High court to decide if bridge is a sport – The Guardian

A high court judge has been asked to decide whether bridge is a sport after it was refused recognition by Sport England.

Mr Justice Dove is expected to analyse arguments over the next two days at a hearing in London.

The English Bridge Union (EBU) took legal action after Sport England, the public body responsible for increasing participation in sport, refused to recognise the card game.

Union officials say recognition that bridge is a sport will be beneficial for the game and that Sport England’s ruling is “inconsistent with both the wishes of parliament and the opinion of significant international sporting organisations”.

An EBU spokesman said: “When ruling on what constituted a sport in the 2011 Charities Act, parliament specifically included ‘mind sports’, stating that sport comprised ‘activities which promote health involving physical or mental skill or exertion’.”

He said bridge required “undoubted levels of mental skill” and had “known health benefits”.

The EBU was granted permission in April to seek a judicial review. Judge Mr Justice Mostyn, who plays bridge, said at the time: “You are doing more physical activity playing bridge, with all that dealing and playing, than in rifle shooting.”

Lawyers for the EBU said officials want a judicial review to determine whether Sport England, the government body that distributes lottery funding, had acted lawfully in “adopting a policy that prevents it recognising sports that it does not consider to be ‘physical’.”

“The EBU is hoping that the judicial review will pave the way for bridge and similar sports to receive the recognition that they deserve,” said a spokesman for law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is representing the EBU. Recognition by Sport England is important because lack of recognition impacts upon EBU’s ability to take part in European and international competitions.

He added: “Chess has already been recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee and was demonstrated at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It was also included in the 2006 and 2010 Asian Games and is being considered for the Pan-American Games.

“Organisers of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo have invited both chess and bridge to apply for inclusion in the games, which, if accepted, will be the first time players have competed in the Olympics.

If bridge were to be recognised as a sport in England then EBU would be able to invest in a number of projects to teach bridge to people of all ages and to ensure that facilities are improved.”

Lawyer Alex Peebles said: “We will argue that a sport does not need to be physical to be regarded as a sport as a matter of law. We hope our legal challenge will result in Sport England reconsidering its decision not to recognise bridge as a sport, which will help the EBU to access the essential support they need to continue growing and attracting new players.”

Jeremy Dhondy, an international bridge player and chairman of the EBU, said: “We hope that this hearing will allow bridge to be recognised in the way that it should.”


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