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54 English Bridge February 2018



oes your club need new members? A simple

question, but one which opens up big

questions about the future.

'Bridge is possibly the best game devised by

mankind,' according to noted player Andrew

Robson, writing in the Times, but over the last few

decades we have done a poor job of communicating

this to young people. In a world of video games and

compulsive social media, bridge has struggled to

find its place, and the result is an ageing

demographic in our clubs. The EBU has done some

homework, the quick summary being that a club

which is not recruiting new members will shrink at

an increasing pace year by year.


Bringing new players into a club is therefore

essential. Some clubs are already doing this with

energy and great results, but for others it is not so

simple. There is a lot that needs to happen: finding

a bridge teacher, sorting out premises, marketing

lessons in your area, running courses, and then

providing novices with gentle, supervised bridge so

they can progress in a suitable environment before

fully integrating with the main club lessons.

The results though are hugely worthwhile. The

evidence is that a carefully-planned teaching and

marketing campaign will successfully bring new

members into a club at a modest financial cost. Of

course the real cost is the human effort involved;

but this too brings rewards as clubs become more

energised and outgoing.


Ripon Bridge Club in North Yorkshire had a

membership which 10 years ago had fallen to the

low 40s. It introduced a teaching programme and

membership recovered, but this was in jeopardy

because of a low number of recruits. A campaign of

taster sessions, leaflets and digital marketing turned

this around, and the club started three new courses,

for beginners, intermediate and advanced learners.

Core membership is now over 70 and rising.

Membership campaigns are not just for small

clubs. Olicana Bridge Club in Ilkley, West Yorkshire,

has its own premises and in 2010 had around 250

members. The club had a major strategic review,

improved its premises, embraced technology, and

strongly promoted bridge teaching. Numbers grew

and today it has over 300 members.

Why two Yorkshire clubs? The answer is that

Yorkshire Bridge Association has focused on

increasing membership and in 2017 ran a regionwide

campaign with support from the EBU. The

success of this campaign encouraged us to support

membership campaigns elsewhere.



I was appointed Membership Development

Officer in September 2018. We have created a

resource site,,

with background information, tips, images and

templates for running membership campaigns.

There is also funding available for clubs in counties

which commit to supporting the scheme. From

Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, to Norfolk,

Somerset and Surrey, we are seeing new

membership campaigns get under way and expect

much more in 2019.

This growth is welcome but there are challenges.

Those who come into the game tend to be in their

fifties or older; nothing wrong with that, but it has

implications in that they tend more towards social

than highly competitive bridge. The demographics

also mean that clubs need to continue actively

recruiting just to maintain numbers.


The good news is that bridge is a fantastic asset to

our community. When Margaret Hyde at

Cheltenham Bridge Club turned 100 years old, the

club got her a spot on local radio where she said, 'I

started bridge 60 years ago at the golf club … I enjoy

it enormously, it's a very interesting game.' So many

locally now want to learn bridge that the club keep up.

Tim Anderson

EBU Membership Development Officer

If you want to know more about

increasing club membership,

please contact me:


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