District Direction - May Contract Bridge FORUM


By Ken Monzingo

National Board Representative


Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." — Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929-1968


Anybody ever heard of the WBF or USBF? When I was elected to the national board a couple of years ago I was only slightly aware of either organization's existence and purpose. To learn more, about a year ago I published a Forum article as definitions from those in the know.

Still do not completely understand, or agree with, the WBF/USBF roles in bridge in the US of A.


Here's the two minute tour

The United States Bridge Federation (USBF www.usbf.org) is what we call a National Bridge Organization (NBO); not ACBL. The WBF is the World Bridge Federation (www.worldbridge.org) – a grouping of about 110 countries which is headquartered in Switzerland. Both deal primarily with International bridge play.

The USBF sponsors our US Junior, Women, Senior, and Open teams in world bridge competition. Monies to do so comes primarily from our ACBL players' donations to USBF via the league's International Fund (IF). When ACBL management offers International Fund games to our clubs, or raises IF funds by other means, it is assumed it's our money. Assumptions produce non facts; USBF, not ACBL, controls our International play and is the recipient of most of our IF donations.

We, ACBL, are simply a bank to funnel funds from you to them – with board approval. USBF also hosts their lightly publicized team trials as qualifiers for their US teams to compete in world play.

Is this bad? Well, maybe, and maybe not.

The Good


The ACBL board supported this NBO arrangement to try to get our bridge teams into the Olympics as "mind sports." To do so we needed a 501(c)3, charity organization to be legal sponsors; hence, formation of USBF. However, the Olympic Committee nixed our entry request. In addition, to compete in WBF International games, someone must pay a necessary "membership" (they so decree) to the World Bridge Federation. Just for the right to play, not their card fees.

WBF membership, at one time, was based on bridge population at the then bargain rate of only 10 cents per ACBL member annually.

The Bad


Just as we attempted to get into the Olympics, WBF raised our "membership" rate to 50 cents a member. A few protested, but by board majority voted to pay the freight. Since then, with no fanfare, the WBF has again raised us – now to $1.00 per member. That equates to approx. $165,000 a year, or $1 half million (+/-) big ones in a three-year term – just for the right to play in their tournaments.

Furthermore, we're paying a ridiculous membership amount more than any other country on Planet Earth. Europeans play in our NABCs for little more than card fees, but we agree to pay the exorbitant WBF dues just to play in theirs, and we must pay their very high card fees.

The Ugly


What rewards do we, ACBL, reap for this WBF $165,000 annual "membership?" Almost nothing, unless you believe International play promotes bridge here. I don't, especially at these prices.

However, USBF International teams enjoy life in the fast lane as we not only raise well over $200K annually from your IF donations to support them, we also pay that ugly WBF membership tariff. And, in a trade off, we are responsible to pay five days Spring NABC hotel room nights each for 9-10 WBF foreign board members – they in turn pay most expenses for our five delegates to their board meetings.

Who knows who goes?


So who can compete in International play? All our International players must be USBF members and pay separate dues to them. USBF makes all International participant decisions from its membership and team trials, however, some major NABC team game winners get qualifications. We're only talking about 300 USBF members, of which approximately six or seven teams go abroad a few times.

The Senior, Open and Women's teams are made up of our country's best experts, professionals and often their sponsors. The Junior teams are made up of a very, very small select number of players under 21 and under 26. If you like dollar figures, the three expenses we pony up each year equal about $400,000 in "permission to play," and travel expenses — for about one quarter of one percent of ACBL members.

The Motion: In Louisville, in an attempt to slow down this staggering International spending for so few players, I presented a motion to the ACBL Board that if we are to continue this WBF "membership" it should come from International Fund donations earmarked to USBF, instead of out of ACBL's general fund. Seemed perfectly natural to me ... International bridge membership, International Fund.

I got very little support for my motion and it was easily defeated.