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ACBL Board Atlanta Discussion Item: NABC Appeals Committees

The 25 member ACBL Board of Directors will be discussing NABC Appeals Committees during the Atlanta Board meetings. The complete agenda can be found on the ACBL web site which is where the item below has been copied from.

http://web2.acbl.org/documentlibrary/about/AtlantaMotions.pdf

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"DI 132-B1: NABC Appeals Committees – Discussion Item

Should the board gather evidence and opinions from championship players and real-world participants over the past three years in the player-run and player-based appealscommittee at NA Championship events? Do the practices and views of other bridgeorganizations, as well as the WBF, matter? Should cost be a factor? Can there beconflicts of interest of plaintiffs and defendants over the past three years regarding theplayer-run and player-based appeals committees for NABC championship events?A board motion to do away with such committees was made seven years ago, and itfailed 13-12. The Board of Governors took up the cause, and the motion went to Districtboards in an attempt to use a rare but bylaws-guaranteed route to change or create leaguepolicy. Some board members at the time believed it was less than a smooth operation.The committee controversy continues, its most recent fuel the Vanderbilt ruling in St.Louis.

For the record, in that 13-12 vote seven years ago, 10 of the voters are on today's board.

From the Chicago minutes, Summer 2006:Item 062-90: NABC Appeals

ACBL Tournament Directors shall hear and rule upon all appeals filed at North AmericanBridge Championships. All NABC appeals shall be heard by Tournament Director Panelsin a manner similar to regional appeal hearings (Ref: 983-02, 992-02). All conduct andEthics matters shall be referred to and heard by the NABC Tournament Committee or toits assignees.

Motion failed. Aye: 2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22"

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My thoughts are as follows:

When I moved to Toronto in the early 1980’s, the late Canadian expert Ted Horning was ahead of his time. He taught his students and club players to always use the STOP card, to practice “Active Ethics”, to call the Director when an infraction occurred. He emphasized the importance of calling the TD in a timely manner and not to wait until the hand was over. He was adamantly opposed to players “taking a double shot”.

Today it appears that you can discuss a table result over dinner with the best experts money can buy and then argue your case in the wee hours of the morning. Apparently it works.

The problems with Player Appeals Committees are many. Let’s start with the elephant in the room. CONFLICT OF INTEREST. The best players are bridge pros who make their living playing bridge, week after week. They know the game, they know the rules. But there is an inherent conflict of interest when bridge pros & clients are on either side of a committee. In the past few decades the amount of money exchanging hands at NABCs has substantially increased. One day you are making a ruling for or against a real or potential client. The next week you are playing on his/her team. This is plain wrong. There is no solution other than to ban bridge pros from Appeal Committees which would defeat the purpose of having your peers decides bridge appeals at the top level.

Player Appeal Committees are user unfriendly. It creates an unfair playing field giving the advantage to players at the host hotel who can stay up all night and best “lawyer” their way to victory. Is it a coincidence that many top players are never in front of an Appeal Committee while other players appear with depressing regularity? Draw your own conclusions.

Committee members, like all of us, are not at their peak performance at 1 AM. Not having enough “qualified” players available is a frequent and recurring problem. Geoff Hampson recently posted, “There is no number of committee members large enough to insure correct rulings. From my experience it appears that committees want to avoid “wasting” their time and therefore like to alter what occurred at the table, thereby making their time seem to have value. Committees like to change rulings. This is an inherent flaw in the existing system.

Player Appeal Committees are equally unfair to the Committee members who are in a no win situation. No matter how civil we strive to be, bad feelings remain. That is one reason why many top players refuse to get involved with Appeals Committees, thus limiting the options for qualified committee members. The recent post regarding the USBF Seniors where an Appeals Procedure penalty decided the match is a case in point. A committee member is making his case online while a player at the table offers a differing viewpoint. Is anyone happy?

The quality of rulings has often been cited to prove the need for Player Appeal Committees. I would argue the opposite. The expert (and non-expert) bridge players never agree. Three to two votes are randomly determined by which players happen to be available for any given appeal. Player Appeal Committees have made some shockingly inept rulings. Committee members are then subjected to a barrage of criticism. It happens over and over again. It is a destructive system that is not in the best interests of the game.

ACBL management is best able to explain how TDs have been trained to handle appeals in a timely, consistent, impartial and fair manner. They have been handling all Regional appeals at NABCs for more than a decade. The “new” system has been proven to work.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

 

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