Finally, the day of reckoning is upon us. No longer will one of the great legal conundrums of our time remain unsolved. In the next few days we should, at last, have the answer to one of the burning questions of recent years: is bridge a sport or a game?
High Court to decide
As we’ve reported previously, earlier this year the High Court granted permission for the English Bridge Union (EBU) to have a judicial review of its status following Sport England’s decision that bridge was a game not a sport. That decision meant bridge did not qualify for certain Government and lottery funding schemes. A similar decision by HM Revenue & Customs meant the EBU was unable to reclaim the VAT on competition entry fees. All of which, in the EBU’s eyes, puts bridge at an unfair financial disadvantage and prevents the EBU from taking part in European and international competitions.
The judicial review of bridge’s status began today at the High Court. It is expected to last two days during which the definitions of ‘sport’ and ‘game’ will be hotly debated before Mr Justice Dove. According to Sport England, a sport involves ‘activity aimed at improving physical fitness and well-being’. But the EBU points out that the Charities Act 2011 defined sport as activities ‘which promote health involving physical or mental skill or exertion’. It argues, therefore, that bridge should rightly be classified as a ‘mind sport’.
A bridge too far?
The EBU’s case may also have been helped by the organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games who have invited both bridge and chess to apply for inclusion. A decision on whether to include those games (or possibly sports, depending on the outcome of the judicial review) will be made next year.
Sport England argue that supporting bridge would not help achieve its aim to get the nation fitter and it would dilute the funding available to other sports more likely to improve our physical health.
So, Mr Justice Dove, it’s over to you…