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
Many countries recognise bridge as a sport, but the UK is not one of
them, so the EBU suffers financially by relying heavily on
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.
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
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.
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
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