Why bridge should be officially recognised as a sport

Playing bridge takes skill, stamina and even physical fitness, says professional player Heather Dhondy

It is the semi-final of the World Bridge Championships and, after a gruelling nine hours of intense concentration for the 12th day in a row, I am greeted by the news that I may not wind down over some food and drink with my team, but must instead report to the World Anti- Doping Agency offices for a random drugs test. This is a humiliating and degrading process and my discomfort means that it all takes a very long time. Why are card players subjected to such unpleasantries? The answer is that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recognised the World Bridge Federation as a sport organisation, and as such, bridge is subject to the same regulatory environment as any other Olympic sport.

In 2002, I was fortunate enough to be on the Great Britain team that went to the Winter Olympics to demonstrate bridge, which meant that the IOC were considering accepting bridge into the Winter Olympics in future years.

Alas, this did not materialise (well not so far, anyway), but the fact that it was seriously considered is encouraging to those who love the sport and play at the top level.

"Mind sports" is a new term for sporting activities, such as bridge, that are largely mental tests. This encompasses chess and Go, among others. SportAccord, the union for both Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations, recognises mindsports as an important part of the sporting world and indeed organises and promotes regular mind sports competitions, including its own championship.

The fact that bridge is recognised at world level as a sport does not mean that individual countries recognise it in the same way. In fact, some do and some don't, which seems a confusing and unsatisfactory state of affairs. In this country, being classed as a sport means access to Lotto funding, as well as tax advantages. However, bridge has never been classed as a sport by the tax authorities in England (although, interestingly, it is by the Charity Commissioners) unlike, for example, in Poland or Italy.

This week, the English Bridge Union lost its legal challenge against HM Revenue & Customs for bridge to be considered a sport. Had the tax chamber of the first-tier tribunal ruled in favour of the EBU, its 30,000 members would no longer be required to pay VAT on their competition entry fees.

Bridge is a game of mental skill, extreme powers of concentration and stamina, but should it be classed as a sport? In common with widely recognised sports, bridge is competitive and a test of keeping one's nerve under intense pressure. Important also is the fact that the element of gambling and luck or chance is largely removed by duplicating deals, which means both sides play the same hands at different tables and it is up to you to outdo those at the other tables with the same set of cards. Top players with international ambitions will spend many hours a week training and practising.

Where the difficulty arises in classifying bridge as a sport is the perceived lack of physical exertion. I say "perceived" because bridge at international level is an extreme test of concentration, stamina and mental deduction. A player will typically be expected to maintain this level of concentration for up to nine hours a day for a fortnight. In order to be able to achieve this, a certain amount of physical fitness is a prerequisite. Everyone on my team keeps themselves physically fit. I play regular tennis, swim and walk. The days of competitive bridge players sitting in a smoke-filled room with a whisky by their side are gone, if ever they existed. Every player is an athlete and takes their physical condition seriously.

Heather Dhondy has been a member of the national women's bridge team for the past 19 years, winning three world and five European gold medals. She is ranked 12th in the world

Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
Al Pacino in ‘The Humbling’, as an ageing actor
filmHam among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
News
Fifi Trixibelle Geldof with her mother, Paula Yates, in 1985
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli in action during his Liverpool debut
football ...but he can't get on the scoresheet in impressive debut
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey fans rejoice, series five returns later this month
TV
Arts and Entertainment
booksExclusive extract from Howard Jacobson’s acclaimed new novel
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Development Manager

Salary/Rate: £32,000/annum: M&E Global Resources Ltd: Description/Main Duties ...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Application Support Analyst / Junior SQL Server DBA

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established professional services...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor