disciplinary Record to include charge and discipline will be available upon request to Units, Districts, and/or the CBF.

  7. Disciplinary Matters:
  8. As we reviewed many cases, it became clear that there are two opposing philosophies that could guide our decisions. An argument was presented that only in the rarest and most exceptional situations should the ACBL BOD overturn a decision by a Unit/District Conduct & Ethics Committee. The counterposition believes that the the ACBL has a mandate and a responsibility to set, maintain, and enforce standards of conduct and ethics throughout the ACBL.

    There are no simple solutions to these issues. Each case must be viewed on its own unique merits. A sampling of decisions that may be of interest to District 2 players follow:

    1. Eric Rodwell, N482658, and Jeff Meckstroth, M580699, were reprimanded, but it will not be a discipline of record (see Exhibit E).

    2. The discipline of Ken Warren, O865216, was reviewed. No further action taken. Mr. Warren's one year suspension will end on September 30, 1997, following which he will be forbidden from playing professionally for an additional four years.

      In my opinion, approving this unenforceable sanction sends a poor message to our membership.

    3. The application for readmission of Wayne Timms, J568183, was accepted. Mr. Timms will be permitted to play only in District 2 for one year and will be on probation for five years.

    4. Moses Ma, 8337926, had his status reviewed. Mr. Ma was suspended for five years (retroactive to December 16, 1996) and will remain on permanent probation afterwards.

    5. The Ethical Oversight Committee met on Saturday morning July 26, 1997, in the matter of charges against Steve Sion, M562798, of Las Vegas, NV. Mr. Sion was expelled from the ACBL.

Exhibit A: CEO Roy Green retirement.
Exhibit B: Official new ACBL Convention Card (revised September 1997)
Exhibit C: Draft of Zero Tolerance Policy.
Exhibit D: ACBL Disciplinary Sanction Guidelines.
Exhibit E: Official statement regarding Eric Rodwell & Jeff Meckstroth reprimand.
The cooperation of all Unit Presidents and Secretaries in distributing this report to their members is greatly appreciated. This report may also be viewed on my home page at:
http://www3.sympatico.ca/jonathan.st/