Bridge has again been in the headlines recently, with reports in the national media on the case involving the EBU, Sport England, and whether ‘bridge is a sport’.
In the most recent hearing Mr Justice Mostyn ruled that a judicial review could be undertaken against Sport England’s refusal to recognise bridge as a sport. This is a first step in the legal process to have Sport England recognise bridge as a sport, so whilst it is not a definitive decision in itself it is an important and positive step towards a favourable ruling and a reversal of Sport England’s position.
Sport England is the organisation which determines which activities are recognised as sports in England, and it chooses to use a 1992 definition provided by the European Sports Charter. This definition refers to “sport and physical recreation”, which Sport England has chosen to interpret as excluding all Mind Sports. The last time Parliament assessed the issue of ‘what is a sport’ was when considering the Charities Act in 2011, and on that occasion it specifically included Mind Sports. The Charity Commission now recognises as ‘sports’, activities which promote health involving physical or mental skill or exertion, and as such includes bridge as a sport. As you will know, English Bridge Education and Development, and some county bridge associations and clubs are now recognised as charities due to the public benefit offered by playing bridge. The EBU therefore believes that the position of Sport England in respect to bridge is contrary to the most recent legislation. It is also at odds with the position of the International Olympic Committee, the European Union, and the governments of other European countries (including Ireland, the Netherlands and Poland), who all recognise bridge as a sport.
A reversal of Sport England’s position would give the opportunity for the EBU, and counties and clubs, to receive funding (whether from national or local sources), which can be used, for example, for the development of playing facilities, or for teaching initiatives, whether for children or adult players. It would also enable bridge to receive greater opportunities to be included in the pursuits available to certain groups. These factors would enable, for example, greater exposure to school children, or to those older people who may be affected by social isolation or cognitive decline. It would also be an important step in the EBU’s case with HMRC regarding VAT.
The EBU hopes that a favourable outcome will be to the benefit of its members, but also to all current, and potential, bridge players in the country, and to society as a whole. We hope that irrespective of personal opinion of what constitutes a ‘sport’, all members will appreciate the inconsistencies in Sport England’s position, and that the benefits of playing bridge deserve the greater exposure that a change in their stance could generate.
Given that bridge is currently in the public’s thoughts we would encourage you to contact your local media, or your local MP (perhaps after May 7th), and extol the virtues of bridge. You need not address the issue of whether it is, or isn’t, a sport – that is something which will ultimately hinge on a legal ruling – but please explain why it is such a worthwhile pursuit and should get the greater prominence and funding which the status of ‘sport’ would allow it to receive. Any positive response which your contribution receives may aid the EBU’s case, but more significantly can help increase interest in bridge in your local area.
Links to press coverage and media interviews are available below.