Cindy Shoemaker
ACBL National Board Representative 

The ACBL Board of Directors held its fall meetings face-to-face (F2F) November 22 through 24 in Austin, TX. It was the first F2F ACBL Board meeting since fall of 2019. During these unprecedented times, the ACBL Board of Directors, committees and work groups continue to meet regularly through Zoom, conference calls and GoToMeeting. 

The information presented in this report has been sourced from the following:

The Board approved the 2022 Capital and Operating budget (Item 213-FN02) by a vote of 24/1/0. Budgeted revenues for 2022 total approximately $15.8M while estimated operating and administrative expenses total approximately $16.7M; an estimated loss of $900K. This loss reflects a commitment by ACBL Management and the Board to invest in Information Technology to replace outdated systems and to accomplish prioritized objectives. 

Prior to 2021, the ACBL budget for the upcoming year was approved during the spring NABC, almost three months after the beginning of the fiscal year. This year, the Board voted to change the budget cycle. The budget now will be approved before the beginning of the calendar year.

The election cycle for the ACBL Treasurer will change to coincide with the budget approval process. This requires a change in the ACBL Codification and in the ACBL Bylaws, requiring two motions to carry.
A Special Board meeting will be held in January to begin the process. District 4 Director, Joann Glasson, is the current ACBL Treasurer. 

The Finance Committee brought forth motion (Item 213-FN01) proposing a process for Districts and/or Units to request, and the Board to review and consider for approval, reimbursement for significant losses incurred due to the ACBL’s decision not to staff a tournament after having approved it to be held under COVID restrictions. This would apply to tournament(s) scheduled to be held on or after August 1, 2021. Motion carried: 24/0/1.

The Finance Committee also brought forth two motions dealing with NABCs. The first (Item 213-FN03) moved to increase the NABC Intermediate/Newcomer (I/N) welcome gift subsidy from $3 to $5 inclusive of tax and shipping to Horn Lake. The subsidy had not been increased in over a decade and the increase would give local authorities better ability to provide gifts of greater quality and perceived value. Cost increase: Approximately $6,000 over three NABCs. Motion carried: 20/5/0. 

The second, non-agenda Item NA213-FN02, moved to provide NABC sponsoring Districts the ability to determine the time of day hospitality dollars are spent based on attendance. Motion failed: 6/19/0.

In 2022, the ACBL will invest in Information Technology. The IT team will rely on third-party vendors and staff to accomplish the following:  

  • Make architectural changes to the website.
  • Complete migration of the AS/400.
  • Update and finalize Masterpoint calculation engine.
  • Complete tournament event pre-registration system. 
  • Move Trax application to cloud-based application. 
  • Move ACBLScore to a web-based application. 

The IT team is preparing its specific deliverables for the year which will be presented to the Board in the spring. Management will work with the Board liaison to communicate progress and challenges.

The monthly “In and Out” Report (membership gains and losses) has been moved from the AS/400. It is now being reproduced inside of the Data Warehouse and will be delivered monthly from that new platform to each Unit. The daily reporting of each club’s Include List and Visitor List is in progress and has been migrated to Bridge Operations. 
IT continues to develop the registration application to allow members to pre-register for F2F tournaments and to support sponsors’ planning. A tournament administration portal is planned. Phase one is scheduled for release in January 2022. 

The application used by clubs to upload game results has been rewritten and is in use. 

IT has fully implemented Microsoft Teams and One Drive into the ACBL backend processes. The majority of ACBL data was moved into One Drive and SharePoint (with hooks into Microsoft Teams for departmentally referenced data). Microsoft Teams (with Telephony) is now the main platform for the ACBL’s internal communications. 
While ACBL membership continues to decline slightly each month, the pace has begun to slow. Total membership is down 9.4 percent compared to the prior year.  As of November 1, 2021, the ACBL has approximately 144,306 total members. 
The Office of the National Recorder, headed by Robb Gordon, includes Lead Advocate Scott Humphrey and Administrative Coordinator Sabrina Goley. Currently, 15 volunteers serve as Player Memo Case Investigators, four others as Charging Party Advocates, and two as Advisors to the Online Ethical Oversight Committee (OEOC). TD Jesse Laird, District 9, is managing Player Memo files and OEOC data compilation. Rob Maier, District 4, helps prepare evidence for OEOC hearings. 
To assist in working the disciplinary case backlog, the position of Assistant National Recorder has been established. Applicants are now being interviewed. 

