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HMRC internal manual

VAT Sport Manual

What is sport?

Access to an Aquatic Park


The Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) case of Město Žamberk (Case C-18/12) considered whether access to an aquatic park offering visitors both facilities for engaging in sporting activities and other types of amusement or rest was a supply of services closely linked to sport.


The sporting activity did not have to be practised at any particular level (for example at a professional level), or in any particular circumstances (for example in a regular or organised manner or in order to participate sports competitions).  However, it excluded recreational activities undertaken for rest and amusement.


Consideration had to be given to the objective characteristics of the facilities provided in order to determine whether or not they were supplied essentially for recreational use or for sport.



Bridge and Chess


In the English Bridge Union (Case C-90/16) the Court of Justice for the European Union (CJEU) considered whether duplicate bridge was a sport for the purposes of the sporting exemption.  Duplicate bridge is a card game where teams of two players compete with other teams by successively playing the same hands and try to out-bid one another and earn the most points.  The hands are pre-dealt on individual card tables and each team plays the same hands at each location either as north-south or east-west.  The game is highly skilled, is played national and international level, but involves negligible physical element.


The court recognised that although the activity of playing bridge was beneficial for mental and physical health, mental activities (sometimes referred to as “mind sports”) are not covered by the sports exemption.


The court decided that the concept of “sport” was limited to activities within the ordinary meaning of that word and that involved a significant physical element.   However, not everything with a significant physical element was sport.


This decision also means that mind sports such as chess and the Chinese game of “go” will not qualify for exemption as there is no significant physical element involved.