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Bridge is not a sport, EU court rules

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LUXEMBOURG: The game of bridge may flex the intellectual muscles but the EU’s top court ruled on Thursday that it is not a sport because it involves “negligible” physical activity.

Beloved by seniors and requiring a sharp memory, a keen analytical brain and near telepathic understanding with one’s playing partner, bridge is one of the world’s most popular card games.

But the European Court of Justice ruled that these mental gymnastics were not enough to classify the game as a sport, rejecting a claim by the English Bridge Union for value-added tax (VAT) relief on tournament entry fees.

The court said that for the purposes of VAT rules, the “ordinary meaning” of sport should apply, namely activities that are “characterised by a not negligible physical element”.

“The court concludes 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’ within the meaning of the VAT Directive,” the court ruled.

Duplicate bridge is a variation on traditional contract bridge that is widely used in competitions.

The court said it accepted the game involved “logic, memory and planning, and may constitute an activity beneficial to the mental and physical health of regular participants”, but ruled that this was trumped by the physical activity requirement.

Devoted players however could still have a trick up their sleeve: the court said its ruling did not preclude that the game could be covered by another VAT exemption for “cultural services”.

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