Working together to ensure the future of Bridge Clubs in the Brentwood & Billericay Area
Hutton Bridge Club (Monday), Mayflower Bridge Club (Tuesday), St Edith's Lane Bridge Club (Wednesday), Mountnessing Bridge Club (Thursday)
A Message from the Essex Contract Bridge AssociationDear Project team,
The ECBA committee have been very interested in hearing an update from Alaric at both our July and January meetings on the progress of the initiative for some clubs in the Brentwood and Mountnessing areas to work closer together with the intention that these clubs will share future premises whether they be leased or owned. You have explained that a prime reason behind the project is to establish teaching sessions in order to encourage more people to play bridge and reverse the trend which you and other clubs are currently experiencing.
The ECBA committee would like to express its enthusiastic support for this project. Indeed the history and success of three affiliated clubs in the Southend-on-Sea and Billericay areas who have also acquired premises, has demonstrated how successful such a venture can be. The growth and level of support which these clubs now enjoy has come from many players in the locality who volunteer to take active roles in running their club.
We have continued to ask ourselves whether the ECBA should take a more active role or even attempt to do the same thing for the whole county. However we are convinced that the answer should be for clubs to take the initiative mainly because only the clubs can rely on this voluntary support. If we felt there could be the same enthusiasm for getting players in, for example, say Southend, Chelmsford, Brentwood and Loughton etc areas to cooperate in such a joint venture for Essex Bridge we might think otherwise. The experience in other counties is also that where there is the enthusiasm at a local area to undertake such activities they can be strikingly successful. Successful owned bridge premises such as the Young Chelsea and Andrew Robson's in London, the club at Burnham in Berks and the Welwyn Garden City club in Herts are owned by players or clubs; not county associations.
Individualy we have actively supported you when we can and will continue to do so in the future. As a committee we would like to express more than just enthusiasm and support. We suggest we discuss this further because we realise that if you are successful in what you are doing it will also be for the benefit of the wider community of players in Essex. It will provide a growing pool of students and club players within the county. If you are successful the ECBA would be very interested in showing its support by hiring such premises to hold some of its own county competitions.
John C Williams; Chairman ECBA
Audrey Hartley; Hon Secretary ECBA
Posted 14/09/2012These comments were received before this website went live - apologies for the delay in adding them
From a member of MountnessingI do not think that my views will help you too much, because in simple bridge terms I enjoy a game - one a week - it has always been Mountnessing - but does not have to be. I am most likely that I would follow wherever you went. It is a little more likely that I would play an extra night, but not certain.
I hope that you will accept the following comments in the spirit they are given. I am not trying to be clever.
I am sure that you are aware that having your own building brings with it an untold number of problems and responsibilities. I have been "odd job man" at my cricket club where we occupy a 15 year old purpose built pavillion. I cannot believe the number of things that have to be done; and I do not do all of them.
Secondly, falling membership could easily continue. I see it at the cricket club and the golf club and hear of the same problems elsewhere. I guess there is a case for assuming that a combined venue will actually increase the number of games played by any one individual, even if I am unlikely to do so. However, I would advise caution on any business plan which depended upon increases in this area.
From a member of several clubsThe idea is fine, I can think only positive thoughts, the problem is finance. The cost of a new build would in my opinion be 2 or 3 times your estimate. A lease would require a lessee, which could not be the bridge club as it is not a legal entity. The new club would have to be a limited company and no lessor in his right mind would grant a lease to a company without assets, guarantors would be required. This would come either from the bank for a fee, provided there wasa deposit with the bank, or from individuals. If money was to be raised from members it must be on a commercial basis, such as they being mortgagors as there would be no reason for them to put up finance if others could join and enjoy the same benefits for no risk. If a person put up say £5K, what would be the position when he died, an important consideration given the age of members? In my view the ideal set up would be one similar to Bernie Hunt's operation. When it was up and running and viability could be properly gauged, then would be the time to perhaps look for non-rented premises and to sort out the finance.
From another member of several clubs
|I think it is an excellent idea, but have reservations about how the funds would be raised, given the rather advanced ages
of most of the bridge players involved! However, we played an ECL match on Sunday v Northants at Stamford BC, and this has just
been built (completed about 18 months ago).
There are apparently about 400 members of the club, of whom about 90 gave a 10-year loan of £1,000, which, combined with about £80,000 that they already had in the kitty almost covered the cost of the build. I think the total cost was £190,000, and I'm not sure where the other £20,000 came from. It was obviously custom designed for the BC and has all the necessary facilities, including a car park. Their big advantage was that the council let them have the land, as it is on what appears to be a small sports centre. I think it might well be worth your while getting in touch with someone at the club and going up to have a look some time. Incidentally the donors of the £1,000 loans were given 2% interest for the 10 years.
Just thought it might be of interest.
Editor's note: see a comment on the Comments Pad, posted by Stamford Bridge Club on 19/01/2013
Picture Gallery - Pictures provided by Stamford Bridge Club (added 19/01/2013)
Posted 07/09/2012 [From the meeting held on September 5th.]
Responding to commentsSeveral members of the four clubs had sent in comments, all of which were welcomed. It was agreed that the project's formal reaction to comments received would be to acknowledge them, and then to take the points raised into consideration at the appropriate point in the project's development. We would not respond in detail until the comment happened to relate to a particular issue that was under active or recent consideration.
From a Bridge playerA player who is a member of several local clubs has kindly provided comments and suggestions that can be read in a document that is available here.
