UK court asked: if darts is a sport, why not bridge?

Tue Sep 22, 2015 10:20am EDT
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - Bridge enthusiasts began a court challenge in London on Tuesday against a decision by funding body Sport England to exclude the card game from a list of recognized sports that includes darts, model aircraft flying, hot air ballooning and angling.

At stake for bridge lovers is a potential source of funding as well as new opportunities to play, while for Sport England the risk if bridge succeeds is that the likes of chess, Scrabble and other "mind sports" will also want recognition and money.

The English Bridge Union (EBU), which has 55,000 members, argues that Sport England, a public body that aims to help get the nation fitter, used too narrow a definition of sport when it rejected an application in 2014 to recognize bridge as one.

That definition, taken from a Council of Europe charter on sport, identifies "physical activity" as its central element.

"Physical activity is a very uncertain yardstick," lawyer Richard Clayton, representing the EBU, told the High Court, drawing a comparison between bridge and darts.

Leaving aside the lifting of pints of beer, he suggested, the amount of physical activity involved in playing darts was arguably not much greater than that involved in shuffling and dealing cards to play bridge.

Clayton conceded that darts did involve a level of physical skill not required in bridge, but that was not what the definition required.

The High Court 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.   Continued...

Men play cards during a ceremony in Hanoi February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kham