1. HOW IT ALL STARTED
By the early 1960's the development of Bracknell as a new town had seen the growth of business and industry in the district. Several large employers such as the MET OFFICE, SPERRY and FERRANTI had premises in Bracknell and it was not long before a pattern of friendly bridge matches was established between these and other companies or clubs. At the start of 1965, Mr. Brian Oddie of the MET OFFICE wrote to bridge clubs in the area inviting them to a meeting to be held on February 25th at the MET OFFICE. The purpose of the meeting was " to discover whether there was a general wish among bridge clubs in and near Bracknell to establish a bridge league to replace friendly matches of the last year or so".
At the meeting on the 25th February, 1965 a total of six clubs were represented:
BRACKNELL BRIDGE CLUB - Dr. Hague and Mr. Pyke.
FERRANTI - Mr. Barnes and Miss Spooner.
I. C. I. JEALOTTS HILL - Mr. Frost and Mr. Knight.
MET OFFICE - Mr. Oddie and Mr. Pattinson.
RACAL - Mr. Maitland.
SPERRY - Mr. Parsons and Mr. Beaver.
It was agreed that a league should started and a draft set of rules drawn up. So theBRACKNELL BRIDGE LEAGUE was formed. Over the next few months several meetings were held to elect officers, prepare fixtures for the first season and draw up rules. The first elected officers were:
CHAIRMAN - Mr Maitland ( RACAL )
TREASURER - Mr Pyke ( BRACKNELL )
MATCH SECRETARY - Mr Harris ( MET OFFICE )
2.THE EARLY DAYS
The first season started in October 1965, with just two divisions. Each of the founder members had one team in the A DIVISION and one in the B DIVISION. Then, as now, scoring of league matches was by IMPS, with a score of 6 IMPS or more constituting a win. However, there were no VPS, with 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw. The league tables at the end of that first season showed the MET OFFICE as the winners of the A division and BRACKNELL as the champions of the B.
The complete table at the end of the 1965-66 season was:
|T E A M||P||W||D||L||IMPs||Pts|
|T E A M||P||W||D||L||IMPs||Pts|
Applications were received from a number of clubs for the following season; I.C.T. (later to become I.C.L.), CASTROL, IMPERIAL COLLEGE and ROAD RESEARCH LABORATORIES all joined the league. I.C.T. and R.R.L. both entered the A DIVISION, whilst CASTROL and a second team from I.C.T. joined the B DIVISION. The rules at the time made no provision for promotion or relegation and so BRACKNELL's second team remained in the B DIVISION for the second season. However, the A.G.M. did agree to introduce this for the 1966-67 season. The MET OFFICE won both the A and B DIVISIONS, with I.C.I. the first victims of the new promotion/relegation rules..
The next season (1967-68) saw an important change in the scoring sytem of the league. The Victory Points scale was introduced for the first time, with a maximum 6-0 win for a difference of 41 IMPS or more. The MET OFFICE won the league for the third succesive year, this time the runners up were BRACKNELL. In winning the title the MET OFFICE had made full use of the new scoring system - had the rules been as in previous years the positions would have been reversed!!
The league remained much the same through to the end of the sixties. The change in name of I.C.T. to I.C.L. only served to increase the confusion between themselves and I.C.I., so the the latter became known as JEALOTTS HILL from then on. Both RACAL and IMPERIAL COLLEGE withdrew from the league in the late 60's. IMPERIAL, along with the BRACKNELL club, were the only sides in the league at the time who were not from local industry. The reasons why a bridge club from a London university played in a Bracknell league may seem obscure - in fact they had a research establishment near Ascot .
3. INTO THE SEVENTIES
The 1970's were entered with much the same structure as when the league had started; just 2 divisions made up of A & B sides from local companies or clubs. In 1972-73 season the league became affiliated to the E.B.U. as a 'DISTRICT LEAGUE' and were able to award master points to members of winning teams. The VP scale was changed to bring it into line with the County Leagues, with the biggest win being 10-0 for a difference of 50 IMPs or more. The same season the league extended to 3 divisions, with LILLY RESEARCH and OAKLANDS joining. R.R.L. won the new C DIVISION, so completing an excellent season for the club that had also won the A DIVISION.
