Ray Lee

Why doesn’t Canada do better? Part 1

The raison d’etre for the existence of the Canadian Bridge Federation is the selection and funding of Canadian teams for international competition. It does neither well. It is time that the organization took responsibility for the proper selection, adequate funding and competitive preparation of our teams. Too much is simply left to members of the teams to organize for themselves, usually with far too little time before the event to do anything properly.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post my own thoughts on how we should approach some of these issues.

I know what the problems and obstacles are, better than most.  I’ve attended more World Championships than most Canadians, in one capacity or another; I’ve even been President of the CBF.  I know how limited the CBF’s resources are, in money, time and manpower, but in the end, those aren’t acceptable excuses.

Let’s start by looking at the sine qua non, the problem that needs to be addressed before we can really tackle the others with any hope of success.

1) Funding

The biggest single problem is money. Members of my Venice Cup team in Shanghai had to pay most of their own expenses, and were out of pocket to the tune of perhaps $4000 each for the privilege of representing their country. That does not even count cumulative (and possibly unpaid) time off work to play in qualifying events and the VC itself. And they got lucky, because Mexico declined to send a team to play off against us for the VC spot, so no money or time was required for that event.  There was, however, essentially no money for coaching or other team preparation.

By contrast, I listened in Shanghai to US players complaining that their stipend for expenses from the USBF was only about $7000 each, and that this paltry sum didn’t really cover business class travel. My heart bled for them. Much of that funding comes from the ACBL, and at least some of that money comes from Canadian players.

All 3 Canadian teams (Open, Women and Seniors) at an event like this should be fully funded. In addition, the CBF needs to be able to underwrite an adequate coaching program, so the teams are properly prepared for what they will face on world competition.

Fund-raising for international events has to be a year-round pursuit.

There should be a permanent CBF sub-committee that takes responsibility for ensuring that funds are available, through sponsorship, or national fund-raising events, or both. When I was president of CBF I appointed someone to chair such a committee, but I don’t think it ever really became active (it certainly didn’t before I left the CBF Board to deal with some pressing business issues of my own).

Money can be raised, for example, through tournaments and events across the country — and as long as masterpoints aren’t involved there’s no need to go through the ACBL and pay its exorbitant table and directors’ fees. Just as an example, it wouldn’t be hard to attract prize donations from sponsors, and it isn’t expensive to license something like the Ecats software to run a nation-wide computer-scored game in the clubs. The ACBL is sucking enormous amounts of money out of Canadian bridge players — much of which resides in the bank accounts of ACBL Units and Districts across the country. We have to find a way to tap into that income stream.

The CBF obviously needs to make a serious professional attempt to market the game to wealthy individuals and corporate sponsors. Both those adjectives are chosen deliberately.

Unless the financial underpinnings are put in place, nothing else matters a whole lot. We’ll just continue to be an amateur-hour operation, living from hand to mouth, and hoping the players can fund their own trips, figure out their own coaching and training, and not embarrass us too much at the world level. We can do better than that, and there’s no excuse for not doing so.

Next time:  selecting the best teams, and why we don’t.


JUDEDecember 2nd, 2007 at 9:18 pm

Ray wrote:

The raison d’etre for the existence of the Canadian Bridge Federation is the selection and funding of Canadian teams for international competition.

Wow. This comes as a complete surprise to me. I have been involved with the CBF since before 1995 and I did not know this fact. Of course, there is no written ‘mandate’ that I can find which might be part of the reason.

I’ve always assumed our federation was formed to foster an interest in, and to develop the future of, the game of bridge in Canada.

I’ve always felt the international component of this existed only to give our younger or less experienced members some goal setting opportunities.

To me it makes sense to focus on development because without it, there won’t be international competition in another 10-20 years or so. Most of the current players will be dead.

I think fund-raising for international competition would be greatly aided by involving the small player, the casual tournament goer, the average ‘chair’. And to do this, we need more coverage and more commitment on the part of our international players, captains, and coaches. And this has to start at the ‘club/unit/zone’ levels. We need to involve our membership.

I think it’s unrealistic to expect people to keep ponying up their cash year after year with nothing in return except a small magazine and limited website both with minimal coverage of events and tournaments; with team captains who do nothing for cbf membership except take the cash and run (usually to some exotic local) (( current blog-writer excluded – Ray & Linda send regular articles into the magazine and participate in Canadian bridge development in many ways)); or with junior teams who have trouble even participating in the most basic reporting requirements such as submitting respectful bios to a bulletin that will be read by the thousands of Canadian members who hand their dollars over.

How much is all this worth to the average Canadian bridge player?

I agree whole heartedly that we need to fully fund our international teams, and we need to provide them with adequate coaching. Perhaps it would help if we made this objective clearer as a mandate for the CBF. Then members will realize exactly what they are joining and we can leave the bridge development part of things to the ACBL.

Let’s focus entirely on members of our international teams and their progress in the bridge world. With playoffs for international team berths (Bridge Week), personality bios of our international team members – lets make the whole international thing really big. Put faces and personalities at the front – require coaches and captains to participate in this. Seek out private sponsorship, promising an elevated profile for Canada’s international participation.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Or not.

If not, there may be need for a USBF sister in Canada.

Jude Goodwin

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