From Derek Stewart, Chair of The Monday ClubDerek has kindly provided comments and a suggestion in a document that can be read here.
From Theo TodmanMy opinion on strategy is that we should rent a place in the first instance, as the purpose of the project is to ensure the survival of bridge in the local area, not the survival of a building, and we need to prove that we can do the former rather urgently. I suggest we do some sums, and find out how much we need as start-up and annual costs for a rented place, and then ask the (better heeled portion of the) membership to subscribe for these costs less standard revenues. The subscribers would get their money back if all goes well, but otherwise they'll lose it. Maybe £1,000 gold, £500 silver subscription ... that sort of thing.
What alarmed me on first encountering the bridge scene in this locality was the average age of the participants. In particular, I don't think I've seen one young Essex player since I've been playing here. This is in marked contrast to the tournament scene, and clubs I've attended recently up North and in my youth in the West Country. Bridge isn't just a prophylactic against Alzheimer's. How would our venture contribute to attracting young players (say on leaving university, or during vacations) and retaining them? When I was working in the City I found it impossible to get back in time for an evening's bridge, but might have played at the weekends.
From a regular player at our clubsI think your initiative is a welcome step forward for the benefit of Bridge in our area. I fully support your initiative, and I will do anything I can to help, and wish you every success.
I have played at a number of Clubs which own their own premises and the benefits are immense. At one they have their own bar and a television monitor (in a separate room, the bar), showing the results live.
From a Mountnessing Club MemberI do not think that my views will help you too much, because in simple bridge terms I enjoy a game - one a week - it has always been Mountnessing - but does not have to be. I am most likely that I would follow wherever you went. It is a little more likely that I would play an extra night, but not certain. I hope that you will accept the following comments in the spirit they are given. I am not trying to be clever.
I am sure that you are aware that having your own building brings with it an untold number of problems and responsibilities. I have been "odd job man" at my cricket club where we occupy a 15 year old purpose built pavillion. I cannot believe the number of things that have to be done; and I do not do all of them. Secondly, falling membership could easily continue. I see it at the cricket club and the golf club and hear of the same problems elsewhere. I guess there is a case for assuming that a combined venue will actually increase the number of games played by any one individual, even if I am unlikely to do so. However, I would advise caution on any business plan which depended upon increases in this area.
From a VisitorThank you for this. I very much admire this initiative, only regret I play very little club bridge myself....at the moment. I have always believed that to attract and retain membership we have to "enhance the playing experience". What you envisage is very much in accord with that concept. Have you thought about seeking sponsorship to help with the funding issues? Just a thought, a company which has a vested interest in promoting card games is Cartamundi, the card manufacturer, whose UK HQ is on Canvey.
Another left field idea: there must be many companies in the area who retire staff - could they be asked/ incentivised to offer membership/lessons to retiring staff...or even just to bring awareness of bridge into "retirement preparation counselling"? Just because the population ageing doesn't mean clubs have to lose numbers; if we can't get young people, then focus on the age group that is available. I would imagine a large well-structured club with great facilities would be much easier to sell in this way. OK, I havn't thought this through but...?Good luck.
Posted 12/08/2012 (Link updated 05/01/2013)For the latest comments sent in by members - or to post your own comments - please visit the Comments Pad
From Hutton Bridge Club Committee and Members
- Big concerns about the workload involved in getting the idea through to fruition
- Raising the money
- Finding a suitable property, which might possibly need conversion
- Staffing for managing the premises
- Who would do the teaching?
- There would be a reduced number of clubs in the area, which would impact both the number of players able to play in Essex Invitational Club Events and would also reduce income for ECBA
- There could be an issue for those who choose to play only once a week if the annual membership fee is more than for any one of the current clubs
- Parts of Brentwood Town Hall are to become available for 'Community Purposes'. It is central and has a large car-park
- On the other hand, a venue such as BTH would be leased, and what would / could happen when the lease expired?
- Overall reaction "a lovely idea, providing someone is prepared to do the work and the finance can be found."
From St Edith's ClubFew comments have been received; those that have been made largely echo those raised at Hutton. Additionally:
- It might be an idea to look for premises on two floors, with the idea of sub-letting one floor as a commercial concern to ensure a steady income
- Concerns about a loss of identity
- There may be advantage in seeking to establish a Charity
From Mayflower Committee and MembersThe comments from Hutton are broadly echoed. Additionally:
- The Mayflower Club has not suffered falling numbers; average tables increased following the move from Mayflower School to Mountnessing Village Hall
- The club is successful - why rock the boat?
- No desire to lose their separate identity - they do not want to merge into one club
- Money a concern
- Many members like to play at different venues each night
- However, there is agreement that something needs to be done in the longer term
From Mountnessing Bridge ClubMountnessing Bridge Club does not currently have a management committee. A random cross section of eight members were consulted; additionally, two players who had heard about the idea from other sources also commented.
- Big concerns about raising the Finance
- Grants may be available - especially if any proposal could be packaged as a 'community project'
- Strong advice that it would be far easier to secure grants if the initiative was based on a Charity
- Some members travel to Mountnessing from long distances, and there was concern that a new venue might be too distant
- Issues raised about the reality of maintenance and repairs for club-owned premises
- The positive experiences of the Stamford Bridge Club were extolled; Stamford were given a 'kick start' by having a suitable piece of community land given to them by their local Council
- Three different sites were proposed that could be suitable for a new build - subject to agreement from Brentwood Council
- Overall reaction of strong support - providing that the obvious problems could be overcome