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EBU SERVICES 11 : Managing international representation

This thread is for any thoughts on what this service comprises, what qualitative aspects of it are important, of how important this is across the whole spectrum of services. See the last item on the MISSION thread for context.


  • This should a priority only because it is 1) a natural progression of representing bridge players at every level and 2) success at international level could result in increased coverage.

    I do think that there should be a clear selection process though - perhaps including an element of NGS scores, specific trial competition, Captain selection, congress results?

  • Does this include the publicity aspects? When we have world champions, it must warrant more than one paragraph somewhere in a quality newspaper. Think of how many pages are dedicated to stuff like winning the Ashes, progress (and chronic failure) in the football world cup, Rugby world cup, Wimbledon, Golf similarities but when does bridge get written up?

  • The substantial majority of NGS scores come from pairs whereas international competition is teams so having an element of NGS scores included in the selection process is not all that appropriate.

  • @Jeremy69 - I would suggest that the top players in terms of NGS would either already be good at teams too, but if not, would have the capability to be.
    The point of NGS is that it is blind - just a pure calculation of results/past performances and could highlight potential talent that has been overlooked at that level.

    There is a risk of staleness in selection of players - they have played before and so we will select them again and again. There is a problem with being the selector for a team in that there are established players and if you choose them again and they do not perform well, people may criticise the players but not the selector. If you select a relative unknown and they do not perform well, then why did you select those players.

    This happens a lot in sports in the UK from what I have seen. Which is why you end up with athletes past their best still being selected to represent England and/or GB. My understanding with America, is that everyone has to compete in trials regardless of their fame/standing/reputation in order to represent USA in the Olympics. There is certainly a benefit for that process, but I am not sure that it would be appropriate for bridge player selection, but there may be room for this.

    There should be an element of competition for those places, to keep everyone fresh and motivated.

    How does one get selected to represent England in international competition?

  • Haha... there we go :) I shall give it some more thought and reply further.
  • International representation, and in particular success there, is a valuable marketing tool for promotion of the game – so it matters, but the question is how much?

    Do we need to link international representation to visibility of the players within the bridge playing community of this country?

    Is it important to be engaged as much as we can (afford to) be internationally, or should our efforts be focused, and if so what drives that focus?

  • Okay, some additional thoughts from me on this subject.

    There are indeed trials and it seems that this is completed by way of an event in which teams compete against each other and the winner presumably represents the country, perhaps 2nd place is held on reserve and whatnot?

    However, is this the best way to organise international representation?

    Can you imagine the England football team being selected by running a competition where teams organise themselves and enter a tournament with the winning team becoming England Football team? Or any other team game/sport?

    I guess that most of the bridge teams that enter selection events are people that actually know each other and are even perhaps local to each other and so on? What are the chances that the best 4 players in England manage to organise themselves into 1 team? Perhaps the 'best' pair pickup another 'good' pair and make up a team - maybe they win the selection event and become England's Bridge Team? However, maybe the 2nd best pair were in another team and so England misses out on fielding the best possible team?

    Could the current situation be improved upon? Perhaps...

    Maybe this could tie in with some other suggestions I have made on other topics to try and reinvigorate participation in competitions. There could be a situation with Green Point events and above where a partnership's average performance could go towards entry to an international trials event? I am thinking something along the lines of the average performance of your pairings 5 best results this year are considered - the pairs with the 1st and second best scores are invited to create a team with free entry to the selection event.

    This could perhaps incentivise people to play more, "maybe one more good performance could gain me that coveted spot".

    Something similar could be introduced with an invite to the top 4 NGS scores of individuals to make up a team, with free entry to the selection event.

    This would add more prestige to NGS and green point events and would be an interesting trial to see which methods generate the best teams - NGS selection, Green Point event performance, or teams organising themselves.
  • Martin, the current process is that where financial support is not given, or is limited, for an international event, there are teams trials since it does not seem sensible to try to make people play with team-mates who are not of their choice when they are paying the expenses. Where financial support is given, there are pairs trials, usually with the top two pairs being selected along with a third pair chosen by the selection committee.

    Top level bridge is not mostly organised by people playing with those from nearby. The top teams are based primarily on playing strength, not proximity. They may well not play in Green Pointed events and would be unlikely to consider them a good basis for choosing an international team.

  • Hi Gordon, the top teams as it currently stands may not consider good performance in green pointed events to be a good indication of top level performance (one could say, they would wouldn't they), but it may be regardless.

    Has a team made of the best performung 2 pairs from green pointed events ever entered trials?

    Is bridge performance not like performance at all games/sports/exams... if you can do well at one level, then that is at least a good indicator that you can perform at the next level up.

    Get 11 A*s at GCSE and there is a good chance that you can get good results at A Levels and then on to a degree. Or to put it another way, it is highly likely that a bad performance at a low level does rule out good performance at a high level.

