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A Recommendation for USA Bridge

My feelings during the Hawaii Nationals were incredibly mixed.  Selfishly, I was thrilled as the Hilton Hawaiian Village, the ocean and Waikiki provide an unparalleled environment.  Easily my favorite venue of the zillion nationals I have attended.

Speaking for American bridge and the ACBL, however, the recent National was an unmitigated disaster.   Struggling to break 6,000 tables. Based on conversations I had with District Directors, the ACBL is saddled with what was purported to be an incredibly high penalty fees for not meeting room guarantees.  

Some disasters cannot be foreseen.  However, the ACBL's coming financial bath was crystal clear.  The 2006 Honolulu National should have been provided ample caution with its relatively low table count.  Did the ACBL not realize that its membership would be significantly older in 2018 than 2006? That many Senior citizens, especially those from the Eastern parts of the USA, would be averse to the long travel to the Islands.

Several years ago, I was stunned to find out that Honolulu was granted another National.  I was curious enough to ask some Board members as to why the Islands were granted another National.    The typical comment I got was, Person X jammed it through." Where were was the ACBL CEO and the 25 Board members during this important decision making process?

When I found out that the contract that the late Counsel of the ACBL negotiated was one of the most disadvantageous possible to the ACBL, I was again in disbelief.  How can one individual enter into a contract that may cost the ACBL upwards of $500,000 without reasonable oversight?

I have come to several conclusions:

The current ACBL governance structure is untenable.  The recommendation presented at the Atlanta Nationals by the Comptons to significantly reduce an unwieldy Board would be a good start.

The existing decision makers have clearly not paid enough attention to financial realities and to the aging demographics of ACBL members.

If the decision makers were fully aware of the financial peril of another  Hawaii national yet still voted for Hawaii, one has to think that the self-interest of a paid trip to paradise compromised their fiduciary duty.  The least the Board could have done is to have its meetings in Honolulu conducted by phone conference to help reduce the significant financial losses that all could see were coming.

I believe there are two solutions in response to the latest episode where the ACBL acted in an extremely questionable manner:

1) A reduced number of decision makers needs to be coupled with a CEO who has some real clout.  As of yesterday!

2) If the above is not accomplished in the near term, I believe USA bridge needs a new organization to guide a game  facing significant demographic and financial challenges and needs to do so in a way to fully embrace online bridge. This proposal is not as radical as it sounds.  West Coast bridge thrived quite nicely under a separate umbrella for many years before being folded into the ACBL. Granted, a VERY different era, but the latest ineptness of the decisions involving the Hawaii national is nothing short of alarming.

If the ACBL chooses not to make significant changes in the next six months, I hope there will be enough momentum to attempt to build a better mousetrap.  I am rooting for the ACBL to be proactive, but based on past decision-making processes, am somewhat pessimistic. 

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