The concept, the notion, the theoretical construct, and/or abstract philosophy of zero tolerance, which was first coined as no tolerance, was a term for providing uniformed and identifiable persons by governing bodies of countries with a certain democratic infrastructure with carte blance authority for the inflexible and uncompromising repression and suppression of minor offenses against the established infrastructure.

The presently common designation itself is of recent origin, around the year 1994, although Mr. James Q. Wilson and Mr. George L. Kelling formulated such a theory in their authored article Broken Windows, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly in the year 1982. The article was based upon a case before the court about broken windows of a building, which went unrepaired, which allowed access by unauthorized persons as a result, thus resulting in an intolerable situation.

Once the concept itself became a more familiar and acceptable perspective within the society in general, the application of such a philosophical approach became more and more accepted in various features and elements of society. This acceptance has resulted in the introduction of non-smoking laws at certain public performances, for example, at the silencing of digital devices at certain religious administrations and theatrical stagings.

In the game of bridge there was no official Law of Conduct regarding, governing, regulating, determining the conduct, behavior, and discourtesies either at the bridge table or at bridge competitions. This lack, this absence of any such element contained in the conditions of contest for such regional, national, and/or international tournaments resulted in the gradual decrease of membership within the organized bridge community. If such unregulated and uncontrolled activities continued without disregard, then the unregulated, the demise and dissolution of organized bridge was very much foreseeable, predictable, and absolutely certain.


The American Bridge League, the English Bridge Union, the World Bridge Federation and many other administrative bodies governing the sanctioned games around the world decided this issue, demanded enforcement by the directors at all levels of the game, who were authorized to issue warnings and penalties to non-conforming participants and recalcitrant players.

Starting in the spring of 1998, the ACBL Board of Directors decided to effectively adopt the Policy of Zero Tolerance as an ACBL policy for all sanctioned or licensed games. The ACBL, in its decision, cited the following Laws of Duplicate Contract Bridge as the basis for all conduct and etiquette before, during, and after NABCs and other ACBL-sponsored events.

Laws Pertaining to Zero Tolerance

Law 74 - Conduct and Etiquette
A. 1. A player should maintain a courteous attitude at all times.
  2. A player should carefully avoid any remark or action that might cause annoyance or embarrassment to another player or might interfere with the enjoyment of the game.
  3. Every player should follow uniform and correct procedure in calling and playing.
Law 80 - Regulation and Organization
  (f) to announce regulations supplementary to, but not in conflict with, these Laws.
Law 81 - The Director
  C4 to assess rectification when applicable and to exercise the powers given him in Laws 90 and 91.
Law 91 - Penalize or Suspend
  A. Director's Powers
    In performing his duty to maintain order and discipline, the Director is empowered to assess disciplinary penalties in points or to suspend a contestant for the current session or any part thereof. The Director's decision under this clause is final and may not be overruled by an appeals committee (see Law 93B3).
  B. Right to Disqualify
    The Director is empowered to disqualify a contestant for cause, subject to approval by the Tournament Organizer.
Law 92 - Right to Appeal
  A. Contestant's Right
    A contestant or his captain may appeal for a review of any ruling made at his table by the Director. Any such appeal, if deemed to lack merit, may be the subject of a sanction imposed by regulation.
  B. Time of Appeal
    The right to request or appeal a Director's ruling expires 30 minutes after the official score has been made available for inspection unless the Tournament Organizer has specified a different time period.
  C. How to Appeal
    All appeals shall be made through the Director.
  D. Concurrence of Appellants
    An appeal shall not be heard unless
      1. in a pairs event both members of the partnership concur in making the appeal (but in an individual contest an appellant does not require his partner's concurrence).
      2. in a team event the team captain concurs in making the appeal.

Zero Tolerance Policy and Procedures

The ACBL Board of Directors and Management are committed to improving acceptable player behavior at all times. 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.

The ultimate purpose of the Zero Tolerance policy is to create a much more pleasant atmosphere in our NABCs. We are attempting to eradicate unacceptable behavior in order to make the game of bridge more enjoyable for all. Below are some examples of commendable behavior, which, while not required, will significantly contribute to the improved atmosphere:

Being a good host or guest at the table.
Greeting others in a friendly manner.
Praising the bidding and/or play of the opponents.
Having two clearly completed convention cards readily available to the opponents. This one is a regulation, not just a nicety.

The following list are some examples of behavior which will not be tolerated:

Badgering, rudeness, insinuations, intimidation, profanity, threats, or violence.
Negative comments concerning opponents' or partner's play or bidding.
Constant and gratuitous lessons and analyses at the table.
Loud and disruptive arguing with a director's ruling.

If a player at the table behaves in an unacceptable manner, the director should be called immediately. Annoying behavior, embarrassing remarks, or any other conduct which might interfere with the enjoyment of the game is specifically prohibited by Law 74A. Law 91A gives the director the authority to assess disciplinary penalties.

The following procedures have been given to the tournament directors for implementation.

1. 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.
2. The director, when called, shall make an assessment of the situation. If it is established that there was unacceptable behavior, an immediate 1/4 board disciplinary penalty (3 IMP in team games) shall be assigned to all offenders. This may involve any one or all four players at the table irrespective of who initiated the unacceptable behavior. If both members of a partnership are guilty, the penalties are additive (1/4 board EACH = 1/2 board!). The Board of Directors strongly believes that assignment of disciplinary penalties will improve the overall behavior at our tournaments.
3. If it is determined that a second offense has occurred in the same event, then the offender(s) shall be ejected from future competition in that event. An offender removed from an event shall be deemed to have not played in the event, no masterpoints will be awarded and no refunds will be made. In the case of a serious offense and in the case of multiple offenses (three) during a tournament, a disciplinary committee may be convened to determine whether the offender(s) should be allowed to play in other events at the tournament and/or whether additional sanctions may be appropriate.
4. Warnings are strongly discouraged and will be given only when there is no clear violation or in cases where the facts cannot be determined. Offenders are to receive immediate penalties. Regardless of who may have initiated unacceptable behavior, ALL offenses are punishable. Retaliatory behavior is a punishable offense. Frivolous accusations will also be considered as offenses under this policy.
5. In accordance with the Laws of Duplicate Bridge, a director's to impose a disciplinary is final; however, all such decisions may be appealed. An appeals committee may not overturn the director's decision, but could recommend that the director reconsider the imposition of a penalty. It should be noted that the committee may feel that the penalty assessed was not severe enough and may refer the matter to a disciplinary committee.
6. A Zero Tolerance Report Form shall be available for players to report incidents which occur away from the table; and for directors to document complaints and action taken. The DIC shall provide a summary report of all behavioral penalties to the Tournament Chairman and/or Recorder.


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