    So, if selecting a team from the best performance at greenpoint events is a bad way to generate a top performing team, there will be no change to those at the top. However, it may generate interest in competing in those events - imagine a national compaign, in the general press too - Do you want to represent your country? Now is your chance. Bit of free promotion perhaps?

    Now, if that is ran for a trial for 2021 or whatever, then a team is generated from the top 2 performing pairs (from whatever criteria is set) and they get free entry to a teams selection event, what has that cost the EBU and what potential benefits has it generated in increased participation and free advertising? If you are right, they get trounced. Maybe they perform better than expected and maybe they don't. Maybe they enjoy the experience and pay to enter it next time after working on improving some aspects of their game.

    One of the problems that national organisations have, is the barrier between the different levels and resentment that is generated. For example, I have been for many years heavily involved in badminton. The grass root clubs pay individual memberships to Badminton England (the EBU equivalent), they also pay some nominal amount to a county association. In badminton, membership gives personal liability insurance and slightly reduced ticket prices to events.

    There are many people that resent paying the national body and county, as some money goes towards funding higher level players.

    I hear similar comments about paying the EBU and funds going to the top players, subsidising entries/travel etc. This to me is normal and expected and I fully endorse this. Many don't and resent seeing their money going to people higher up the ladder and even to professionals.

    Having a way for your average Jo Schmo to at least having a potential way in to the upper echelons would be a way to combat that resentment.

    It also feeds into comments I made on a previous thread about how poker gets so much money and so many participants in their big events... they have qualifying satellite events, starting from very cheap and/or online events where success gets you entry to a later and more expensive to enter qualifier. Similarly, you may see this cheap way of gaining entry to the serious money finals and being a bad way to find a winner, but qualifiers have done well and even won https://pokerfuse.com/news/live-and-online/210312-platinum-pass-qualifier-wins-pokerstars-players-no-limit/

    Its a bit cliche, but i really do thing that bridge needs some out-of-the-box thinking to improve participation. If we keep getting results we dont like (reducing numbers) but keep doing the same things, we should not be surprised.
  • Hi Martin,

    I think you are overestimating the interest most people have in trying to belong to a top team, or their expectation that they could. I really don't think that is the way to invigorate our competitions calendar. Those who do want to try to represent England will start by playing in the Premier League - which anyone can enter - working their way up the divisions to try to qualify to represent England in the Camrose.

    Playing at the top level really is quite different to playing at lower levels in that it removes a lot of randomness that arises in large mixed-ability fields. There's a quote from Bob Hamman about this:

    "Who do you think were the two best heavyweights who ever fought?
    I don't really care who you pick, but take those two fighters, both
    at the peak of their careers, put them in a a ring and let them slug
    it out for 15 rounds. Whoever wins is the champ. That's IMPS. Now
    take the same two fighters, blindfold them and tie one hand behind
    their backs. Divide the ring diagonally with a solid barrier. Now
    go down to the local tavern and collect 20 drunks. Place 10 drunks
    on each side of the ring and let the fighters go at it. Whoever
    knocks out his drunks first is the winner. That's matchpoints!"

    I don't suppose anyone knows what a team made up of the best performing pairs from Green-pointed events would look like because nobody would have thought it relevant enough to keep track of.

    However, the Player of the Year Championship does give a good idea of who performs best in a selection of our top events over a year and shows that those who represent us internationally habitually do well in our domestic events.

  • Im not saying that people are particularly interesred in playing international bridge. Nor am I saying that it WILL produce a world class team.

    What I am suggesting is that there MAY be some interest and it MAY be successful.

    As you say, no one has tried it, so no one knows.

    What is of interest to me are ideas that are new, different and may generate a 'buzz' around taking part in EBU events.

    The aim is to bring people in that may not be playing, some added interest and incentive.

    I am also not saying that the top performers in these events should immediately represent England. Rather that the top 2 pairs (on what ever criteria) are invited to take part in the selection event free of charge. The top teams now would still be there.

    It may just incentivise good county players that represent their county and play in their club but don't bother with green points or otger events, to give it a go?

    Maybe a club player sees it and wonders what it is like and gives it a go?

    As long as the event if sufficiently welcoming, friendly and enjoyable, maybe they go again.

    On the other hand, bridge can continue to attract recent retirees, social players and the like, that are simply not interested in competitive bridge...

    Maybe I am in my own little world and don't know anything, but I have played in bridge clubs in Scotland, Wales, Spain and many in England too... everywhere I go I hear the same story, 'we used to get 8 tables, now we are lucky to get 5' etc. Last time I played in a greenpoint, the teams couldn't run due to declining entrants.

