During the 1930s a number of national bridge organisations were created to represent bridge players in England and Great Britain. Exasperated by the conflicts between these bodies and by their lack of representation, various counties and groups of counties set up the English Bridge Union in 1936 to look after duplicate and other competition contract bridge in England, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. However it was not until the end of 1946 that the EBU finally achieved complete control of Duplicate Bridge in England. The governing body was its Council, made up of representatives from the counties, the number of votes proportional to the number of members in each county. A different body, the English Bridge Union Limited, was formed in 1940; the Board of this company was also the Executive Committee of the English Bridge Union. Confused? Well, you will be glad to know that the two were merged into one limited company in 2005.
From the beginning the EBU, together with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Unions, was part of the British Bridge League which was the national bridge organisation for Great Britain. In 2000 the countries split up and each became their own NBO.
The shares are held in the company by the Counties - not quite the same as the geographic versions - of which there are currently 39. There is no financial benefit for the shareholders but the shareholders are now the body to which the Board of Directors are responsible. The profits of the business - if any, and there is rarely a large amount - are not distributed to anyone (we are not allowed to distribute profits under the company’s Articles of Association) but retained within the business for investment into the development of bridge in England.
The shareholders, currently once a year, elect a Board of Directors, and after that election, vote for a Chairman, Vice Chairman and a Treasurer. All of the Directors have the full - and very onerous - legal responsibility of being a Company Director; for this they get paid the incredible sum of £0.00 pounds per annum. Many of them, the officers in particular, do as much as any full time employee for no salary. Along with the rest of our many volunteers, they receive a reimbursement of their out of pocket expenses.
There are also three “Standing Committees” of the Board, also elected annually by the shareholders. These are the Laws and Ethics, Tournament and Selection Committees. Each of these elected members are also volunteers.
Each County has its own constitution which must be approved by the EBU and elects their Chairman and officers each year. These people are all volunteers, and they too work extremely hard for bridge in their areas.
Finally, there is a paid team of staff at EBU headquarters in Aylesbury, who provide all of the services required of a national membership organisation. We work out of an office that a previous Board wisely purchased when property prices were relatively low, more than 20 years ago. Many of the staff are bridge players who love working in the bridge environment, which is why they do not go elsewhere for more money!