Saturday, 19 December 2015

Blog #69 - Season's Greetings

With Christmas being less than a week away all of us at the EBU in Aylesbury would like to send the best wishes of EBU staff to all of our members and many volunteers  for a happy festive season and a healthy New Year.

2015 delivered its usual array of surprises.  We had a massive year of media interest in our court cases with Sport England and HMRC.  The latter has been referred to the European Court for a ruling as our case has international connotations that can only be resolved at that level.  The former case against Sport England was resolved against us, but we have applied for leave to appeal to the Appeal Court, on advice of our Counsel.   The intense media interest from all branches of the media, was very positive and appears to have generated interest from the public in learning more about how they can get involved in bridge.

Sometime in the first part of 2016 our new membership management system will be going live.  This new system, which is very modern in software terms, will allow us to be more efficient and to provide a better service to all, our members, clubs and every part of the EBU.  We will keep you informed as to when this will go live, but we hope to achieve this with minimal disruption.

Barry Capal

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Blog #68 - The times they are a changing

The last Brighton Summer Meeting is now history.  Next year’s Summer Meeting is to be at the Winter Garden in Eastbourne.  During the next few months we will provide a lot of information about the new venue, the hotels that are available, the substantially cheaper (up to 90%!) car parking and many other things.  We sincerely hope that the new venue will prove more attractive to those people that have stayed away from Brighton due to cost, or other personal dislikes.

The EBU is facing, as has become usual, a year of change.  We have begun the process of changing our membership management system from one that is more than a decade old, and is at the end of it’s supported lifetime, to a very new and fresh system which will give us much greater flexibility in how we can serve our members.  We hope that the new system will be live in early 2016; for those who are interested the new system is called “Workbooks” and their website may be found at We have also been testing our new members area, which is being renamed as “My EBU”; the test is publicly available at Please feel free to use it instead of using the members area.  We will be replacing the members area with the new link very soon.  “My EBU” provides far more information, including lots of extra detail regarding grading, particularly of team events, so it is well worth trying this out and at the same time, assisting with our testing.

As has already been communicated, October sees the advent of “EBUScore”, a rebadged version of Jeff Smith’s scoring software modules, after Jeff very generously donated the software to the EBU. This will be free of any licence costs to any affiliated club that wishes to use it.  Files sent to us by existing software in use by affiliated clubs will remain accepted as long as the club wishes to use it.

In the next couple of months some of our legal events are likely to get closer to a conclusion, although the legal system being what it is, we cannot be sure of how long things will take.  Our appeal against the way VAT is handled for our competitions has been referred to the European Court, as the tribunal here concluded that it was for them to determine precisely what was meant by the European VAT Directive.  We do not have a date fixed for that hearing at this time.  The second situation is regarding our Judicial Review of the definition of “sport” used by Sport England.  That hearing date is set for September 22nd/23rd.   The judgement for this hearing is likely to come well after the hearing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Blog #67 - An update

I am fast approaching the ninth anniversary of my time with the EBU and also a similar anniversary of writing my first blog.  The frequency of my blogs has diminished over time, mainly because I have felt I have less to say, or at least less that is of interest to many!  However, here I am, suddenly with a lot to say that may be interesting to a wide group of our members.

Once again we are engaged in change; change that involves technology and how we use it.  We are in the early stages of replacing our entire membership management system, one that has served us for around 11 years and is now being retired by the company who designed it.   We believe that it will be a change that enables another substantial step forward in our efficiency and our ability to provide the very best service for our members.   It is too early to be precise, but we are aiming for an implementation of our new system before the end of 2015.  This will involve a lot you won't see, as there will be many changes in our Aylesbury office; but there will also be a lot you will see as the members interface to our systems is about to change as well, offering many new opportunities for members to obtain “self service” for their needs.  We will explain what is happening over the next few months as things begin to finalise.

We continue to consider how we can take advantage of technology with regard to our own competitions.  We now utilise Pianola to deliver our results to our members with much greater speed and detail.  We are also considering importing some other ideas for “instant reporting” of results on site, once again more information will be provided when we know when we can do it.

We have felt for a long time that we as a national bridge organisation should have within our own control a scoring system that we can not only use in our own competitions but make available to any of our counties, clubs or members that wish to use it.  We will be able to announce such a system in the very near future!

Our National Grading System seems to be gaining popularity not just with our members, but other bridge federations and even some non bridge membership organisations.  The NGS Software is very stable and now includes the grading of many team games.  One of the future developments that will come as soon as we can do it, is to improve the visibility of NGS grades for teams so that members can see more detail about how team grades are calculated – basically by showing “Cross Imp” scores.

As you may have read, we are working hard to improve the finances of the organisation.  Our ongoing challenge to the VAT authorities regarding VAT charged on our competitions reaches the next stage in July, when we have a hearing before the Second Tier VAT Tribunal.   Should we be successful this would lead to a substantial financial benefit that would give us a very nice problem to consider.  The last time that our game made an impression in the mass media was when we went to the First Tier Tribunal and lost, so it won't be too much of a surprise if the press picks up the story again fairly soon, remembering, of course, that legal decisions have a tendency to be slow in the making!  If anyone is interested in how VAT appeals can go, take a look at the following link:- httpp:// .  It discusses two court cases, one involving Jaffa Cakes, and one Marshmallow Cakes, involving Marks and Spencers. HMRC lost both of these cases after protracted legal proceedings; in both the court cases revolved around definitions!  In our case the same situation exists, except replace "what is a cake?", with "what is a sport"!