Video: Bridge bidding to be recognised as a sport
It's a card game played by thousands across the county – but if enthusiasts have their way bridge could soon be classed as a sport.
The European Bridge Union hopes that the card game will soon be recognised as an official sport by Sport England, which would allow it to apply for funding, receive more support and set up teaching initiatives for clubs around the country.
"There is a financial benefit to it," said Peter Stockdale, of the English Bridge Union. "It would enable us to apply for funding.
"Local bridge clubs would be able to apply for lottery funding as well."
He said there was "an opportunity and exposure that came from being recognised as a sport".
"At the moment bridge falls into a gap. It's not arts, it's not sports, no-one is really backing it," he added.
- Bridge is a development of the card game Whist, which is a popular game around the world and had a loyal following for centuries.
- According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Bridge is the English pronunciation of a game called Biritch Russian Whist.
- It is a game of skill played with randomly dealt cards often played by four people in two teams of competing partnerships.
- There are two kinds of bridge, rubber which is normally played at home for leisure, and duplicate bridge for competitions.
- According to the English Bridge Union, around 300,000 people play on a regular basis in Britain.[/breakout]
"It would be a great benefit to society if more people were playing it. There are mental health benefits for keeping the brain active into older life and the social aspect that comes with getting people out of the house."
Shropshire players have spoken out saying it really is a sport of the mind – something officially recognised by Sport Accord, the international federations of Olympic and non-Olympic sports along with chess, drafts, go and xiangqi (Chinese chess).
Pam Booth Jones, a member of the Wrekin Bridge Club, said: "It is definitely a mind sport – you need to be mentally fit to be able to play.
"In the evenings you can be expected to play for about three hours, and if you play in tournaments you'll be playing for six hours.
"So we do have to be able to concentrate for that large amount of time.
"But while you do have to have a mental fitness to play, some professional bridge players play all day every day so they have to be physically fit and healthy too.
"Maybe the difference is that as a pastime you just need to be fit enough to get to the game and mentally fit to play – but as a profession you need to be physically fit too.
"But then I really don't know if all sports you have to be fit for – like snooker – I don't know."
The game is known as a "trick-taking game" using a standard 52 card deck.
It is played by four players in two competing partnerships, with partners sitting opposite each other around a table.
There are several deals in the game which includes bidding, playing the cards and scoring results.
The Wrekin Bridge Club is a relatively small club with about 25 members while some can have more than 100 players – it meets every Wednesday at 7.15pm at the Shawbirch Community Centre. Ms Booth Jones added: "If nothing else it is a fantastic way to get people out and socialise.
"Most people are happy with just a little bit of bridge," said Judy Mitchell, the secretary of Shrewsbury Contract Bridge Club.
The club has 40 to 50 members and meets each Tuesday at The Baptist Church Hall, Crowmere Road in Monkmoor.
"If you were a bridge player you could play pretty much every evening. In fact there are more clubs here than there are evenings," said Mrs Mitchell.
The Border Bridge Club, in Ford near Shrewsbury, meets every Friday and membership secretary Monica Scott said it does test the mind.
She said: "I am a big sportsperson myself anyway but it is one of those games that doesn't really feel like a sport.
"I always think of a sport as a physical activity but this is definitely a mentally involving game. It is a bit of an addiction really – in Shrewsbury there are enough clubs that you could play every evening."
The EBU has said that it hopes recognising bridge as an official sport would allow it to receive greater exposure to schoolchildren, or to those older people who may be affected by social isolation or cognitive decline.
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