Support to the National Disciplinary Committees and officials involved in the disciplinary process continues. District Disciplinary Committees will become more active as F2F play resumes.

An issue that has arisen is BBO’s adoption of a policy to archive hand records for more than eight months is making accessibility difficult. The Office is addressing this with BBO.

A substantial number of Player Memos involving unethical behavior continue to be generated from online play. Year-to-date as of month-end September 2021, 732 Player Memos were received. Recently, there have been five Resignations to Avoid Discipline.
During Special Board meetings on August 20, August 25 and September 9, the Board's Appeals & Charges Committee (A&C) reported to the full Board on hearings it conducted in the interim since the 2021 Summer (July) Board meeting.

At the Austin 2021 Fall (November) Board meeting, under Item 213-AC01, A&C reported on its two most recent hearings. 
A&C Review Explained, Online Disciplinary Disposition Chart, F2F Disciplinary Disposition Chart, Negotiated Resolution Disciplinary Disposition Chart, Hearing Reports of OEOC and A&C, and Under Discipline List can be found on the ACBL website: https://www.acbl.org/ethics/

An Anti-cheating Committee of the ACBL Advisory Council was formed. A report and recommendations by the Committee, particularly regarding cheating online, were presented to the Board by the Advisory Council Chair. The report (DI213-BD01) was favorably received by the Board.  
In a second reading, under Item 213-BY01: Amend Bylaws to address omissions, the Bylaws Committee brought forward a motion correcting omission of provisions, in the ACBL Bylaws, Article IX, Board of Governors, for replacement of vacancies in the Board of Governors, now Advisory Council, other than by resignation or deemed resignation. The amendments also simplify provisions specifying who the members of the Advisory Council are as it transitions to a smaller size. Motion carried: 24/0/1.
Strategic partners with Management to define major organizational goals and objectives. Building and retaining membership is prioritized. Additional objectives include providing players with places to play while supporting a robust return to F2F bridge. Both prove challenging as the US faces surges in the Delta and Omicron variants.  

Building partnerships with other organizations facing similar issues represents an additional opportunity to grow bridge. A 2019 initiative to develop a social bridge division to include both duplicate and non-duplicate games was reintroduced.

This arm of the ACBL would be membership driven and may include a website, publication, basic scoring tools and guides to running duplicate games. 
Strategic will convene in January to discuss progress and recommendations on initiatives for continuing to build membership. 
A collaborative effort among the ACBL, the ACBL Educational Foundation and the American Bridge Teachers’ Association (ABTA) to identify and promote bridge among organizations most likely to offer bridge games and classes was also reported. Organizations include Jewish Cultural Centers, country club associations and retirement community developers/operators. 

Currently, the American Bridge Association (ABA) and the ACBL are collaborating to build and retain membership. Both are discussing options such as the sharing of best practices and training, holding joint tournaments, issuing either ACBL or ABA masterpoints for tournaments and the ACBL handling member services for both organizations. 

An online pathway to life master was also discussed given some non-life masters are gravitating to online versus F2F club play. Online pigmented point opportunities to date have been well received, particularly among players who cannot travel due to health restrictions. Online pigmented point games will continue in 2022 but will be limited to reduce competition with F2F clubs, sectionals and regionals.
ACBL Marketing develops and implements initiatives to increase membership and member value. 

The Guest Membership Program

The Program has produced more than 2,500 guest members since its inception in February 2021. Over 857 have been converted to full memberships, an approximate 34 percent conversion rate. 
Intro to Bridge Classes

Over 880 students have attended Intro to Bridge classes; exceeding the original goal of 500 students. This interactive online course is comprised of 10 weekly lessons for a cost of $50. After the course ends, students may practice on the Shark Bridge App free for 90 days and should feel ready to play in a restricted masterpoint game. Classes will continue monthly. 

