CAMPAIGNS: Lobbying - Question of sport turns cerebral

To most of the two million people in England who play the card game bridge, it is an intellectual pursuit enjoyed purely for pleasure. The English Bridge Union (EBU), the organising body for Duplicate Bridge in England, represents the competitive players who prefer the rigours of organised tournaments.

To most of the two million people in England who play the card game

bridge, it is an intellectual pursuit enjoyed purely for pleasure. The

English Bridge Union (EBU), the organising body for Duplicate Bridge in

England, represents the competitive players who prefer the rigours of

organised tournaments.



Many countries recognise bridge as a sport, but the UK is not one of

them, so the EBU suffers financially by relying heavily on

sponsorship.



However, the International Olympic Committee has granted recognition to

the World Bridge Federation. Duplicate Bridge will be played as a

demonstration sport at the 2002 Winter Olympics and is expected to be

included as a full Olympic discipline in the 2006 Winter Olympics.





Objectives



To gain government recognition for the game of Duplicate Bridge as a

sport, by effecting amendments to the 1937 Physical Training and

Recreation Act. In the long term this would enable EBU to apply for

lottery funding.





Strategy and Plan



The 1937 Act defines sport in terms of physical effort. Bridge

supporters argue that the brain is a body-part too and, as such,

competitive test of its agility should be recognised as part of the

wider sporting scene.



To make this case to Parliament, earlier this year, the EBU hired

lobbying firm Advocacy for strategic advice and met with former sports

minister Tony Banks.



The EBU was hoping for a Cultural Framework Bill to be announced in the

Queen’s speech as PR Week went to press. But if this is not the case, it

will have to rely on a bridge-friendly MP to introduce a Private

Member’s Bill. To gain support from members of the House of Commons, the

EBU has written to every MP and been urging its 30,000 members to lobby

their local representative.Many MPs are already bridge devotees,

including Peter Bottomley, Michael Mates and Lewis Mooney. Indeed, the

Lords goes head-to-head with the Commons in a fiercely contested bridge

match every year.



In July, to demonstrate the sporting nature of Duplicate Bridge to all

MPs, the EBU held a competitive exhibition at the House of Commons.





Measurement and Evaluation



The letter-writing campaign has had mixed success. The majority of MPs

have not yet replied to the EBU’s formal presentation of its campaign

and are currently being contacted again. Lobbying of local MPs by EBU

members has been patchy. Some MPs have received more than 200 letters,

while others have had none. However, in recent weeks, there have been

several requests from MPs to visit their local bridge club.





Results



In advance of the Queen’s speech, current Sports Minister Kate Hoey has

taken a positive, but cautious, line on the status of ’sports of the

mind’.



Some MPs have pledged their support to EBU’s campaign, with Evan Harris,

member for Oxford West and Abingdon its greatest advocate. Dr Harris is

a keen bridge player and the MP most likely to introduce a Private

Member’s Bill. However, no matter how much cross-party support is behind

such a bill, its success rests on gaining enough Parliamentary time.

There is a possibility that a Private Member’s Bill on the nature of

sport could be squeezed out by matters that sit higher up the

Government’s political agenda.



Client: English Bridge Union

Campaign: To gain sports status for Duplicate Bridge

PR Team: In-house and Advocacy

Timescale: Ongoing from January 1999

Budget: pounds 10,000 per year



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