High Court decides that bridge is not a sport, ruling out National Lottery funding

The English Bridge Union concedes defeat in its attempt to persuade Sport England to change the official definition

Losing hand: bridge is not a sport, says High Court judge
Losing hand: bridge is not a sport, says High Court judge

Bridge clubs have lost out on the chance to apply for National Lottery funding through Sport England after the High Court ruled that the card game was not a sport.

The Charity Commission recognises bridge as a sport and last year worked with the English Bridge Union 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.

The EBU brought the case against Sport England, which looks after the list of eligible activities, claiming that because the Charities Act 2011 included "mind sports" – those that require mental skill or exertion rather than anything physical – Sport England should widen its own definition.

Sport England’s definition recognises only those activities that promote physical activity. Its list of activities that qualify ranges from football and rugby union to snooker and model aircraft flying.

The two-day judicial review concluded on 23 September and the decision was announced yesterday.

Peter Stockdale, communications officer at the EBU, said: "The funding was not our primary motivation for bringing the case, but it would have been a nice by-product."

He said there were other benefits to being recognised as a sport, such as the opportunity to compete in competitions organised by the university sport body British Universities & Colleges Sport.

But he said the opportunity to apply for lottery funding would have benefited some of EBU’s 620 affiliated member clubs.

"People say ‘how much can a pack of cards cost?’ and of course bridge is an inexpensive activity to do, but it does require funding to happen on an organised level," he said.

"If you want to encourage new players, you need teachers, who will need paying, and you will need to rent a venue.

"Even clubs that have their own facilities might be in need of renovation, and that’s something they could have sought lottery funding for."

He said clubs had experienced very little success applying for lottery funding through other avenues.

The EBU has 55,000 members but estimates that 300,000 people play bridge on a regular basis.

Phil Smith, director of sport at Sport England, welcomed the ruling. "Sport England’s job is to help the nation to be more physically active, a role given to us by our royal charter," he said.

"We recognise that many people enjoy playing bridge, but that’s not going to play a part in the fight against inactivity.

"We take our role in recognising activities as sports very seriously because it means that organisations offering that activity can apply for National Lottery funding and benefit from certain tax reliefs."

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