District Director Report
By Bob Heller, email@example.com
ACBL president is not a well-designed position in bridge governance to begin with. There is exactly one year to do a job, and someone who attempts to change the way the board or the league functions is almost a lame duck before he can get his feet wet.
That’s before the CEO phones you just a couple of weeks after you’re elected to inform you that he’s going to be leaving the organization.
So much for your plans for the year. Making sure that we find the best possible person to be the chief executive of our $17 million-a-year organization instantly becomes the top priority.
A process was in place for such a situation, and it was my responsibility to appoint a search committee and its chair. The committee was to include three to five board members and one or two experienced individuals from the business world.
With colleague Jay Whipple heading the committee, the search is in excellent hands. Robert Hartman has agreed to remain as CEO until July 31 if needed, but replacing his many talents and what he has meant to the league will be a formidable task.
You’ll be reading this report as we gather in Kansas City for our first meeting of the year, but here, belatedly, is some of the news from the last meeting in Orlando.
Making better sausage?
Many governance issues appeared in the form of motions. Some were offered in an attempt to cut costs. Some might streamline the way the BOD operates, saving face-to-face meeting time. Most were subjective. But the good news was at least the board is considering some long overdue changes.
Some may recall that a committee was established last year to consider restructuring the board as a path to greater effectiveness and efficiency. That hit the usual roadblocks when board members realized they might end up losing their positions in order for the entire group to achieve these goals.
These motions made it to the board:
- In forming committees and appointing members thereto, the president shall strive to adhere to the following rules and principles. Although he shall have the power to depart from these, it is expected that he will do so only in extraordinary circumstances. Board meetings should ideally last no more than 3 (three) days. Failed 11-14. I was in favor; better planning and organization should be able to cut a day off our present schedule.
- Only the Audit, Finance, Bridge, Appeals and Charges, Governance, Strategic and CEO Review Committees should routinely be allocated meeting time at Board meetings. One would think this would meet the same fate as the previous motion, but it was not the case. I was in favor of this one, which passed 17-8.
- The Board of Directors will meet prior to the Spring and Summer NABCs at the sites of the NABCs. The Board will meet prior to the Fall NABC near league headquarters during the first 10 days of November.
Cost savings would be enormous by having the board gather near Memphis for three days for purely business purposes. Greater savings would come from headquarters staff, which would incur zero travel costs — rather than having eight or nine individuals flying to wherever the Fall NABC is, having hotel rooms and per diem paid, and on top of that, being forced to stay away from home on Thanksgiving.
I frankly saw no serious downside here. Joe Jones, the ACBL’s CFO, estimated that the league would save a minimum of $50,000 each fall under this plan. Further, district directors could opt for spending a family holiday with the family – and still make it to the NABC if he or she wished. We’d be paying our own way, though, and that no doubt upset some colleagues. The motion failed 10-14-1. (Interesting fact: One would presume that Thanksgiving played a part in the decision, but that holiday is of no significance to our four Canadian board members. They all voted against the motion.)
Grass Roots Fail, Part I
We tried several meetings back to expand the field for Grand National Teams at the NABC level in Flights B and C. The idea: Grass Roots competition is one of the best, most exciting aspects of duplicate bridge, and we should do everything possible to encourage participation. As added incentive, the more participants we get to an NABC, the more likely it is they will play in more events at that NABC — and, hopefully, return.
This was a bit of a twist from the last time we tried: A motion was considered that in districts in which there were at least 8 teams competing in a B or C flight in the district final, a second team in that flight will also be considered eligible to compete in the national final of their respective category.
A player may represent the district in only one flight at the national final. Eligible teams in the national final will not be subsidized in any way by the ACBL.
This truly was frustrating: failure on a 12-12-1 vote. We’ll see this one yet again, in some form, and let’s hope it gets the magic 13th vote.
Grass Roots Fail, Part II
Club qualification games have become more and more popular over the past several years, resulting in more revenue for the league. Yet, despite that increase, and despite the rise in expenses for the players, subsidies have not changed in almost a decade.
It was moved that a $200 subsidy from the league be provided to all third-place NAP district final individual finishers in each flight to help offset expenses in attending the national finals, and a $100 subsidy be provided to all fourth-place finishers in Flights B and C.
The league has been subsidizing district champions $700 per person and second-place finishers $300 per person, and nothing more. Districts, helped by the Grass Roots Fund — instituted four years ago — provide any further subsidies.
Just as in the case above, I believe any money spent on Grass Roots events to provide more incentive to participate is money very well spent. The majority of the board disagreed, and this failed 10-13-2.
Online points saga
Readers of these reports know that issues regarding the relative meaning of online masterpoints are raised from time to time. It often seems as if they are raised every meeting (though that’s not the case).
The latest was a motion stating that points won online shall not be included in the tabulation of total points earned for the Lifetime masterpoint list, that on all printed lifetime lists, online masterpoints shall be included next to the total. Online points should count, and should only count, in the online race.
Well, this made perfect, logical sense to me … meaning the motion didn’t have a prayer. This is akin to saying that a kid’s home runs in Little League play should be part of his career record after a Hall of Fame professional career, because a home run is a home run, no matter what. Anyway, the motion failed 5-20.
