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ACBL Treating players as "owned" by a specific club

I recently received an email about online games being run by one of our local full time clubs. The final paragraph seemed concerning to me:

 

Non-local Partners. Several of you have inquired about playing with someone from out of the area. The ACBL has some strict rules on this, and at least one club has been suspended for a week for violating these rules already. They are unfortunately easy to break accidentally. So, Allowed Players include anyone that has played in our club (face-to-face) in the past year. For me, that would also include anyone that has played at *** or ***. If you would like to play with someone that does not meet these requirements, then I need to follow a process: 1) I need your partner's BBO handle of course. 2) I need your partner's full name and home club contact information. 3) I need to get written (per email) permission from the manager of that club for this player to join our game. 4) I need to send that confirmation to a particular person at ACBL. Further, I have heard through the rumor mill that ACBL is getting closer to simply banning this, and telling those "mixed" partnerships that they should simply play in the SYC games instead. I haven't heard anything official, but I wouldn't be surprised to get that any time.

 

I've also heard from a director of another one of our clubs that their player had to "ask permission" to play at another club and weren't allowed to do so until they were "released" by the local club.

To me, this whole concept of being essentially owned by a club seemed wrong, immoral, and a bit murky on the legality front. I realize I'm being overly dramatic, but I can't imagine going to a store, then being told I need permission from that store to shop somewhere else in the future. It seems wrong to me that I would need permission from a specific club to play at a different one. This doesn't exist in normal F2F bridge.

I get that the ACBL is trying to find ways to help local clubs. I would assume that 90% or more of people playing in these club games are doing so because they have some relation to the club, likely from having played there in the past. Almost everyone else is probably playing with a friend that does have a connection to the local club. Even if that wasn't the case, if a specific club has found a way to build a competitive advantage to make people want to play there in spite of not having a connection with the F2F club (perhaps pairing games with Zoom), is it really the ACBL's role to stifle free choice?

This smacks to me of a restriction put in place due to campaigning by a few club owners involved in the process of setting these games up. People can make their minds up who those clubs likely are. I hope their businesses survive, but I think that taking away someone's choice about who to patronize is the wrong way to do it.

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