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Bell ringing to become a sport?

by Hannah Tooley

The task is said to improve muscle coordination, improve agility and tone muscles.

Some campanologists, better known as bell ringers, argue it is a form of exercise and being given sports status would give the activity more funding and encourage new recruits.

A bell ringing session can last around three hours and bell ringers say it is at least as strenuous as some sports like angling and rambling.

Michael Wigney, London Diocesean Guild of Church Bell Ringers, told Premier's News Hour some people are worried it will take away from worship: "Most bells are obviously in churches and to say it's a sport may detract from the objective to ring the bells for worship."

He added that it has even used in schools that use it: "There are schools who've taken up ringing as one of their alternatives to P.E."

Michael Wigney added that it is a great way for young people to get involved. 

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Ted Venn who wrote to bell ringing magazine, The Ringing World, said: "If active religion declines to such an extent that churches are no longer in existence as places of worship, then church bell ringing will end with it."

Sport England can categorise an activity as a sport based on the European Sports Charter definition of a 'physical activity' which aims to improve 'physical fitness and mental well-being and forming social relationships.'

Recently Bridge lost a High Court battle to be classified as a sport because the game did not require enough 'physical training'.

Research by the YMCA and the Churches Conservation Trust found that bell ringing could provide a range of benefits, from better cardiovascular fitness to muscle endurance and improve agility.

It requires climbing steep staircases and pulling on ropes to make the heavy bells chime.

But the Central Council of Bell Ringers are not happy with the push, they say it would jeopardise bell ringing's relationship with church bodies and it should be seen as a part of Christian worship and not as a sport.

The Council's President Chris Mew said: "Where is the glamour of the sports field and where are the David Beckhams if the belfry?"

But Robert Lewis, The Ringing World editor, disagrees.

He told the paper: "Ringing is great fun as well as being a healthy physical and mental workout.

"We would like many more people to have the opportunity to try it, and identification as a sport could help achieve that."

Listen to Premier's Antony Bushfield speak to Michael Wigney, London Diocesean Guild of Church Bell Ringers, here:

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