Bridge is a sport, says preliminary ruling in European Court VAT case

We are very pleased that a report prepared by the European Court of Justice has concluded that contract bridge should be considered a sport for VAT purposes.

This is a non-binding recommendation, but if confirmed later this year the EBU would no longer need to charge VAT on entry fees to its competitions, and would receive a rebate on VAT which it had previously paid. This will have huge benefits as it will allow us to invest further in the game, and make entries to EBU competitions cheaper, thus allowing more people to enjoy playing bridge, and enabling more to experience the social and mental benefits that playing bridge offers. The final judgement is expected in the autumn.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar gave his opinion that for the purposes of the VAT exemption a definition of ‘sport’ had different components, key among which was that it was intended to be understood as “training of mental or physical fitness in a way that is generally beneficial to the health and well-being of citizens”. He recognised that bridge met these criteria and also that the International Olympic Committee was one of a number of organisations which “expressly include mental sports or endorse activities without a physical element”, concluding that this implies that they be “generally regarded as similar to established sports”.

EBU Chairman, Jeremy Dhondy, welcomed the Advocate General’s report, saying:

    “I am delighted at this decision made today which I very much hope will be upheld by the judges who heard the case. It is a vindication of our view that bridge should be regarded as a sport with all the advantages that brings both for bridge as a game and also for our members and prospective members. We want our game to play its full part as an activity to promote social inclusion and welcome the judgement of the European Court.”

Update: The case was discussed on Radio 4's 'Law in Action' on Tuesday 20th June. You can listen to that here (scroll to 23:04).