Following a renewed application brought forward by the English Bridge Union (EBU), the green light has been given to apply for judicial review against Sport England’s decision that excluded the card game “duplicate bridge” from being officially recognised as a sport.
Mr Justice Mostyn, in the High Court, ruled that the notion of duplicate bridge being recognised as a sport was at least arguable and he could not conclude that the matter “is hopeless, frivolous or vexatious” .He cited the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) acknowledgment that bridge and chess should be considered “mind sports, albeit sports nonetheless” and that “is not to say that separate categorisation would mean that the IOC would not recognise it as a sport, it would just be a different kind of sport which would not participate in the Olympics” as significant in his decision. Mostyn J concluded by stating that he did “not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead for the English Bridge Union but by a very slender margin I am satisfied that the test for permission is met in this case”. The result of the case is that the High Court will hear the dispute between the EBU and Sport England on 22 September 2015.
The significance of Sport England’s initial decision is predominantly financial. Currently, the EBU receives no government or lottery funding and also falls outside of special VAT tax exemptions for sporting competitions. It remains to be seen whether this action will lead to other activities, such as chess and alternative board games, following suit and seeking recognition as sports. Bridge is already recognised as a sport in a handful of EU countries such as the Netherlands, Ireland and Poland.