The UK high court will have to decide whether a card game bridge is a sport and should receive legal benefits.
The English Bridge Union (EBU), which has 55,000 members, argues that Sport England, the state body that allocates funding to non-professional sports associations, has a narrow definition of sport when it rejected an application in 2014 to recognize bridge as one.
Sport England said that to qualify as a sport under its rules, it says, an activity must have some kind of physical element.
“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,’” said EBU spokesman. Adding “bridge required undoubted levels of mental skill” and had “known health benefits.”
“We are sick of being told that what we do is less important because we don’t sweat enough,” English Bridge Union vice chairman Ian Payn told the Wall Street Journal (paywall). It’s not just a matter of pride. Classification as a sport opens the door to money from Sport England, the state agency that funds non-professional athletics.”
The Royal Courts of Justice is not being asked to rule on whether or not bridge is a sport, but merely on whether Sport England’s decision to reject the application to recognize bridge was lawful. If it sides with the EBU, that could compel Sport England to revisit the issue.
EBU said that that the judicial review could pave the way for bridge and similar sports to recognition that they deserve and to have an ability to take part in European and international competitions, gaining the same respect given to snooker and darts, both which are recognized as sports in the U.K.
“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 recognize bridge as a sport, which will help the EBU to access the essential support they need to continue growing and attracting new players,” said Lawyer Alex Peebles.
High court will rule on the issue in April 2016. Regardless of the outcome, there’s still hope for bridge fans as organizers 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.