I have been involved in two things during the past couple of weeks which have rammed home to me the importance of how our game is run.
A few weeks ago I was at the special meeting of the Union that determined whether or not the Board’s plans for Universal Membership were to be accepted or rejected. I had previously been to six shareholders' meetings in my two years in post (already!) and most of them had been well attended. You may ask who attends. Well, it is full of volunteers, people who give of their time freely for the good of the game they all love; the only people there who are not volunteers being myself and one or two of my staff. The Board are all volunteers who take on onerous legal responsibilities as well as give up days, weeks and months of their lives for the English Bridge Union; the County representatives also spend a great deal of time managing Bridge in their areas.
Unsurprisingly, this particular meeting was the best attended of all of those that I had been at, so full we had to find extra chairs. Remember everyone who was there to vote on the proposals was a volunteer; they all have their perception of the best interests of the game foremost in their minds. Each County was given a brief period to make their views known and then the vote was taken. At the end the vote was not too far short of 2-1 in favour of the Board’s proposals. The meeting resumed its normal agenda and it was delightful to see that its normal good humour was retained throughout the proceedings.
At the end of that meeting the various groups of volunteers went their own way – each to worry about their specific volunteering areas of concern.
Although all our shareholders are club members, the prolific club volunteer group is not specifically represented at the meetings. I very recently was invited to one of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the Bristol Bridge Club. Their volunteer committee had quite rightly decided to make this milestone a major celebration of their longevity and success – and successful it is! They have a superb club building, owned now without a mortgage, deep in the heart of Bristol. They have an active membership of over 400 people and teachers who help bring people into the game. My wife and I stayed for two sessions of bridge and we met a lot of friendly and enthused people; a very enjoyable day! This club did not get where it is today without a lot of problems, some disagreements and a lot of hard work; but they reached their current situation anyway and are benefiting from the fruits of many hard days of volunteer effort .
Which brings me back to the first group of volunteers I was discussing; the membership has voted to support the Board’s vision for the future. It will take a lot of hard work and some ups and downs along the way before this vision is achieved. What is needed now is for each group of volunteers to knuckle down and work together to improve the future for all. Every volunteer needs to remember why they are doing what they do – because that is the very reason the other person is doing it as well!