Bad news, bridge fans. The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that the card game is not a sport, even when played by multiple competing teams.
Like many disappointments, this one traces its roots to a dispute on taxes.
The court’s decision came in response to a case filed by the English Bridge Union, based in Aylesbury, which organizes team-based bridge matches. The organization had argued that it should not have to charge tax on entry fees to its tournaments because bridge is “a card-based mind sport.”
Entry fees for many sports competitions are exempt from value-added tax, or VAT, in Britain. But the British tax authority said bridge did not qualify because it did not involve much physical exertion.
The European Court heard the bridge union’s arguments against the tax authority, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, in Luxembourg in March, the group said. On Thursday, the court sided with the tax authorities and said in a statement that bridge was not a sport because it was “characterized by a physical element that appears to be negligible.”
The bridge union promotes a form known as duplicate bridge, which minimizes the role of chance by having teams score points based on how well each plays the same hands. The court agreed that this “involves logic, memory and planning and may constitute an activity beneficial to the mental and physical health of regular participants.”