The following season saw successful applications from 3 new clubs; BRACKNELL CRICKET CLUB, GREAT HOLLANDS and CROWTHORNE. This was the first time new bridge clubs in the area had joined and it was the point at which the league started to expand rapidly with those clubs already in the league entering extra teams and several other clubs joining. Between the 1973-74 and 1979-80 seasons ASCOT, AVIS, HONEYWELL and WOKINGHAM all became members of the league - the only casualties were CASTROL and BRACKNELL CRICKET CLUB.. The latter only remained in the league for 2 seasons, finishing bottom of the C DIVISION on both occasions and very often conceeding a number of IMPS that seemed more appropriate to the number of runs they would have liked to make in their summer pastime!! In order to accommodate the expansion the league was increased to four divisions in 1976-77 season and then to five in 1978-79. By the end of the 1979-80 season promotion /relegation had been increased to two up/two down between all divisions except the A & B, where it still reamined at one.
The decade ended with I.C.L.A winning the league - a feat that was to become almost routine in the 1980's. Then, however, I.C.L. were just one of a number of sides who had won the league in the 1970's - leading the way were BRACKNELL with 3 wins, then R.R.L. (who by now had added a T to their name), FERRANTI, ICL all twice and MET OFFICE once. The A division was still very much the prerogative of the industrial teams rather than the club teams, with only BRACKNELL club in the A division, much as it was 15 years earlier.
4. THE EIGHTIES
The early 1980's saw the continued expansion of the league. Despite the withdrawal of HONEYWELL and WOKINGHAM at the start of the 1980 - 81 season, the number of clubs in the league had increased to 16 by 1983 - 84 with the entrance of YATELEY, CAMBERLEY and CHARTERS. The number of divisions also increased to 6 in 1982 - 83. In 1986 - 87 HAWLEY joined - making a total of 54 teams from 17 clubs. This rapid expansion caused concern in some quarters ; most of the new clubs were from an area well south of BRACKNELL and some people objected to the comparatively long journeys they were being asked to make to away matches.
Whilst the league tried to accommodate new applicants, it always had a policy of placing new clubs in the bottom division rather than allowing them to enter at a level appropriate to their standard. This meant a very large league would need many seasons before a new team could progress to the A or B DIVISION. A special general meeting was called in June of 1987 to discuss the future structure of the league. Proposals were received from various clubs; the most radical proposal was to split the league geographically into North and South. Others suggested a parallel league system below the B or C divisions and yet another suggested new applicants should be admitted at the expense of the bottom team in the lowest division. In the end the SGM elected to keep the first 5 divisions at 8 teams and allow a flexible lowest division, which could be split into 2 parallel ones if necessary. The 'six mile rule' was introduced whereby matches had to be played within that radius of the MET OFFICE unless both captains agreed otherwise.
As it turned out, the 1986 - 87 season was to be the peak size of the league. The following year both AVIS and CHARTERS withdrew to be followed by the end of the next season by JEALOTTS HILL. As ICI, they were one of the founder members of the league. In 1972 - 73 TRRL had won both the A and C DIVISIONS - a year or two later they had two A DIVISION sides and a third in the C DIVISION. However, by the end of the early 1980's they had been reduced to just one side in the lowest division and finally after 24 seasons they called it a day and withdrew from the league.
Although 'two up -two down' had been the norm for most of the divisions since 1979, the A DIVISION had started the 80's with 7 teams and only one relegation place to the lower division. It had always been felt that there was a wide gap in the standard between the A and B Division and, if two clubs were promoted, then this would be to the detriment of the standard in the A Division.
At the AGM of the 1983-84 season it was decided to bring the A DIVISION into line with the rest of the league by promoting and relegating two clubs between the A & B. So GREAT HOLLANDS and CROWTHORNE B were promoted - and just to prove a point both were relegated back to the B DIVISION at the end of their first season in the higher division!!
At the start of the 80's I.C.L. A won the league championship. By the end of the 25th season of the League they had gained that honour a further 7 times. The only other teams to win the A DIVISION ( or the Ist DIVISION as it had become in 1987 ) were FERRANTI and I.C.L.B.
