The Need for Change & What’s New
There has been much helpful feedback from members and clubs about the planned separation of the NSWBA into the Sydney Bridge Club (SBC) and Bridge NSW (BNSW). Some do not see the need for change and might reasonably be concerned about these plans. A common question has been “Why are we doing this?”
Our reality is: NSWBA player numbers have been in long-term decline, we posted a loss in 2022, and continue to lose money in 2023. Clubs across the state are experiencing similar challenges and require more leadership and active support from their NSW representative body. We need to create a plan that addresses these challenges.
The case for change at SBC
The long-term decline in player numbers, accelerated by the Covid pandemic, is impacting our financial situation. We have not attracted enough new members to maintain player levels, while our membership base is getting older. Yes, table growth in recent times has helped, but numbers have stabilised below where we need them to be. This is unsustainable. We want to keep our club offering a good playing experience for all levels of play in inner metro Sydney and keep the current SBC community together.
Another reason we are losing money is our large and significantly underutilised playing space, in an expensive city location. These days SBC typically uses the Goulburn St premises six times a week – four weekday mornings, and Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. It is rarely used at other times.
However, our current premises location has real value. It is well known, and players find the many public transport options convenient. Members have voiced a strong desire to remain in the current location.
So, the Club Proxy Board is working hard to create a plan to increase revenue and reduce costs, to ensure that we have a thriving and sustainable club in the existing premises. SBC needs to attract and retain new members, including beginners, and encourage infrequent players to play more regularly. We also need to provide additional commercially successful sessions in new time slots – especially in the afternoons, evenings and on weekends. A new plan to better utilise the premises has been endorsed by Council and will be shared with all members when details have been finalised. Importantly, the NSWBA is not planning to sell its premises, or to relocate.
Tournament players also want change
A substantial number of NSWBA members mostly play in competitive events. This group, which has contributed significantly to NSWBA over many years, both financially and as volunteers, no longer feels its needs are met through investment in property.
These players wish to have a thriving competitive community and a strong calendar with a mix of online, face-to-face and hybrid events. This will require investment in other services, to deliver the experience they value.
Clubs across NSW seek change too
Many bridge players – including many who do not play in the major competitive events – and clubs across NSW do not believe the NSWBA adequately services the needs of the wider NSW bridge community. Some have been quite vocal for years about the need for change.
They would like NSW to have a more modern governance structure, as used in other Australian states, where the state peak body is independent of any one club. They want a state peak body that works for the benefit of all bridge players and clubs across the state. This includes advocacy for the mind-sport of bridge, programs around marketing and education, and building connections within the wider bridge community. (See Bridge NSW’s purpose and objectives in the 15 August 2023 update here.)
Status Update – Separation discussions are commencing
The recently completed Business Review of the NSWBA, prepared by Victor Clarke, was presented at the NSWBA Council meeting on Wednesday, 13 September. This was accepted by Council as the basis for the two proxy boards to commence discussions about how separation will be implemented. A separation proposal is likely to be received by Council in October. Once endorsed by Council, the plan will be presented in detail to members, along with necessary motions for voting on by all NSWBA members.
Please remember the goal of the NSWBA transition is to create two thriving and financially sustainable organisations – a successful club with venues in inner metro Sydney, and an active and forward-looking NSW peak body for bridge. This will lead to positive outcomes for both organisations, and more importantly for all players across the NSW bridge community.
Thank you for your continued help and support.
NSWBA Transition Program Manager