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"!