54 English Bridge February 2018 www.ebu.co.uk
GETTING NEW MEMBERS - THE JOY AND THE CHALLENGE
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.
GET A TEACHING COURSE INTO PLACE
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.
MAKE THE MOST OF OUR RESOURCES AND
I was appointed Membership Development
Officer in September 2018. We have created a
resource site, https://ebumemberdevelop.org.uk,
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.
A LITTLE BIT OF RADIO COVERAGE . . .
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 firstname.lastname@example.org keep up.
EBU Membership Development Officer
If you want to know more about
increasing club membership,
please contact me: email@example.com