    As it seems to be going, the EBU will need to collect more and more money from fewer and fewer players, in a vicious feedback loop where costs put of players, so prices go up to cover losses. I k ow of one pensioner that would play everyother weekend in congresses and green pointers, but for the costs.

    For me we need to do many things, a try-storm if you like. Some fail and others work. The trouble with limiting efforts to what you are certain will work, is that no one tries anything for fear of failure.

    This is not saying that my suggestion here should/will work, but rather that it is new and out of left field... if not this, then what?
  • Martin, I support your desire to see bridge thrive, which I think we all share, but I don't feel you are directing your attentions in the right direction by looking at international representation and imagining that we haven't had the best bridge brains considering all these possibilities for the last many decades. You have talked about needing to think outside the box. but I think it's an important starting point to look at what is actually inside the box first.

  • I agree about wantinv to see bridge thrive... the trouble with experts is that they are so often closed minded about problems. They have ingrained assumptions that are very hard to see past.

    There are many examples of breakthroughs in scientific fields being made by cross-field collaboration and by non-experts looking at something from a fresh viewpoint.

    I would very much consider myself a non-expert and feel that I am still new to bridge. I only learnt about 9 years ago and only (semi)seriously started to try and get better for the last 3 or 4 years (without doing any research, just trying to work things out for myself and by consentrating when playing).

    Drawing from my own experiences outside of the world of bridge and in running sessions at my local club (a bridge friend and I managed to increase participation on one of our sessions that we took on, from 3/3.5 tables to around 9 or 10). I also have experience of reinvigorating club competitions that had not ran for years, starting new competitions and social events and even gained sponsorship for one of our annual events. None of this was done by following the standard rules...

    I was also not suggesting that the people representing England are not the best/strongest available. Sometimes the 'how' something is done, is more important that the what.

    Lessons can be learnt from non-experts and from other successful passtimes (like Poker) that generate massive interest, tv programmes, money etc.

    That is what my suggestions are about, a change in the culture and perception of bridge, rather than a substantive change.

    If the best bridge brains have been looking at this over a period of decades, while participation has declined, this should be a clear indication that it is something 'other' that is needed.

    So if not my suggestion here, stealing the idea of qualification events to get to the main event, then what? More of the same?

    There may well be plans afoot that I am not aware of, that you may not be able to disclose here. However, if the plans are essentially more of the same, then I worry for the future of bridge... i am still relatively young at 43 and I was rather hoping that I had found a passtime that I could enjoy to my deathbed (in many years time) but I do fear that declining numbers could lead to a critical point where the game fails to attract enough people to be viable. Hopefully I am wrong on that, but I have seen the same story in multiple clubs accross the UK and abroad.
  • @Martin said:
    If the best bridge brains have been looking at this over a period of decades, while participation has declined, this should be a clear indication that it is something 'other' that is needed.

    They've looked at international representation. No reason why they should feel that is connected with grass-roots participation.

    I think I've said all I have to say on this.

  • I don't think international representation is the best example of an incentive structure, and I agree with Gordon on that. I equally agree with Martin to the extent that cash prizes for the top few in the field is also the wrong approach. In county events, cash prizes work - £150 for the winning pair in a field of 40 pairs is a great incentive! £75 each with e.g. £10 travel costs and £15 entry fee, that's something to play for. In national events (YE London used as the example), it's £300 for the winning pair in a field of over 100 pairs and £85 entry fee, as well as travel/accommodation costs for most for a couple of days.

    Now in these examples, only the top 2 pairs received prizes in the county event (I think £50 was the 2nd place prize), whereas 14 pairs received prizes in the national event. But only the top 4 of those in the national event have any chance of covering just the entry fee, let alone any additional costs.

    That's not to say that having prizes isn't worthwhile, because of course cash prizes and masterpoints are all designed as an incentive structure. Masterpoints have limited value, especially for longer-time players, while cash prizes can be directly compared to the amount you've paid to enter and travel. Prizes that are paid out as goods (French congresses have some good examples I believe but know very little about) may be more popular, given out by stratification. You could also get in touch with firms that may want to advertise at EBU events in return for a prize, free or discounted to the EBU. Prizes for strong performances in a session may also be more popular - the familar faces will always do well overall, but there's more uncertainty in shorter sessions and everyone loves an underdog winner :)

    Clubs of course are successful for a different reason, it's low cost, sociable and there's certainly no expectation of prizes. Many clubs have a few annual trophies that add a little bonus interest towards the end of the season. It comes back to the suggestion made elsewhere on the forum that perhaps the atmosphere of EBU events is what needs changing... talking and socialising is discouraged to maintain the laws of the game, but that takes out the enjoyment for most of those playing (only half the players can beat their par for a session, but a majority or even all the players in an event should be able to have a good time). It also comes back to the affiliation problem and why some clubs choose to remain unaffiliated.

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