British Group Asks High Court to Clarify: Is Bridge a Sport?

The English Bridge Union has more than a few rounds of the game riding on a British High Court case that challenges the definition of what a sport actually is. The group says that current U.K. rules used to define sports for funding purposes are broad enough that bridge deserves a spot at the table.

To those of you who play bridge on the regular: This story is for you.

The complex card game, about which many books and newspaper columns have been written, is more popular than you might expect. The English Bridge Union, for example, has 55,000 members. This week, EBU finds itself in front of the British High Court, challenging a decision by the regulatory body Sport England that bridge is not a sport.

Sport England’s reasoning might seem sound. Its definition of a sport [PDF] is based on a 1993 definition set by the Council of Europe’s European Sports Charter, which defines sports as physical activities that “aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships, or obtaining results in competition at all levels.”

Sport England determined that bridge—which is mostly a mental exercise not involving physical activity, much like chess or poker—doesn’t pass that test.

But the BBC notes that activities with limited physical activity, such as angling and model aircraft flying, are considered sports by the organization.

In making its case on in the High Court on Tuesday, EBU and its lawyer, Richard Clayton, compared the physical activity level of bridge with that of darts, a sport that is recognized by Sport England. EBU also noted that bridge exercises the mind and is a sport that elderly people can take part in.

“Physical activity is a very uncertain yardstick,” Clayton said during the hearing, according to the Evening Standard.

The issue is about more than bragging rights. Because Sport England does not designate bridge a sport, EBU and bridge players miss out on government funding and tax credits. That funding could open the game up to younger generations or help pay for tournaments.

If Sport England’s decision stands, enthusiasts can take solace in knowing that the International Olympic Committee treats bridge as a sport.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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