EU court rules bridge should not be considered a sport

The English Bridge Union said the decision was a 'surprise' and 'disappointment'

EU court rules bridge should not be considered a sport

Picture by: Tim Ireland/AP/Press Association Images

An EU court has ruled that the card game bridge is not considered a sport under European or UK law.

The decision came following an appeal by the English Bridge Union, which has been involved in a legal dispute with British authorities over tax for duplicate bridge tournaments.

Duplicate bridge is described as a "form of bridge played competitively at national and international level, in which each partnership successively plays the same deal as their counterparts at other tables".

The EBU charges VAT on entry fees for duplicate bridge tournament - but the union argues the fees should be exempt from VAT under EU law.

They suggest that duplicate bridge should be considered a sport as it involved a "significant mental element" and is "practised competitively".

According to the BBC, the legal action got underway after Sport England refused to recognise the card game - meaning the union cannot access lottery funding.

However, the European Court of Justice has now ruled against the EBU - overturning a recommendation from its Advocate General.

European law means sports are considered activities involving a "not negligible physical element".

The court insisted that its job was "not to determine the meaning of ‘sport’ in general" - but to consider it in relation to EU VAT directives.

In the judgement, the EU court explained: "[Legislation on] the common system of value added tax must be interpreted as meaning that an activity such as duplicate bridge, which is characterised by a physical element that appears to be negligible, is not covered by the concept of ‘sport’".

The EBU said the decision was a 'surprise' and 'disappointment'.

In a statement, the union added: "The Court did, however, leave open the opportunity for individual states to exempt bridge from VAT by recognising it as a ‘cultural service’.

"We are pleased by the court’s suggestion, and welcome the possibility that bridge activities may yet be exempted from VAT - however we have not yet considered the implications of the suggestion."

The union argues that VAT exemption would make competitions cheaper, and would help bring bridge to a wider audience.