|Hi Franck, thank you for accepting to be interviewed by GammonLife. To begin, please tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Franck Stepler, I am 40 years old, and I am a journalist. I have worked for French magazines, radios and TV and I now have a small communications company. I‘ve played backgammon for many years but competitively, only for the past four years.
I have organized a few international tournaments in France as well as some special events (such as 1-point tournaments) to encourage absolute beginners. With sponsorship we have also been able to provide newcomers with lessons. I currently write chronicles from the live events of the PartoucheGammon Tour which is organized by PartoucheGammon.com. I have commented on backgammon on Eurosport as well. I’ve also been the Vice-President of a very important (non-backgammon) association for years.
Stepler commenting at the Awards Ceremony of PartoucheGammon's 2007 Riviera Backgammon Festival in Cannes.
You are running for President of the French Backgammon Federation or Fédération Française de Backgammon (FFBG) in the upcoming June 17 elections. What’s the current situation with the FFBG?
The Fédération Française de Backgammon has existed for many years but remains a small one. When I began playing in backgammon competitions four years ago there were about 250 members and every Tuesday night there was a tournament in Paris in which some 32 players from each of the three divisions would participate.
About three years ago, we wanted to change things, to help develop the federation and see the game grow. But the people managing the FFBG then, wanted to continue things as they were and after some troublesome issues they won and carried on.
The membership of the federation has dwindled since and there are now are only 128 members. Comparatively, at the live weekly event in Paris a couple of Tuesdays ago, we saw play in only two divisions with only eight players participating in each. Another example of the diminishing interest of backgammon in France is that only 38 players played in last December’s national French Championship.
We never get any news about the current state of affairs of the federation – a general assembly has not been called for a long time and there are no financial reports, etc.
So, the situation is that virtually, the French federation is going nowhere. It has been very hard to obtain elections, but legally they can be called every three years and so I requested and obtained them. The vote will take place in Paris on Tuesday, June17, 2008.
What would be your plan of action if elected?
We know many good players, playing for money in major live events, but we also know that many French players play free online backgammon or online backgammon for money. These represent a lot of new players, and so we want these different types of players to join and participate regularly in federation activities, whether they play well or not.
There are thousands of players in France. You just have to reach out and communicate with them and this is what we would try to do if elected.
Here are the key points of what we have planned:
- We want to rekindle the federation and have it functioning as others do in other countries. We would organize meetings to hear the players’ opinions and to also understand their needs and document all of this to keep proper records and publish regular reports on all aspects of the situation of the federation.
- We want to develop forms of communication with all the players through the website (www.ffbg.fr) and by an electronic newsletter that we would send out every month or two, explaining what we are doing and providing news about backgammon in France and elsewhere.
- We aim to make the FFBG grow in leaps and bounds, and bring together hundreds, or even thousands of players to its ranks and not only through the Internet. To succeed, we have to go out and meet the players wherever they are by organizing discovery week-ends in all the major cities of France. We will seek the help of the municipalities, other associations and get publicity in the local newspapers and radios. Once we find players in each locality, we create clubs and support them in finding new players.
- We will teach backgammon to adults, students and teenagers, develop the game in schools, universities and multi-gaming clubs. We’ll talk to the ministers of the government departments of Education and Youth and Sports to seek their cooperation and maybe even some financial support.
- We want to organize live competitions for all levels of players and implement a basic, easy-to-understand ranking list. We need to promote top players and a large crowd of intermediate and beginners. That’s why we want to change the rules about the French Championship. We want to split it in two competitions. A French Championship for the best 16 or 32 players, with money and sponsors as well as a French Cup for all other players, one that would be cheap to enter thus making it a friendly and social competition for all to enjoy.
In order to do all these things we will need to seek funding and sponsorship through various means. We’ll endeavour to sign partnerships with public organizations and find private sponsors from both inside and outside of the backgammon world.
If elected, who have you chosen to shape the new committee of the FFBG?
For the last three years or so, the FFBG has been managed by only two people. It’s absolutely impossible to develop without a team and an organization. That’s why I won’t accept to do anything without a strong team for support. I have been offered help by more than 10 people so far and therefore I foresee we can be successful in our mission.
Other than myself, there would be five others on the committee:
- Dr. Serge Dahan, 49, who is a good player and well known to Parisian players. Dr. Dahan wants to dedicate a lot of his time to promote backgammon. He would be the new General-Secretary.
- Karine Gallot-Lavallée, 34, comes from the new world of free online backgammon. She plays and organizes tournaments online. Her vision is to seek new and different ways that the game can be developed.
- Olivier Lafon, 40, has been a trader in Paris. One day, he moved to the sun of the French Riviera and became one of the founders of the Côte d’Azur Backgammon Association (ABCA). He organizes a nice tournament every year and was the Runner-Up at the 2007 national French Championship.
- Olivier Croisille, 36, is a financial analyst. He is one of the top French players and wants to help us with his extensive experience in live and online backgammon to promote the game for everyone.
- Pascal Boucher, 35, works for the City of Paris. His is very active online, he likes playing backgammon for fun. He would be the man to develop beginners.
Franck Stepler (R) with Eric Guedj, CEO of Partouche Gammon (L) and John Clark of the World Series of Backgammon (C).
EDITOR'S NOTE: More details on the June 17 elections and the other candidate/team led by Laurence Dehaene, can be found on the site of the French Backgammon Federation.