FAQs and John Scudder’s Perspective
There is a lot going on at NSW Bridge Association (NSWBA) and you might ask yourself, “What does this all mean? And how is this going to affect me?”
The project team, together with Council, is dedicating the next two newsletters to answering your questions. This update focusses on explaining the NSWBA Transition Project, while the next update will focus on the Extraordinary General Meeting to be held on 6 November 2023.
About the Transition Project
Please find a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and their answers here. This list aims to address many of the requests for information we have received. However, we have asked John Scudder, Chairman of the NSWBA, for his perspective and some more in-depth explanation.
Q: What is happening with the NSWBA Transition Project? Where are we at?
A: The Transition Project has been going on for some time, definitely longer than anticipated. Turns out the project is quite complex. It is not just about separating the current functions of the NSWBA but also about setting up the new organisations and improving our skill set and volunteer base. It is exciting to see a number of great people, with relevant experience and commitment, putting up their hand to volunteer and lead us through the restructure.
To date much of the work has been happening in the background – we are in the final stages of agreeing how to separate. I am pleased to report that this is happening very much in a collaborative spirit, with trust and goodwill from all parties. Both groups, one representing the Club and one representing Bridge NSW (the new name of the NSW peak body for bridge), are mindful that their success depends in part on the other’s success.
Shortly we will be in a position to share the transition roadmap, with more detail. Knowledge transfer is already in full swing.
Q: We understand that Council is committed to the separation, yet we hear lots of rumours and different stories? Can you explain why we are doing this?
A: Many people don’t appreciate the financial pressure the NSWBA is under. There is a false sense of security, that we can continue just as we always have, that we don’t need to change. The reality is, we are losing money.
Let me explain our current circumstances, and to do that best we need to revisit history:
- The NSWBA was established in 1963, as a state association and a bridge club, with the main object to promote bridge.
- On the bridge club side we acquired the Sydney Bridge Club in 1982 and the Sydney Bridge Centre in 2015 which ensured successful club operations for a long time.
- On the state association side we focussed initially on establishing competitions and events, very successfully I might add, e.g. just think about our outstanding ANC record. However, over the last two decades we also welcomed an increasing number of new bridge clubs in the state, requiring representation and support from their state body. Today we have over 150 clubs that are affiliated with the NSWBA making us the largest state association for the ABF. In fact we represent about 1/3 of the ABF membership.
Like most bridge bodies across Australia, we have experienced a decline in members, table numbers, and events attendance. The pandemic has dramatically accelerated this. To put this into stark numbers, NSWBA club table numbers recovered after Covid and have been stable for months now, but are still less than 50% of where they were before the pandemic. At the same time, costs are going up for everything. This affects not only our NSWBA club, but all our affiliated clubs.
This has made it very clear to Council that action must be taken. We can no longer afford to put our head in the sand and just ignore the facts. However, our current structure of being a state body and a club with different stakeholders makes this too complex. Therefore this transition project is setting up both organisations for the future.
Q: Can you share more details about the decline in player numbers?
A: I am happy to share table numbers for the Sydney Bridge Centre, the NSWBA club in 162 Goulburn St. In the financial year 2017/2018 we had 6,833 tables and in FY2018/19 we had 6,654 tables. Then a complete collapse during Covid, no surprise there. We have seen great recovery from those years, but the latest figures for this financial year are a total of just 3,174 tables. This is more than a 50% decline! We cannot continue with the same cost structure with fewer than half the players.
Q: Won’t the increase in member fees and affiliated club fees prevent the need for other change?
A: The recent price increases are only part of the necessary changes, but will still not be enough to make us profitable. That is essential for budget improvement, yes, but does not address underlying issues including a reduced pipeline of new players, the low useage of our large and expensive inner-Sydney property, and that bridge is not being actively promoted and positioned as a mind sport.
Q: Where can NSWBA members, representatives from affiliated clubs and NSW bridge players find more information?
A: I encourage everyone to read the communications we are providing and attend one of the Town Halls we are planning (online or in person). Most importantly, reach out to any of the proxy board members to see how passionate and committed they are and learn directly why they want this Transition Project to be a success. And …. Always ask questions!
Thank you for your continued help and support.
The Project Team
NSWBA Transition Project