Given the responsibility to select teams for various events, it is as well to explain, at least in outline, the criteria upon which selection will be based. There are basically three yardsticks, although the importance attached to each will vary.
1. SELECTING THE TEAM WHO, IN OUR JUDGEMENT, WILL ACHIEVE THE BEST RESULT
This is the yardstick that, above all others, will guide our decision-making – certainly in respect of major events. When in comes to selection for the home international events, in all categories, and for the European Championships and the Commonwealth Nations Championships, the overriding consideration for the selectors will be: who, of the players eligible and available to play, will deliver the best result.
Some might be surprised to learn that the above is not the only criterion, but there are in fact two others.
It might be thought that all that is necessary to ensure ‘fair’ selection is to pick whichever players constitute the best team – in other words, criteria no.1. But that is not quite the case. Selectors may think they ‘know’ – just as everyone else thinks they know – who are the best players, but it is also important to uphold the principle of fairness in ensuring that selection conforms reasonably accurately to criteria that the selectors have themselves laid down.
The main instance of this concerns trials. Typically, trials will have their limitations, although it is essential that they be made as robust as possible (and important changes have recently been instituted with respect to trials for the ‘Open’ team). It is difficult to do more without committing an impractical amount of time and resource to the trials process, so some weaknesses are likely to remain. Nonetheless trials are the means by which players who might not necessarily be regarded as ‘the best’ can bring themselves to the selectors’ notice. To attend trials demands a commitment from the players, and trials are the one competition that everyone knows is designed to aid selection. Accordingly it is reasonable that trial results be influential – even where they run counter to what might otherwise be the selectors’ judgement. Where the decision is close, it is reasonable that trial results be decisive.
There may be times when selection is influenced by a desire to give players an opportunity to play at a level they have not previously experienced. This can only be a minor consideration with respect to major international events, but it may be a factor at the margins. Experience counts at all levels of the game, and if we always select the same players the opportunity to garner that experience is denied to others.
But we have to be careful. Selection on potential is only appropriate if the players in question have demonstrated the necessary talent, as well as the determination to succeed. We should not select ‘in hopes’. We must also ensure that we do not run counter to the principles outlined in 1. and 2. above. Accordingly, the main scope for applying the ‘development’ principle will come in giving opportunity to represent Wales in lesser (but still high standard) international events to which the WBU is invited to send teams.
There is one other consideration, although it will seldom apply. We will not select players if we consider, on good evidence, that their behaviour in the international arena has damaged the reputation of Welsh bridge, or if their conduct has undermined the performance of other team members.
TO WHICH EVENTS WILL WE SEND TEAMS?
Ideally, the Welsh Bridge Union would like to send teams, supported financially (at least to the extent of paying entry costs) to all home internationals, in all age and sex categories. That is to say: Open, Ladies, Seniors and Juniors. We should like to do the same with respect to the European Championships, the Commonwealth Nations Championships, and the World Mind Sports (formally the World Bridge Olympiad). That is our target. However, we have to be satisfied that we can field teams of a reasonable standard in these events, by which we mean of a standard appropriate to the level of the event. If that is not possible, for whatever reason, we may advise the WBU Executive, to whom we are answerable, that no team should be sent in one or more categories.
In the past, when a decision has been made in advance not to send any funded Welsh teams to an event – as for example in the 2014 European Championships – self-funded teams have been allowed to represent Wales. We hope not to repeat this. For the future the intention is that all teams who represent Wales will be chosen by us, and funded (at least to the extent of paying the entry fee) by the WBU. Alan Screen is currently undertaking a review of all upcoming international events, plus the associated spending commitments. When that review has been concluded we plan to discuss with the Executive the events to which we should like to send teams. An agreed programme of upcoming international events will then be published here.