June 2017 District Direction

By Ken Monzingo
National Board Representative

“About all I can say for the U.S. Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.” –Will Rogers


Watching performances of today’s world leaders – including our own – gives me nausea. So much saber rattling and blame assessing that could, with one slip, lead to the annihilation of us all. Power is the name of their game. Bridge is the name of ours. And, in bridge we also have  governance. Maybe it’s a little better – no nukes.
Sitting on the national board, motions to improve the game come to me – most req9uiring discussion and voting. Some being just the whims of the upper echelons of bridge players (“entitlements” comes to mind). This is okay-to-good, but more emphasis on “little guy” representation would be better. With tournament attendance receding while membership remains constant, rank and file local concerns are more the game’s future.
We pass our decisions along to ACBL management, to clubs, units and districts. Here’s a simple chain of bridge governance:

The Clubs

The 3000+ clubs of ACBL are mostly private enterprises operating under gridlines of, and paying sanctions to, the league. As such neither the league, the unit, the district nor management can really tell them how to run their businesses. Guidelines, yes –within reasonable restraints, of course.

The Unit

The unit is by far the backbone of our league. All things local bridge should go through this grass roots panel of unit board volunteers, since the unit is the first frontier of face-to-face bridge problem-solving. Unit boards are tasked with serving their friends and their clubs, and in so doing have their own bylaws complete with powers of improvement and disciplinary responsibilities. There are 25 District 22 units.

The District

Some issues are beyond unit jurisdiction. Hence, the necessity of the district board. In District 22, as in most of the 25 districts of ACBL, the district board is responsible for the running of our regionals (five), maintaining the district finances, and creating improvements in growth and comfort. The district board occasionally hears disputes or requests from units who cannot, or choose not to, handle. The district has its own bylaws.

The Western Conference

Unique to us is the Western Conference – an alliance of three districts: D17, D21, D22, working together for better bridge communications in the west. Specifically, using economies of scale and one publishing office, we publish all three editions (22,500 copies) of Contract Bridge Forum, the only monthly mailed bridge newspaper in ACBL. The Conference has bylaws, but no governing powers – just service.

The National Board

Just as there are 25 geographical districts of ACBL, there are 25 national board of directors members called District Directors – one from each district. National bridge decisions from motions are made by this board, some are defeated, some deferred to a later date, some removed. Some issues not handled at unit and district levels may be referred to this board.

ACBL Management

Management of all things ACBL are handled out of our headquarters in Horn Lake, Mississippi (Memphis, Tennessee area). There the league has a CEO (soon retiring Robert Hartman) and a staff of about 60, plus 120 tournament directors, who watch over concerns of the 166,000 members. We also have decision-making committees: the Ethical Oversight Committee, the Disciplinary Committee, the Laws Commission and the Board of Directors’ Appeals & Charges.

   Mission Upgrade

Our ACBL mission statement is: “The mission of the ACBL is to promote, grow, and sustain the game of bridge and serve the bridge-related interests of our members.” I wish we could alter it to better identify the comfort of the little guy.
Just as it has been said that everything before the word “but” should be disregarded, every time someone preferences me with the hyperbole “for the greater good of bridge,” I grab for my wallet and check their masterpoint holding.

Peace, my friends.