If I.C.L.A were undoubtably the side of the 80's, then who were the club of the 80's ? Few would question that it was YATELEY. They had joined the E DIVISION in 1981-82 season with just one team and, by the time the 25th season of the league was completed in 1990, they had won 12 divisional titles. Their best seasons were in 1985-86, when they won the C,D,and E DIVISIONS, and in 1988-89 when they finished with the B,.C and D titles. They have yet to win the Ist DIVISION, but with three teams in that division for the league's 26th season who can say how long it will be before they do.
5. OTHER COMPETITIONS
The league was introduced as a competition for teams of 4, playing 24 board matches against other teams on a divisional basis and it has remained so for 25 seasons. However, a number of other popular events have now become part of the league's calendar.
In 1967 it was decided to introduce an annual pairs evening at which the trophies for that season would be presented to the winners. The first evening was held at the MET OFFICE, results were made available on the night, but not recorded for posterity. The event was held at both FERRANTI and T.R.R.L. before moving into the SPERRY canteen in 1974. Despite the take over of SPERRY by BRITISH AEROSPACE, the event remained there until the company closed in 1990 and was often referred to as the 'SPERRY PAIRS EVENING'. In 1973, at TRRL, there were only 32 pairs competing, but by the mid 80's this had risen to 80 pairs and a limit on the number of pairs a club could enter was imposed. For many years it was several days before the event was scored and the results became available. However in the mid 80's Bert Lorman started directing the event and between Bert, Maureen and their computer the results became available within 15 minutes of the close of play. Today the pairs event has moved to JEALOTTS HILL canteen, where 36 tables can be accommodated.
The 'KNOCK - OUT CUP' was started in the 1973-74 season. It has always been a pivot teams event, with the entry varying from 17 in the early days to around 32 these days. The first winners of the event were Bert Loman's MET OFFICE team, with the members of the I.C.L. A team the holders for the 1989-90 season.
In 1985 the league decided to introduce a Swiss team's event. This was held on a Sunday afternoon shortly before the league season commenced. After 2 seasons under the control of the league, the ASCOT BRIDGE club offered to run the event and, as the ASCOT ROSE BOWL, it has flourished since. Originally a competition for league teams only, it is now an open event, although the majority of teams come from the league.
6. NAMES AND NUMBERS
In the 1965-66 season a total of about 80 people competed on behalf of the 6 clubs who made up the league in the first season. Only a handful of these are still playing in the league, although maybe as many as 10 are still to be seen in the 'BERKS and BUCKS' bridge circles. The league was very much the brainchild of Brian Oddie who, with his wife, played for the MET OFFICE regularly up to the late 1970's. Mr & Mrs Oddie then switched their services to BRACKNELL for some years, but now, over 25 years on from the early days of the league, are again playing for the MET OFFICE. Another member of the MET OFFICE team in the first season was Paul Graystone, who 25 seasons on still plays the occasional game in the league. The SPERRY team in the 1965-66 season included Arthur Parsons. Arthur continued playing for SPERRY until the mid 70's and then joined BRACKNELL. Since then he has played regularly for their 'A' team, although he will not quite complete his 26th season in the league as he is moving out of the area before the end of the season.
Nowadays, with such a large league, the number of people competing in a season regularly exceeds 300. Some of the big clubs like ASCOT, CROWTHORNE or YATELEY might use over 40 players to support their teams. At the other end of the scale OAKLANDS and LILLY RES complete a season using half a dozen or less.
With so many people involved over the years, who has achieved any sort of ''bridge fame' outside the league? One of the very first was Peter Briggs,who played for SPERRY in the early days and later became Secretary of the EBU. In the mid 1970's Charles Outred played in the I.C.L.A team in the 1st Division of the league.- more recently he has played for SCOTLAND.
Many players take part in the activities of the BERKS & BUCKS Contract Bridge Association - either playing at county events or in the county's 'teams of eight' league - and over the years the league has had no shortage of people who have played for either the county 1st or 2nd teams.. Tim Rees (FERRANTI) is probably the league's leading player in this respect, having made his debut for the county 1st team several years ago and played regularly since. He has had many successses in Natioal events and as a result of winning the EBU Summer Pairs a few years ago was invited to represent ENGLAND. Tim is also an EBU Grand Master.. Another FERRANTI player to achieve success is Stuart Townsend. As a member of the winning team in a National event some years ago he then went on to represent ENGLAND.