Instructors guide students to the Find a Teacher search tool located on the ACBL website to encourage students to seek local F2F and/or online instruction. 

In the future, the ACBL will move to a marketplace model where players can filter teacher searches by class, type, times, cost, etc. and provide input regarding their teacher experiences. The goal is to connect prospects, members and bridge players with the appropriate resources and games. 

Recruiter Incentives

ACBL’s Recruiter Incentives Program rewards teachers and club managers for bringing in new members. Teacher incentives through the third quarter of 2021 produced 1,830 members.
Recruiters receive $10 when someone joins and $10 each year when they renew their membership during years two and three. The ACBL has distributed over $15,400 in recruiter bonuses to club managers and teachers and anticipate sending another $7,000 in third quarter bonuses. 

Commitment to Member Retention

An ACBL Member Retention Work Group has been formed. The Work Group has identified member retention issues. It will also develop applicable metrics to gauge access, member data dashboards, a retention program and training and pilot initiatives. 

Increasing Member Value

ACBL has refreshed its website, streamlining content and improving functionality. It has also refreshed the ACBL Bridge Bulletin and rolled out new logos and a tag line: Dealing Infinite Possibilities. 

The ACBL held its first Member Appreciation Event in October. Over 160 prizes were awarded. The event produced strong engagement through ACBL social media channels improving the ability to target and attract bridge playing audiences. 
Governance had a full agenda leading up to the Austin meetings. The key topics were addressed in multiple virtual committee meetings as well as by the full Board in Austin.

A number of the motions addressed changes to the Codification in anticipation of the downsizing of the Board that will begin in January 2022, now that the first round of Regional Director elections has occurred.
Maximizing the Effectiveness of a Smaller Board   

As the Board reduces in size from 25 to 13 members, non-core related functions of the Board will continue to transition to Management and to outside committees, ensuring a smaller board can maximize its ability to focus on core strategic and financial objectives. 

As part of this transition, The Competitions and Convention Committee brought forth non-agenda Item 213-01 giving the Committee significant discretion to make changes to alert procedures, conditions of contest, convention charts and other documents without the formality of a Board motion.
The Board would receive a notice of change(s) 30 days before the change(s) would go into effect. During that time, the Board could move that changes be reconsidered. Major considerations, such as changing the format of an NABC event or significant structural changes to convention charts, would still be vetted in advance to the Board. Motion carried: 25/0/0.  

Similarly, discussion item (DI213-BR02) dealt with streamlining the Masterpoint Committee and/or Competitions and Convention Committee process and proposed moving unanimous committee decisions considered minor in nature directly to Management. The Board concurred.  

The Board’s Bridge Committee brought forth a motion (Item 213-BR01) to approve the 2021-2022 Grand National Teams (GNT) Special Conditions of Contest, including seeding for the knockout phase of the GNT final. Motion carried: 24/1/0.

The Committee also brought forth a cleanup motion (Item 213-BR02) for Flight C NAP District Finals session masterpoint awards. Motion carried: 25/0/0.

A discussion item (DI213-BR01) was brought forth by the Committee concerning use of robots in BBO virtual club games. Concern was expressed about use of robots solely for the purpose of increasing masterpoint awards. Primary intent is for use of robots to enable smaller clubs to fill out tables in order to hold viable games. Unlimited use of robots is not currently possible due to system constraints. Therefore, no action was warranted at this time.   

Currently, proposals made by the Masterpoint Committee and/or the Competitions and Conventions Committee require a motion for consideration by the full Board.
A discussion item (DI213-BR2) was brought forth seeking feedback on the proposal to streamline the process by moving unanimous committee decisions considered minor in nature directly to Management. The Board concurred. 

New Convention Card Debuts Mid-2022 

Danny Sprung, Chair, Competition and Conventions Committee, presented the new convention card to the Board. The new card will become official mid-2022.

