English Bridge Union will be allowed judicial review of decision that the card game is not a sport

Bridge: sport or not?
Bridge: sport or not?

Bridge groups could become eligible for lottery funding after a High Court judge gave the English Bridge Union permission to mount a judicial review of a decision that it should not be considered a sport.

The Charity Commission recognises bridge as a sport and worked with the EBU last year to draw up generic governing documents that could be used by bridge clubs to gain charitable status.

But bridge is not recognised as a sport on a list used by the UK’s sports councils to determine whether activities are eligible for lottery funding.

Last week, the EBU was given permission by Mr Justice Mostyn to carry out a judicial review of that decision in a case against the funder Sport England.

Sport England and its sister organisations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and UK Sport, which looks after elite Olympic and Paralympic athletes, make joint decisions on what activities count as sports and are therefore eligible for funding.

The list, which includes activities such as baton twirling, tenpin bowling and clay target shooting, is also used by HM Revenue & Customs to determine whether activities should be subject to VAT rules.

In a separate action, the EBU is challenging HMRC’s refusal to accept bridge as a sport. It hopes that HMRC will consider bridge to be a sport, as it is in other EU countries including Poland and the Netherlands, so that VAT does not have to be charged on entry fees to bridge tournaments.

Jeremy Dhondy, chair of the EBU, said of the judicial review application: "We are very pleased that the judge listened and thought we had a case."

He told Third Sector that being recognised as a sport would confer financial advantages on bridge, such as tax breaks and possible lottery grants, but would also help to improve the perception of the game, which was often portrayed in the media as an activity for older people.

Kate Gallofent, QC for Sport England, told the court: "The starting point of the definition of sport is physical activity – bridge cannot ever satisfy this definition."

She said there was a difference between sport and recreation. "I can enjoy sitting at home reading a book – it does not mean I can claim it’s a sport," she said.

Sport England distributes funding worth between about £250m and £300m a year.

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