Ruling due on whether bridge is a sport


The English Bridge Union learns today whether it has trumped Sport England's refusal to recognise the card game as a sport because it does not involve "physical activity".

The EBU, which was founded in 1936 and has 55,000 members, has brought a High Court challenge against the lawfulness of the adoption of the policy by the funding body which is accountable to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Sport England's approach meant that darts, model aircraft flying, ballooning, angling, billiards and snooker were recognised as sports but bridge was not - even though it is based on rules, fairness and competition, said Richard Clayton QC last month.

He told Mr Justice Dove that the ordinary and natural meaning of "sport" in the 1996 royal charter which established Sport England was sufficiently broad as to not necessarily require physical activity.

A lack of recognition impacted on the EBU's ability to take part in European and international competitions, while a change in policy would lead to investment in projects to teach the game to people of all ages and improve facilities.

Sport England says the claim that it had misconstrued the terms of the royal charter and the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937 was not sustainable.

Arguing that the case should be dismissed, QC Kate Gallafent said: "The EBU is effectively asking the court to change the well-settled policy of government that the funding of sport through the sports councils should be limited to sports involving physical activity.

"However, the issue for the court on this application is not whether the game of bridge has any benefits for health or otherwise, or whether a different government might take a different view as to whether it should be funded through the sports councils, but whether Sport England - and the other sports councils - erred in law by the adoption of the recognition policy in October 2010."

Ben Jaffey, for the department, said the right approach for the EBU was to apply for funding under an appropriate category and not make a judicial review claim which sought to alter the long-standing basis on which the sports councils operated and affected the basis on which they were funded.

Bridge might be a valuable and worthwhile pursuit, requiring mental agility and analysis, but it was not recognised as a sport - a position which had been repeatedly considered by successive governments with no change in the law, he said.

Instead, Parliament had granted significant fiscal benefits to bridge clubs and similar pastimes, he added.