Bridge is not a sport: pay your taxes, Luxembourg demands

TAGs: bridge, English Bridge Union, IOC, Luxembourg

The English Bridge Union lost their appeal to be recognised as a sport for tax purposes after judges in a European Court sided with the HM Revenue & Customs that Bridge is nothing more than a game.

The English Bridge Union (EBU) is feeling like the Little Piggy who built the house out of straw, after the European judges in Luxembourg, sheep in wolves clothing blew their house down and gobbled up their hope.Bridge is not a sport: pay your taxes, Luxembourg demands

In June, the EBU lodged a claim with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that match fees should be tax exempt as Bridge is a sport. The HMRC disagreed, the EBU appealed via the upper tax tribunal, and the case ended up on the back of a very slow horse to the European courts.

While the judges agreed that Bridge is mentally and physically positive for the people who play the game, especially the older element in the crowd, as it lacked a negligible physical element they could not agree with the EBU and turned down their claim, backing the HMRC’s original decision.

It was a decision that could have ended heads or tails. Tax offices in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, and France view Bridge as a sport for tax purposes; Ireland and Sweden don’t.

The EBU is feeling like a random bird sitting on a telephone wire staring at a hurricane after hoping for a six-figure rebate to reinvest in the sport and to bring down tournament fees for their players.

The EBU said they were surprised and disappointed by the decision.

The Judges Dismiss Advocate General’s View 

The surprise and disappointment came after Maciej Szpunar, a European court of justice senior lawyer backed the EBU’s bid maintaining that as it’s “generally beneficial to the health and well-being of citizens,” he recommended that the courts grant them tax-exempt status.

Typically, judges like to remain in the same parking lot as the advocate generals, but not in this instance.

“Activities of pure rest or relaxation cannot be regarded as a sport,” said the panel. 

The International Olympics Committee Differ 

Another reason that the decision could have gone in the EBU’s favour is their relationship with the International Olympics Committee (IOC). In 1998, the IOC classified Bridge as a sport, the fact that Szpunar raised when giving his support back in June.

Where does this leave poker?

It doesn’t matter how many times you put poker through the wash it’s still going to come out stinking of smoke and mirrors.

While Match Poker (a form of poker that’s removed all luck from the game) recently earned Observer Status from the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), putting them on the road to a potential sport classification from the IOC it won’t affect the game that the likes of former Bridge player Chris Moorman has earned millions of dollars playing with a laptop burning into his groin.


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