Bridge not a Sport (ECJ now agree)

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Roger de Coverly
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Bridge not a Sport (ECJ now agree)

Post by Roger de Coverly » Mon Feb 24, 2014 4:13 pm

There's a piece in the Telegraph about the English Bridge Union pursuing the sport recognition issue with HMRC. The idea was to get VAT exempt status.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/games/106582 ... rules.html
The English Bridge Union had argued that its members should not have to pay VAT on competition entry fees because they were taking part in a pursuit that is recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, the Charity Commission and several other European countries.
Much the same would apply to chess in the UK and VAT applies to events deemed directly run by the ECF such as the British Championships. For historic reasons rather than as a tax dodge, much of British chess is outside the scope of VAT, being run by smaller local organisations with turnovers below the tax threshold, who are demonstrably independent of the ECF.

But are there really 300,000 regular Bridge players in Britain?

The article quotes income from Bridge entry fees at £ 631,000. It occurs to me that aggregate chess entry fees are of a similar magnitude. With around 65,000 regular and 60,000 rapid half games played, that translates into 13,000 and 12,000 entries assuming 5 round tournaments. This adds up to around half a million if you assume entry fees of £ 25 and £ 15 respectively. Fortunately very little of this goes anywhere near the ECF's accounts, which keeps it out of the VAT net.

You can sometimes compare Chess events with Bridge ones, particularly when they take place over a similar time period at the same venues such as weekends at the Riviera Centre in Torquay. One difference is that there seldom seems any prize money in Bridge even though entry fees are similar to Chess
Last edited by Roger de Coverly on Thu Oct 26, 2017 10:49 am, edited 2 times in total.

MartinCarpenter
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by MartinCarpenter » Mon Feb 24, 2014 4:38 pm

Oh probably. Look at the Yorkshire bridge/chess leagues. Similar areas/ideas, teams of 8 on a single weekend day: 31 teams in the chess league, 87 in the bridge league. Numbers of serious players probably in favour of chess if anything, semi casual bridge players exist in (relatively) huge quantitites.

Bridge net turnover is massively larger than chess because of the all the income the clubs produce on a normal club night. For tournaments it might well be comparable, although quite a lot of them are run by independent people rather than the EBU. The EBU runs the really huge ones.

Martyn Harris
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Martyn Harris » Mon Feb 24, 2014 8:19 pm

Roger de Coverly wrote:There's a piece in the Telegraph about the English Bridge Union pursuing the sport recognition issue with HMRC. The idea was to get VAT exempt status.

The article quotes income from Bridge entry fees at £ 631,000.
Which will be entry fees for competitions organised by the EBU. There are plenty of events run by counties, clubs and independent organisers, the total fees for which will dwarf the EBU's receipts for entry fees.

Ian Kingston
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Ian Kingston » Tue Feb 25, 2014 12:50 pm

It appears that the EBU lost.

David Sedgwick
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by David Sedgwick » Tue Feb 25, 2014 2:57 pm

There is a statement by the EBU at http://www.ebu.co.uk/node/1409.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Roger de Coverly » Tue Feb 25, 2014 3:18 pm

David Sedgwick wrote:There is a statement by the EBU at http://www.ebu.co.uk/node/1409.
I'm not sure to what extent the ECF or its then prospective President knew about the EBU action, but the wording of the decision http://www.ebu.co.uk/documents/miscella ... 129526.pdf would seem to apply equally to Chess as to Bridge.

Paul Habershon
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Paul Habershon » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:51 am

Is it fair for the Inland Revenue to favour obviously physical sports? The criteria could be changed to put the emphasis on competitive activities. Tax relief could be granted if the activity has a national structure, e.g. a ruling body, a membership scheme (a minimum qualifying number of members could be imposed here), a league/county structure, a national team etc.. Certainly chess and bridge would qualify, and possibly Scrabble among others. This would eliminate the futile debate about the definition of a sport.

Roger de Coverly
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Roger de Coverly » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:06 am

Paul Habershon wrote:Is it fair for the Inland Revenue to favour obviously physical sports? The criteria could be changed to put the emphasis on competitive activities.
It's not just HMRC but also Sport England, who stand by the definitions in the 1937 Act and also something more recent at a European level.

