Paul Cronin

Recommendations to the ACBL re Zero Tolerance

As per some of my previous blogs, I have submitted the following to the ACBL Board and staff for their consideration – comments would be appreciated:  

                                     Recommendations to the ACBL regarding its Zero Tolerance Policy


As one of the co-founders of the Zero Tolerance movement, I would like to congratulate the ACBL on its development of its Zero Tolerance Policy.  There are, however, in my opinion, parts of the policy statement which need further expansion, codification and/or director training:


(i)            “In accordance with Laws 74, 80F, 81C4, 90A, 91, and 92A (Laws of Duplicate Bridge) the following policy outlines what is expected of all players during NABCs and other ACBL sponsored events, as well as in the playing area before and after each session.”

Recommendation: since the Zero Tolerance Policy is derived from ACBL Laws, it should be made part of the ACBL Laws.


(ii)           “The ACBL Board of Directors and Management are committed to improving acceptable player behavior at all times

Recommendation:  after being made Law, the Zero Tolerance Policy should be mandated for Sectionals, Regionals, and Club play as well as NABCs.


(iii)          “At the start of each event, the director shall make an announcement that the tournament will be observing ZERO TOLERANCE for unacceptable behavior. It is requested that the director be called whenever behavior is not consistent with the guidelines outlined above.”

Recommendation: given that some directors are not making the announcements at all, and others are substituting some variant of their own (like “Be nice”), the announcement should be mandated as exactly “This is a Zero Tolerance event – please call the director if anyone’s conduct interferes with your enjoyment of the game”.


(iv)          “Warnings are strongly discouraged and will be given only when there is no clear violation or in cases where the facts cannot be determined.”

Recommendation: that this statement be changed to “Warnings will only be given when there is no clear violation or in cases where the facts cannot be determined.”

(v)           Recommendation: that club level play be again made subject to the ACBL CDR.



It makes little sense for the Zero Tolerance Policy to be in effect at NABCs but not at Regionals, Sectionals, and cubs. What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.

It would make equally little sense to say that reneges at NABCs will be subject to the laws on reneges, but it will be up to the sponsoring organization as to whether reneges will be subject to those laws at Regionals, Sectionals or clubs.

The argument has been put forward that player behavior in certain Units, Districts, or in fact in general has never been better, and that therefore nothing further needs to be done in terms of Zero Tolerance. This is, in my opinion, as invalid as saying that leading out of term has never been at a lower level than at present and therefore we don’t have to be as concerned about leading out of term as we might be otherwise.

It is extremely embarrassing for a player to call a director to the table, explain that some conduct of their opponent(s) is interfering with their enjoyment of the game, and then have the director stare blankly at them  and say something like “So?’.  This results in the player making a mental decision to never call the director again, and the same decision is likely to be made by other players within earshot. Directors must be educated that it is necessary that they get fully behind Zero Tolerance, and that it is important for them to demonstrate that Zero Tolerance situations can be quickly and easily assessed at the table, and penalties assigned if appropriate.

The decision by the ACBL to make discipline at the club level a matter for club management (except for serious breaches of ethics like cheating) has been, in my opinion, a seriously retrograde step. It is extremely important that player conduct at the club level be brought back under the umbrella of the ACBL CDR, so that players can again send “Player Reports” to the Unit Recorder, and “Player Complaints” to the Unit Charging Party. Club players become tournament players, and the conduct that will be expected of them at tournaments must be inculcated at the club level.


John Howard GibsonOctober 21st, 2010 at 11:52 am

The trouble with zero tolerance is that the person, who calls a TD over to insist there’s been a breach of the ZT guidelines, is more often than not……. someone who has no tolerance whatsoever of even the slightest transgression. These “intolerants” are just as bad as those who continue to behave badly.
A man with a zero tolerance attitude lacks understanding, patience, empathy and awareness. How can I criticise a player for an instinctive irrational impulse when I am guilty of the same. What the game needs to rid itself of are the serial cheats, nasty insulting types, players who show no respect for others or the laws of the game. Yet we need to be tolerant of those players who for whatever reasons make the odd and occasional lapses, and who are quick to offer a sincere apologies immediately afterwards.
Please read my latest blog ( Philosophical Reflections On Bridge on Howard Bigot-Johnson’s site ) to understand something about the human condition. Yours HBJ

Paul CroninOctober 21st, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Many thanks for your comment, HBJ – much appreciated. A man with a zero tolerance attitude is, IMHO, one who firmly believes that everyone has the right to enjoy the game of bridge. We are not tolerant of leads out of turn, we are not tolerant about hesitations in the bidding, we are not tolerant of reneges – nor should we be. Why then be tolerant of rudeness? Of people fighting at the table? Of gloating? Having cut my teeth on Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s analysis of the human condition, I will most certainly look forward to reading your blog.

Linda leeOctober 21st, 2010 at 1:29 pm

I wish that the ficus was on really bad behavior first. I have been forced, yes forced, by directors to play a Swiss tram match against loud rude and drunken opposition. Complaints during set and after to the chief tournament director did not help.

I have okayed against very drunk opponents in bridge clubs as well.

The there are the pairs that are yelling at their partner to the point that It is offensive. Resdult of complaints… Nothing and they kept on fighting.

On the other hand, I have seen calls for small shows of irritation.

If we could just deal with the real rudeness first we could work our way down to the minor.

I agree with Howard. At the table we should have some tolerance for a small amount of piqué butt no tolerance door extreme rudeness, drunken behavior and anything involving physical attacks no matter how small.

John Howard GibsonOctober 21st, 2010 at 6:27 pm

yes I am in agreement with both of you with regards to any initiatives to stamp out behaviour which is ” yobbo-ish” and ” sustained bad behaviour “. But bridge ceases to be a social game having entered the realms of a highly competitive sport…..where tensions run high…..and psychological warfare is rife. My worry is that some players will seize upon the ZT initiative to complain left right and centre over incidents that really are trivial. Incidents that are normal in the hustle and bustle of the bridge arenas. Incidents that are trivial with no malice intended or injuries incurred.

Wolfgang WernerApril 19th, 2013 at 7:30 pm

The issue of inappropriate behavior belongs to all sides in the incident. Identifying the observer(s), performer(s) and director(s) and their ? (result) in ACBL’s data-base preserves their status. Knowing the status allows allows evaluating the seriousness of both performer, observer & director. My concern is on nuisance ZT callers or ineffective directors; such players/directors should also be punished once identified – a data-base upgrade could be a tool for this.

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