While the new card will look familiar, the following changes were made: 

  • Seldom-used conventions were removed and more commonly-used conventions were added.
  • Recent changes in alerts and announcements are reflected.
  • The one club and one diamond sections were expanded, providing more room to address different minor suit openings in different systems. 
  • The right side of the card was reorganized with bids shown in ascending order of strain.

Educational articles explaining the changes and the proper way to complete the card will appear in the ACBL Bridge Bulletin. Additional information will be posted to the ACBL website and to other bridge-related forums. 
ACBL Management reduced, by over $5.4M, financial exposure from hotel contracts for canceled 2020-21 NABCs. 

Terms and conditions of hotel and convention center contracts for future NABCs have been renegotiated, resulting in approximately $1.7M reduction in financial risk. 

Strategies were used to adjust contracted room blocks to reflect historical pick up and to match anticipated future needs of the ACBL.

2021 Fall NABC Austin 

Management proactively renegotiated contracts with the JW Marriott and the Marriott Downtown. NABC Austin proceeded with no attrition risk and significantly reduced food and beverage minimum risk. Financials will be available shortly.
Future NABC Locations

During a Special Board meeting in September, the Board authorized ACBL Management to move forward with contract negotiations for the 2025 Spring NABC in Memphis and the 2026 Fall NABC in San Diego. 

This winter, the NABC Site Selection Committee will develop recommendations to bring to the Board to fill the gaps in the schedule of future NABCs. The goal is to move toward an annual rhythm of approvals for an entire year at a time, five to six years in advance. The ACBL currently does not have NABC locations for summer 2026, all of 2027, the summer and fall of 2028 and 2029 and spring and fall of 2030. 
The fall 2022 NABC will be held in Phoenix, at the Phoenix Convention Center, November 24 through December 4, 2022.

The fall 2024 NABC will be held in Las Vegas, at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino, November 28 through December 8, 2024.
Joann Glasson, District 4, was elected ACBL President for a one-year term beginning January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2022.
The Board confirmed the elections of Jonathan Steinberg, Region 1; Mike Kovacich, Region 6; Paul Cuneo, Region 9 and Tim White, Region 13 to the ACBL Board of Directors to serve three-year terms January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2024.

The Board confirmed the elections of Mark Aquino, Region 2; Margot Hennings, Region 4; Dennis Carman, Region 5 and David Lodge, Region 11 to the ACBL Board of Directors to serve four-year terms, January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2025.
  • Jeff Overby, District 9, was appointed as an Eastern Zone Executive Committee member for a three-year term effective January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2024.

  • Carlos Munoz, District 3, was appointed as an Eastern Zone Executive Committee alternate for a three-year term effective January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2024. 

  • Julie Smith, District 19, a former ACBL Board member, was appointed to the Online Ethical Oversight Committee to serve the remainder of the term of Harold Bickham, District 11, through the 2024 Summer NABC. 

  • George Jacobs, District 13, was named the 2022 ACBL Honorary Member of the Year. 

  • Anne Romeo and Al Bender, District 19, were named 2022 Nadine Wood Volunteer Members of the Year. 

  • Roger Smith, District 21, former ACBL Board member and a former ACBL Board President, was appointed the Aileen Osofsky ACBL Goodwill Committee Chairperson, replacing Sandy DeMartino following her many years of outstanding service. Smith will serve a three-year term, January 1, 2022 through December 31, 2024. 
It is my privilege as the D17 National Board Representative, to appoint D17 members to the ACBL Charity Committee and to the ACBL Goodwill Committee for their outstanding contributions to bridge. There are many amazing volunteers in our District and throughout the ACBL. Thank you all for your service.
David Baglee
Unit 374, Albuquerque, NM 
National Goodwill Committee and National Charity Committee 
Hurd Baruch
Unit 356, Tucson, AZ
National Goodwill Committee and National Charity Committee
Linnea Tow
Unit 351, Mesa, AZ
National Goodwill Committee