Interview: Poker’s sporting chance remains on track, says Nally

Interview: Poker’s sporting chance remains on track, says Nally

Monday, November 23, 2015 Totally Gaming
IFP chief Patrick Nally has not been discouraged by bridge's High Court failure

Patrick Nally, the head of the International Federation of Poker (IFP), has told TotallyGaming.com that sporting bodies must keep pace with changing times after the High Court ruled that bridge cannot be considered a sport according to UK laws.

Nally’s organisation wants poker to be considered a sport so that it can join the likes of bridge and chess on the schedule at global events such as the SportAccord World Mind Games, a development that would allow it greater exposure and access to funding. While the IFP-backed match poker variation does not include gambling, it is considered that recognition by SportAccord can only help the wider game’s reputation and popularity around the world.

The road to SportAccord recognition was not helped by Mr Justice Dove ruling that the English Bridge Union (EBU) did not have grounds for a judicial review into Sport England’s decision not to recognise bridge as a sport as its Royal Charter requires that any sport must involve physical activity.

However, Nally – founder of the West Nally sports marketing group - believes that the High Court decision merely backed up a definition of sport that fails to take into account changing times.

“When I first heard the ruling I thought that something was awry,” he said. “However, the judge made a judgement not as to whether it is a mind sport, but under the very narrow definition of sport under outdated legislation.

“Quite clearly bridge is a mind sport, and is defined so by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Here in the UK we still operate under an act that was created many years ago and requires that physical element. 

“I believe that the EBU has been pushing this because they would be able to get access to greater funds were they to be successful. I say well done to them for trying, but the law needs changing if we are to be successful in the UK.”

Speaking after the High Court decision, Sport England's director of sport, Phil Smith, said: “Sport England’s job is to help the nation to be more physically active, a role given to us by our Royal Charter. We recognise that many people enjoy playing bridge, but that's not going to play a part in the fight against inactivity.”

Due to such beliefs, Nally has long believed that the IFP’s entry to SportAccord will be achieved through gaining the required 40 national sporting body recognitions from countries other than the UK. However, he told TotallyGaming.com that he has spoken informally to senior politicians about the “possibility of a fresh look at the Act”.

For now, Nally is focusing on building alliances in other countries and with a variety of sports bodies. As match poker is played on mobile devices, Nally is keen to develop a relationship with the growing e-sports sector – an area that is becoming increasingly relevant for the gambling industry.

Nally added: “I will be visiting the International e-Sports Federation World Championships in Seoul in December. I believe that match poker and the governing bodies of e-sports can work together.

“The e-sports sector is just the kind of thing that outdated notions of ‘what is a sport’ cannot address. Bodies need to move with the times or they will be left behind.” 

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