IBPA Bulletin Editorial: September 2012

John Carruthers
John Carruthers


Bridge organisations provide a never-ending source of material for editorials. Never a laggard in this regard is the American Contract Bridge League, the umbrella organisation for club and tournament bridge in North America. Over the years, the ACBL has produced some questionable-at-best administrative decisions, both at the table and away from it. A couple of examples of these:

(i.) for years, the ACBL legislated that a weak two-bid must be in the range of 6-12 HCP;

(ii.) even in those rarified events in which Multi Two Diamonds is allowed, its proponents must supply the opposition with the published ACBL-approved defences.

However, these defences are not made available to the players at the tournament – they must be acquired beforehand.

Another of these dodgy administrative decisions, which really does need attention, concerns ACBL employees who deal with children and young players. The official ACBL policy is to screen all new and recent employees who have dealings with young people. While this is laudable, it does not go far enough – employees with three or more years’ service are exempt from the screening. However, as has been proven repeatedly in other arenas, three years’ service is no guarantee of a clean police record.

In the wake of the Penn State sexual abuse scandal (in which a long-term assistant football coach repeatedly, and for decades, abused young men), any organisation which takes the ostrich-like approach currently employed by the ACBL is asking for trouble. We must protect our young people and a police records search for all adults who have any contact with young people is a good starting place. Admittedly, a police search would not catch people who’ve had no previous dealings with the authorities, but it’s better than the current approach.

A second questionable policy decision concerns people who are asked to attend a conduct and ethics hearing in the ACBL. Despite being accused of some wrongdoing, and being allowed representation at the hearing, these poor souls are denied the right to be represented by a lawyer in the hearing room. They can bring a lawyer with them, but the lawyer must remain outside the hearing room. The effect of this is twofold: firstly, it

denies the accused one of their basic rights in law; secondly, it gives an advantage in the hearing to any accused who does have a familiarity with the law. This seems wrongheaded on both counts. Sadly, the Canadian Bridge Federation has also adopted this draconian approach.