The league's most recent 'capped' player is Cameron Small, who recently was picked to represent ENGLAND at 'under 25 level' against Holland. At one stage Cameron played for Great Hollands in the league, but now plays for I.C.L.( in the 3rd division!!). I.C.L. also have amongst their ranks Ian Reissmann- a Grand Master and county player and commitee member, but not (fortunately for the rest of us) a regular member of any I.C.L team.
Whilst many league players are members of Berks & Bucks CBA, those who play their club bridge in the southern area of the league are often members of Surrey CBA. Many have represented their county and a few gone on to higher things. The YATELEY club include amongst their ranks Russell Allan, who was a member of a winning GOLD CUP team not too many seasons ago.
For most of us, bridge is all about playing the game. However, for this to be an enjoyable pastime there has to be a great deal of 'behind the scenes' organisation. One couple who have spent a fair share of their time organising other people's bridge are Bert and Maureen Lorman In addition to running many tournaments in this country it would not have been unusual to find them directing an event on a bridge holiday in far-off Yugoslavia or Hungary. Bert, an EBU director, has also always been on hand to adjudicate on behalf of the league when disputes have arisen. In between organising, Maureen and Bert have found time to play in the league for 3 teams; in the early days of the league they played for MET OFFICE and SPERRY on an alternative season basis and more recently have played for ASCOT.
7. RULES AND REGULATIONS
The league is run on a day to day basis by a committee of five who are elected at the AGM.There are three officers and two members and extra members can be co-opted if there is a need. Over the years the committee has been as folows::
Mr.P. MAITLAND (RACAL ) 1965-66
Mr.PATTINSON (MET OFFICE) 1966-67
Dr.R.DAWSON (T.R.R.L.) 1967-79
Mrs.M.SWANN (BRACKNELL) 1979-88
Mr.A.ANDERSON (ASCOT) 1988-
Mr.A.PYKE (BRACKNELL) 1965-70
Mr.V.BATES (I.C.L.) 1970-
Mr.R.HARRIS (MET OFFICE) 1965-67
Mr.C.FLOOD (MET OFFICE) 1967-69
Mrs. V.McDOUGALL (MET OFFICE) 1969-73
MR.J.MEECH (SPERRY) 1973-81
Mr.D.LEE (SPERRY/AEROSPACE) 1981-
Mrs.J.HARVEY (LILLY RES) 1974-80
Mrs.V.McDOUGALL (MET OFFICE) 1980-87
Mr D.WITHERS (YATELEY) 1988-
Mr.C.BALDOCK (CROWTHORNE) 1990-
The league is governed by a set of over 20 rules, which have evolved over the years from those originally drawn up in 1965. In that first year the rules fitted nicely onto a single sheet of A4 paper: nowadays they run to 7 pages! They can normally only be updated at AGMs, although a few years ago a SGM was called to consider the structure of the league for the forthcoming season.
The rule which gets most attention is rule 11, which relates to the re-arrangement of matches.. This has always been a bit of a thorn in the side of the league. Many believe once the fixtures have been drawn up, there should be no postponements allowed. However, the league has always tried to take a flexible approach and accepts that there are occasions when cancellations will take place at fairly short notice and encourages the clubs involved to come to a setlement without having to apply the rule too firmly. Rule 17 allows the fixture secretary to deduct 2VPs from sides sending result cards in late - although these days the present holder of that office admits to using that rule only as a last resort for persistent offenders.
The league's other main competition, the knock-out cup, also has it's own set of rules - but they only run to a page and a bit!
8. THE FUTURE
As the league moves towards completing the 26th season of its existence where does the future lie? It would seem that the league has reached its maximum size, for a year or two at least. However its structure could well change - there is already a proposal tabled for the 1990-91 AGM to combine the first and second divisions into a single large division, with clubs playing each other just once per season.
The BERKS & BUCKS teams of 8 league has just recently introduced bidding boxes into matches in its top division and the county also uses them in some events. This could well become the norm in the BRACKNELL LEAGUE in a year or two.
All being well,lets hope the league is around in 2015 to celebrate its golden anniversary and that it is the same friendly league it has been for the last 25 years. One final question - who will Mr and Mrs.Oddie being playing for then, BRACKNELL or the MET OFFICE???
THE BRACKNELL BRIDGE LEAGUE 1965-1990
A SUMMARY OF 25 YEARS OF BRIDGE