Report on British Fencing Community Discussion on the Return to Fencing. 14:00 11th May 2020

                              I took part in the first British Fencing discussion group on Monday 11th May. Led by Georgina (BF CEO), and Hannah Gavin. It was to discuss the best practice in returning to fencing. Please find below my notes from the meeting. Currently the BF guidelines are a work in progress, and these discussion groups will feed into them.

                                Earlier that day the CEO’s from 35 sports met with Sport England to discuss the return to sport. There is currently no suggestion that any indoor sport will resume (that’s us). Discussion then moved on to the announcement for Wednesday 13th, where it will be possible to meet with a single person outside of your household to exercise with. So for some coaches (Pilates was the example), you can conduct 1 to 1 lessons in your local park, but it has to be for exercise, and not for social reasons. Group lessons are not allowed. The thought is that coaches could meet with their pupils in an outside area and work with them on strength & conditioning, or footwork, but not actual sword in hand as this would mean that you would not be able to socially distance. Theory lessons can be conducted online via zoom. Thoughts are that as long as a parent was present during these outdoor lessons, then the issues of safeguarding should not arise (sitting on a park bench a short distance away, or walking the dog round the park). Lessons must not be conducted in a household (i.e. a pupils/coach’s garden). Olympic athletes and professional sports people will have their own agenda, and potentially can be moved to a permanent training camp. BF suggest that summer camps will probably not run – including coaching camps and are putting everything online.

                                British Fencing will try for a dispensation on social distancing, but if that fails then sparring in any form will not be allowed until the social distancing rules are relaxed. But once venues open again, then we may meet as a club if we abide by social distancing (no sparring). Until the social distancing rules are relaxed, there will be no equipment issues, as there will be no point in wearing fencing kit.

                                BF are putting together a phased plan on the return to fencing, but it will be informed by advice from the government and Sport England. It is a plan that can go backwards as well as forwards, and hopefully they will publish it soon. Any conditions that your venue puts on you will supersede those of BF if they are more stringent.

                                Kit hire from clubs seems to be the preferred way forward for fencers who do not currently own their own kit. So that each participant has a complete set, paying a deposit, until they can afford their own. For cleaning masks most thoughts were around alcohol sprays, and allowing them to dry before the next user, as this should kill off any trace of the virus. But the current thought is we will not be fencing again until September at the earliest. Also in September there may be other ways of dealing with the virus on surfaces.

                                It was suggested that clubs need to have their own plans of how they are going to start up, so they are ready to go when their venues say they can restart. There should also be a way of shutting down again quickly included in the plan.

                                Fencing outside comes under the same limitations as fencing inside, in that it is considered that fencers would be unable to socially distance.

The meeting lasted for 1 ¼ hours, with several more planned. Participants were asked not to publish until after Wednesday’s announcements.

Kevin Nelson.