STARTING A BRIDGE CLUB by Brian McCarney

Once upon a time I was Brian McCarney’s bridge partner. That was when we were both raw recruits. Although I still play bridge I can no longer match Brian’s expertise or his passion for the game. He is not only a great player but gives a lot of his time to teach newcomers.

There are several ways to become a bridge player. The obvious one is to join a club in your area. Most clubs give lessons for newcomers and assist with finding a partner. The second is to get together with friends and play at one another’s homes. These games are usually scheduled once a week and are limited to 3-4 tables (12-16 people). It is essential at least a few players are experienced and can teach those without previous knowledge of the game. The third option is to start a new club.

Although this seems daunting there is help at hand as Brian explains below:Brian Bridge 4

 I assume there will be a few friends to form a core and who will work together to start a new club. I think the first step is to advertise for members. Clubs vary in size and the club I am involved with, The Mudgee Bridge Club  has 105 members. There are two sessions each week and the main one usually has 14-16 tables (56-64 people). There are also classes once or twice a week running for a few hours.

I would suggest advertising on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You could also approach a local newspaper to run a story and give a contact for interested readers. Many towns have a ‘What’s on in …’ and they will include your search for members. A community radio station could be useful to put out the message.

Bridge Club 2The Australian Bridge Corporation Incorporated will be helpful and you can contact the branch to suit your state or area. They will send your club copies of ‘Bridge News’ monthly. The corporation keep bridge records of points gained through club and competition games and award rankings from graduate to national as points are amassed.

Many towns and suburbs have Business  Information Centres and these can be invaluable for advice on the many steps needed to start the club. Business centres and the State Department of Business will help with incorporation, draft rules and insurance.

With a core of bridge players and good interest in the community you will be in a position to get a venue from which to play. Registered clubs such as RSL, bowling and football clubs get a generous tax allowance by allowing a community based not for profit organisation to use a room on their premises. My club has moved several times over the years and has finally through the council been given a permanent room in a council owned building.

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Bridge Table set up ready for play

A president, vice president and secretary have to be voted in. The club needs to be named and a financial year chosen, e.g. 1st July to 30th June and an AGM must be held after the end of the financial year. A one off joining fee is determined by the committee, usually around $20 and a weekly fee of $5 is also usual. An annual fee of approximately $20 is levied.

The club will need equipment and the amount will be dictated by the number of members. Tables, chairs, tablecloths, cards, bidding sheets and travelling sheets (which hold the results of each game) will be the basics. Added to this, as the club grows would be a dealing machine and perhaps some electronic equipment, such as an automatic score tablet. But that’s probably in the future when the club has grown and the upfront costs have been absorbed.

The $5 per person and the annual $20 fee cover: tea, coffee, biscuits, a Christmas party with snacks and drinks, trophies, prizes, sandwiches for the AGM and insurance. At the moment my club pays the council $150 each week.

Once bridge players used to wait until the following week to get the results of their game. Now it is available on Bridge Web and they are available only hours after the conclusion of the game. With new technology results can be known at close of play!   Who says bridge is a game for the elderly or for nursing homes. It is a game for all ages and many clubs today use state of the art technology and provide a venue for likeminded people to get together, socialise and enjoy a good day out for little cost.Brian Bridge 6

Bridge has given me great satisfaction not only in my home town but when I travel I drop into the local bridge clubs, enjoy a game, meet the locals and gain insider information.

Happy Bridging.