September 22, 2015

LONDON (AP) Is bridge a sport? A British judge has been asked to resolve this weighty question after Sport England ruled the popular card game is not a sport.

The decision is being challenged in Britain's High Court Tuesday and Wednesday by the English Bridge Union, which complains that the adverse ruling by Sport England goes against the views of Britain's Parliament and ''significant international sporting organizations.''

It says Parliament has recognized ''mind sports'' that promote mental skills and contends that bridge has known health benefits.

Sport England, a national body that plays a key role distributing lottery funds, has long taken the view that bridge and other mental games, such as chess, are not sports.

Its director, Phil Smith, said the agency's job is to promote physical fitness and playing bridge won't help.

''Bridge is a fantastic pursuit, and we think it probably gives pleasure to a lot of people, but it certainly isn't getting the nation any fitter,'' he said.

Bridge Union spokesman Peter Stockdale said the court case is not just about the lottery money, although he concedes some extra cash would help bridge attract more aficionados.

''We feel it clearly meets the definition of a sport,'' he said, adding the International Olympic Committee has recognized bridge.

''There are many different sides to it: the personal challenge and mental skill that it requires. It takes years to become a very good player,'' he said.

At London's ACOL Bridge Club, where the game is a welcome focus on many a rainy afternoon, Joan Munro Wednesday praised its central role in her life - but conceded it may not be a sport.

''It's a fantastic mental exercise. I've been playing 35 years and I keep learning all the time,'' said Munro, 65.

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