Physical activity is favoured, hence the presence of Rambling as a "sport". Something I don't know is whether Rambling got an exemption from the WADA nonsense. Bridge embraced it with more enthusiasm than Chess, the evidence being Ivanchuk in 2008.

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Paolo Casaschi
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Paolo Casaschi » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:45 am

Roger de Coverly wrote:
David Sedgwick wrote:There is a statement by the EBU at http://www.ebu.co.uk/node/1409.
I'm not sure to what extent the ECF or its then prospective President knew about the EBU action, but the wording of the decision http://www.ebu.co.uk/documents/miscella ... 129526.pdf would seem to apply equally to Chess as to Bridge.
They just applied the current view of what should be considered as sport. This is why you need someone trying to change that view of the legislator, as AP suggested. The decision in the EBU/HMRC case only confirms that chess (as bridge) as a problem that needs to be solved if you want to get access to government funding and tax breaks. Or you give up, do nothing, and accept a backseat position compared to the most of Europe.

John Upham
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by John Upham » Wed Feb 26, 2014 12:06 pm

Very simply, HMRC needs to be petitioned to recognise the concept of a Mind Sport?

How difficult can this be?

As it stands the definition of a sport in this country is too rigid and entrenched in the dark ages.

It is almost certainly a waste of resources attempting otherwise while people have no notion of a mind sport.
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Steve Rooney
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Steve Rooney » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:01 pm

John Upham wrote:Very simply, HMRC needs to be petitioned to recognise the concept of a Mind Sport?

How difficult can this be?

As it stands the definition of a sport in this country is too rigid and entrenched in the dark ages.

It is almost certainly a waste of resources attempting otherwise while people have no notion of a mind sport.
I'not really convinced it's worth any resources battling this one. Sport in most people's minds involves physical activity; what we do would generally be regarded as a game and not a sport. It doesn't mean chess is not worthy of public support and funding along with other cultural activities and pastimes, but trying to tag on as a quasi sport seems unlikely to bear any fruit.

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Paolo Casaschi
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Paolo Casaschi » Wed Feb 26, 2014 1:30 pm

Steve Rooney wrote:I'not really convinced it's worth any resources battling this one.
I guess you prefer those "resources" to be saved for quarreling over the control of the ECF vote at the FIDE/ECU elections... a lot more entertaining to watch on this forum, I agree.

Steve Rooney
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Steve Rooney » Wed Feb 26, 2014 4:04 pm

Paolo Casaschi wrote:
Steve Rooney wrote:I'not really convinced it's worth any resources battling this one.
I guess you prefer those "resources" to be saved for quarreling over the control of the ECF vote at the FIDE/ECU elections... a lot more entertaining to watch on this forum, I agree.
Nothing to do with other battles, I just think this one is not worth it because it is not winnable.

David Robertson
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by David Robertson » Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:28 pm

There may be very good reasons for exempting Bridge (& Chess) from VAT. But winning the argument on 'sport' was doomed from the outset.

I'll not rake over the points I've made on countless previous occasions, but direct attention instead to the current anxieties bearing upon the matter within the policy-making community.

Critical problem No. 1 - the attention-grabbing priority and potential political emergency - can be found in a recent WHO report. This presents a pattern of chronic, life-threatening obesity on an epidemic scale, accelerating among younger age-groups. In related data, England (sic) has the fattest women, the second fattest men, and the least physically active teenagers in Europe. Under these conditions, there is not the remotest chance Government will tolerate a dilution of the meaning of 'sport' (as it stands) to accommodate activities like chess or bridge.

Stewart Reuben
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Re: Bridge not a Sport

Post by Stewart Reuben » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:34 am

We first stated fighting for VAT exemption for chess entry fees in about 1981 when sports entry fees became exempt.
The reply from the Treasury was, 'A line has to be drawn somewhere and it has been drawn in favour of competitive activity for young people.
Does that remind you of a certain game with which we are familiar?

The problem goes back to 1937. The Sports Council was created to encourage greater physical fitness among people in preparation for the forthcoming war. Thus the narrow definition. The late Tony Banks announced he was going to change this ridiculous situation and was promptly sacked as Sports Minister.

I am astonished the EBU did not join forces with the ECF and the other mind sports. We have done in the past.

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