So after a lot of talk, an unbelievable number of emails, a great deal of hard work by my staff and our incredible volunteers, at all levels, April 1st is the start of the Universal Membership era for the EBU.
At the time of writing we are still awaiting membership data from about 60 clubs who have signed up for affiliation, while we still wait for a decision as to their future from around 30 clubs. This clearly means that we will start the P2P process on April 1st with some clubs not quite ready to go....however we will work with those clubs to get them in a position to catch up - it should not be a problem.
We owe a huge "thank you" to the countless club volunteers who have worked with us to collect the membership data over the last few months. It is (or was) an onerous "one off" requirement; once complete it does mean that the EBU database will be of major use and benefit for clubs for maintaining their membership data. Also, thanks to so many of you for helping us with testing our processes before we go live; your help has been of great importance.
I am sure that many of you have been sitting on a plane waiting to take off and that we have all made rude statements to our travelling companions when the pilot comes on to explain the one hour delay and says "thank you for your patience", as if you have a choice! Well, I am going to ask for your patience in advance. We are embarking on something very new, for all of us, and changing the habits formed over many years. We are almost bound to have made some trivial mistakes in the process, normally because we have no idea that "such and such" does that particular thing - I have already come across my weekly allowance of such things this week and it is just Tuesday!
I hope that those of you who have a need to interact with our computer systems will see and feel that we have made strenuous efforts to make things easy. Once we get going we will be reviewing what we do and how we do it as well as reviewing the whole P2P process so that we can improve on it in year 2, where possible.
Some of you may be wondering what is happening to the "National Grading System". It is still our intention to deliver the NGS as soon as we can. Unfortunately this has been substantially delayed due to the illness and recent unfortunate passing of Dr John Carter, who had been leading this project since it started. He is a hard act to follow but we intend to fill the gap as soon as we can and move forwards. In any event, we always needed a considerable amount of "real data" in order to verify the mathematics that will lie behind the NGS and this will now be provided and available when we are ready to progress.
A reminder about receiving the EBU magazine, English Bridge. Our new members will receive their first magazine in June, as the advanced schedule of printing and distribution meant that we will not have had your details available to us for the April issue, which has already been delivered. All members will receive the June, August and October issues, which includes the EBU diary with the August issue. Thereafter magazine entitlement will follow the rules laid down in this document available on the EBU website - http://www.ebu.co.uk/pay2play/magazine%20points.pdf.
I must thank a number of people and groups for helping us get this far:-
Stephen Bligh (Scorebridge Owner/Author) for a serious amount of work he has contributed, in helping us with the data collection from most of our clubs and in making the necessary changes to his program which is used by the vast majority of our clubs.
Jeff Smith, who has also helped us along the right path with his advice and guidance and also his scoring software (which is extensively used by the EBU for our events).
Chris Stableford (until recently, Chairman of Surrey County) who authored a very comprehensive file structure for use in Bridge Administration (for the nerds among us it is called USEBIO XML), which we have used in our software development.
To the EBU Clubs and their members who have decided to go forward with the EBU into the future, mostly with great patience and understanding, all of which you will need to continue to demonstrate!
My staff in general at our Aylesbury office for coming to terms with a massive change in their working life, answering a serious number of questions posed by our members on the phone and by thousands of emails answered.
Finally to Michael Clark, who is our IT man and the person who has designed and written all of the software that will be in use after April 1st. His quiet, thoughtful way of doing his job has got us to where we are with a minimum of fuss and apparent bother. I know he has lots of other ideas that he will work on in the future, once we are past this watershed moment of "going live" with Universal Membership via Pay to Play.