New generic governing document will help bridge clubs to become charities

Agreement between the Charity Commission and the English Bridge Union means more than 600 clubs could join the register

Bridge clubs: registration on the cards
Bridge clubs: registration on the cards

The Charity Commission and the English Bridge Union have paved the way for more than 600 bridge clubs to gain charitable status with the development of an approved governing document.

The generic governing document and other support materials have been jointly produced by the regulator and the body that oversees the card game in England and are available in the members’ area of the EBU website.

The question of how the Charity Act 2006 applies to amateur sporting organisations in general and bridge clubs in particular has been under scrutiny in recent years – with questions concerning how "sport" can be defined and how a charity charging membership fees is able to provide public benefit for those less able to pay.

According to the EBU, Hitchin Bridge Club in Hertfordshire was the first of about 10 of its members to become a charity, in 2011. A spokesman for the union said there were a further 630 members without charitable status, but he said it was not known how many of these might seek charitable status in light of the new documents.

Neville Brownlee, head of first contact at the commission, said: "The approved governing document offers a template, which helps to increase the standard of application and encourages a consistent approach from the EBU’s member bridge clubs when registering as charities. It also provides members, and the public, with an easy to understand set of rules that should help with the effective governance of their charities."

In 2011, the commission launched a consultation on its 2003 guidance Charitable Status and Sport. However, this has still not been updated and lawyers have said it is probably out of date.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the production of new guidance on amateur sport had "been delayed for a number of reasons, not least the need to reissue our general public benefit guidance, which was published last September". She said the commission was working on new guidance but could not give a date for publication yet.

Darren Hooker, a solicitor at Stone King, said: "It’s very welcome that the commission is working with the EBU to produce this. I don’t think it has ever been in doubt since the Hitchin Bridge Club registration in 2011 that bridge clubs could be registered as charities, but this is making it more open and inviting clubs to register."

He said the commission’s decision to encourage more bridge clubs to become charities could give confidence to clubs for other games including chess, draughts and other non-physical sports.

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