Boardgames in the News: Is Boardgaming a Sport?

A judicial review of the status of Bridge, began earlier this week, following the funding body, Sport England‘s decision not to class the card game as a sport.  Sport England have reportedly claimed that Bridge was no more a sporting activity than “sitting at home, reading a book”.  In contrast, the English Bridge Union (EBU) contests that Bridge is a “mind sport” that exercises the “brain muscle”.

Bridge
– Image from innontheprom.co.uk

Contract Bridge is a trick-taking card game for four players where the two teams bid for how many tricks they will win.  Once the contract has been made, the hands are played out and if the number of tricks agreed is achieved, the team who made the contract win.  The case against Bridge being classed as a sport depends on the definition of a sport:  Sport England defines a sport as an “activity aimed at improving physical fitness and well-being, forming social relations and gaining results in competition”.

Bridge
– Image from goodsamchurch.wordpress.com

The case for Bridge as a sport includes the fact that other EU countries (including the Netherlands, Ireland and Poland) recognise Bridge as a sport, and that Sport England include angling, model aircraft flying, quoits and rambling in their list of sports as well as popular pub games like darts and pool.  Perhaps more importantly, sports are defined in the 2011 Charities Act as activities “which promote health involving physical or mental skill or exertion”.  Lawyers for the EBU are reported to have told the High Court that Bridge was based on rules, fairness and competition – just like other activities classified as sports and Heather Dhondy, winner of three world and five European gold medals made the case in the Independent last year based on the stamina required for tournament play.

Bridge
– Image from bbc.co.uk

The bottom line is that this is all about funding.  If Bridge is classed as a sport they can apply for National Lottery Funding allocated by Sport England.  Sport England has a finite pot and claim it is their job to get the nation fitter, but in reality they are probably concerned they will be heavily criticised by the media and the general public if they give money to a bunch of people “sitting about playing cards”.  Of course, the courts cannot really decide if bridge is a sport, only whether it was reasonable for Sport England to have ruled it was not.  To date, judgement has been reserved and at the end of the High Court hearing, Mr Justice Dove gave no indication as to when he would give his ruling.

Chess
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor duchamp

The final say, however, will perhaps depend on the International Olympic committee (IOC). In 1999, the IOC said that Bridge and Chess should be considered “mind sports”.  If this is taken to its logical conclusion, Bridge, Chess and perhaps other boardgames like Scrabble will eventually become Olympic sports and medals will be awarded every four years.  Indeed, Chess and Bridge are among twenty-six sports that have applied for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.  Since Team GB are the Kings of “sitting-down sports” (cycling, sailing, rowing, equestrian etc.), it seems inevitable that these would be sports we should excel at.  If there were even a small chance of increasing Britain’s tally of Olympic gold medals, Sport England would undoubtedly change their view.

Scrabble
– Image used with permission of BGG contributor Susie_Cat

One thought on “Boardgames in the News: Is Boardgaming a Sport?

  1. Pingback: Boardgames in the News: Bridge is not a Sport, Yet…? | boardGOATS

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