Online events: Another story
A second motion relating to online play requested that experiments continue for holding online events at regional tournaments for two years, with a report to the board thereafter. There are strict rules and regulations, but essentially a limited number of regionals will be offering the chance for people who do not wish to travel (or might be incapable of traveling) to go to their local club and participate in a regional by playing two sessions of, say, Gold Rush pairs.
The idea is to provide more opportunities for players to earn gold points and also increase revenue for regional sponsors. Entry fees are pricey, as they generally cover the cost of a club game as well as the full regional entry fee.
This could be a win-win situation that takes advantage of what online bridge can offer. Some colleagues were concerned that additional competition could hurt their district tournaments, but a tournament would have to get the permission of a district to invite its clubs. If a district felt such a program would hurt its players or district, it always could say no. I see this as a program worth exploring and anticipate District 7 rarely saying “no thanks” if and when invited. The motion passed 21-3-1.
Women’s teams: End of an era
As attendance continued to wane in various women’s championship events, it was inevitable. Even some of the world’s best women’s players realized that the time had come to remove North American Championship status from all of their team events. Their profound lack of interest, seen in the plummeting table counts of once-prestigious events, told the story.
The board voted unanimously to remove the Wagar Women’s KO teams from the Summer NABC schedule and replace it with a four-session NABC+ Wagar Women’s Pairs, to be played on Monday and Tuesday. This is effective immediately. Women still may become Grand Life Masters by playing in gender-restricted events, but only in pair games; there now will be one at each of the three NABCs.
The vote was unanimous, except for one abstention, to remove the Machlin Women’s Swiss Teams from the Spring NABC schedule. The event in Kansas City will be the last.
Whose hand records?
There have been a few security issues regarding hand records for NABC+ events over the years, when lower status games were using the same records at the same time. There was a motion that hand records used in any concurrent National-rated event be used only in those events. This applies to all sessions, qualifying and final.
I thought these slip-ups happened so seldom and should be self-policed; therefore it was not worth the expense and hassle of tracking the separate sets of boards and hand records. The motion passed, however, 14-11.
Technology: Looking ahead
The ACBL IT organization will be focusing on four major tasks in 2017, according to department head Mitch Hodus.
- ACBLscore Replacement Project
Accurately masterpoint and display regular club pair games run in any scoring engine other then ACBLscore
The focus is on regular club pair games, as it’s the most common game and is the game most impacted if Microsoft Windows 10 continues to present problems.
- AS/400 Replacement Project
Migrate our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system from our Legacy AS/400 to a SAAS (Software as a Service) model in the cloud.
Our member database is built on an IBM AS/400 DB2 database using IBM legacy “green screen” applications.
The new environment will provide enhanced marketing and sales capabilities as well as enhanced customer service capabilities
- Operational Clean Up Project
TourneyTRAX Cleanup – TourneyTRAX is the sanctioning and scheduling system used by Tournament Operations. It is tightly coupled with ACBL Live for results display
Migrate our TourneyTRAX application into the AWS cloud.
Ensure proper source control.
- Develop reports for Tournament Directors and Sponsor
ACBLscore Financial Cleanup.
Migrate ACBLscore financials to a new software application that can run on Windows.
Report on hearings
For those who follow cases involving cheating and ethics allegations, here was the latest.
In the matter of the Motions to Dismiss of the Charging Party’s Notice of Appeal of the Notice of Dismissal in the case against Dana Hastings #M915550, the A&C Committee denies the Motions to Dismiss. The A&C Committee finds that the Charging Party’s Notice of Appeal was filed timely because it was filed within 30 days of the Notice of Dismissal sent by the ACBL Disciplinary Coordinator.
In the matter of the Automatic Review and Appeal of Fulvio Fantoni #9682414 and Claudio Nunes #9682473 from the decision of the Ethical Oversight Committee, the decision of the original hearing committee is amended as follows: The penalty imposed by the Ethical Oversight Committee is affirmed, except that the partners and teammates of Fulvio Fantoni and Claudio Nunes are subject to mandatory forfeiture of all masterpoints, titles and status ranks earned during the 2015 Spingold Knockout Teams Championship.
In the matter of the automatic review of Lotan Fisher #1906658 and Ron Schwartz #1906623 from the decision of the Ethical Oversight Committee, the decision of the original hearing committee is amended as follows: The penalty imposed by the Ethical Oversight Committee is affirmed, except that the partners and teammates of Lotan Fisher and Ron Schwartz are subject to mandatory forfeiture of all masterpoints, titles and status ranks earned during the 2015 Spingold Knockout Teams Championship.
In the matter of the automatic review of Art Brodsky from the decision of the ACBL Disciplinary Committee, the decision of the original hearing committee is affirmed, but the penalty is modified by reducing the suspension to 21 months and increasing the probation to 10 years.
The CDR, or Code of Disciplinary Regulations, is undergoing an overhaul this spring. A progress report was to be made in Kansas City, and a final version could be ready for approval as early as this summer in Toronto. League counsel Linda Dunn is heading the project, with Appeals & Charges chair Georgia Heth. They have received plenty of input from others. The goal is for a more simplistic and less legalistic approach.