SUPPORT FENCING’S FUNDING APPEAL #FUNDFENCING

Show your support for our funding cut appeal


By sending one of the template statement below to:
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Prime Minister
The Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Tracey Crouch MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage
Sue Owen, Permanent Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Nick Pontefract, Head of Sport, Department for Culture, Media & Sport
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party
Rosena Allin-Khan, Shadow Sports Minister
and Your local MP
We have been extremely grateful for all the support shown not only from the community but also from people inspired by our athlete performances in Rio. If you would like to help, here are two example letters, based on ones our supporters have written and shared with us which you can either copy and paste or adapt as you wish:
Dear [insert name of MP]

I write to seek your advice and help with the major problems for my sport of Fencing caused by the sudden decision by the Government quango, UK Sport (UKS), to end our Olympic programme.

It was the week before Christmas when our governing body - British Fencing - received the coldest of calls from UKS. Let me give you the context:

* Fencing is one of only four sports to feature in every modern Olympic Games;
* after ten years of UKS funding, and very effective partnership working, we had a strong World Class Programme (WCP) dedicated to Olympic success in Tokyo and beyond. Our WCP had a growing core of successful athletes, with world class coaches and facilities. Everyone involved was making significant personal and financial contributions to what we saw as a great cause;
* each of our UKS targets had been met. We have two fencers in the world’s top ten, and our athletes recently delivered an inspiring performance as they delivered an individual 4th place and team 6th place at the Rio Olympic Games;
* in months of consultation on the next Olympic cycle, the cancellation of our entire WCP was never an option discussed with us.

BUT, that was the cold call message. In the season of giving, there was no consultation, no opportunity to discuss, no reprieve. We are now being forced to dismantle a highly regarded Olympic programme, abandoning our talented young athletes to an unfunded future - with anger, disbelief and much sadness.

We are going to appeal against this heartbreaking decision. Will you give us your support? British Fencing and its large community of fencers and volunteers appeal to you to help us overturn this cruel blow to our great traditional sport, which continues to play a big part in the national and local community?

With best wishes
Yours sincerely

[insert your signature and name]
British Fencing member
Dear [insert name of MP],

I am writing to you to express my disappointment and deep concern regarding the recent decision by UK Sport to entirely cut funding for British Fencing’s World Class Programme.

Fencing is of one of few sports to feature at every modern Olympics, a sport rich in heritage that attracts a unique, and passionate community. Britain was one of the founding members of the World Governing Body of Fencing, the FIE, which was established over 100 years ago.

In the past few years, fencing has made significant progress. Our GB athletes have met all the targets set by UK Sport, including those set for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, where Richard Kruse came 4th and the Men’s Foil Team came 6th. In this discipline we now have two athletes in the top 10 in the World. Yet other sports have received millions for disciplines where they have not achieved anything like the Olympic or World level results of our GB fencers.

Last year, fencing’s elite programme was extended to bring in additional athletes as well as two World Class coaches to support them - such was UK Sport’s perception of the progress that the sport had been made. In the Rio 2016 cycle, fencers from Great Britain have won an individual European Championships (the first in history) and a number of “grand slam” events, including two in the six months leading up to the Games. Using UK Sport’s own terminology, fencing’s performance trajectory, had never looked so good. So why are we now dismantling everything that has been worked hard for?

This isn’t about affordability, it is about choice. One of the delightful outcomes of the Rio Olympics was more medals across more sports. As a country we embrace the diversity of our sporting landscape, helping our talented athletes fulfil their dreams and in turn inspiring a new generation of children to find a sport that is right for them.

This decision by UK Sport takes Great Britain down a policy route where fewer and fewer sports will be funded, arguably focussing scarce resources into the sports where the biggest commercial revenues already sit. Fencing will find it tough to raise money from other sources, a task made more difficult given the sport was given just over three months notice to do so. Our new elite training facilities were opened by Rt. Hon Jon Whittingdale in April 2015 in what he described as a model example of relationship between public and private finance. These facilities risk being moth-balled and the ‘model’ will now serve as a stark warning to other small businesses considering investing in supporting elite sport outside the major medal winners.

Other than finally getting the opportunity to provide athletes a World Class training environment, albeit 14 months before the Games, the Rio Cycle funding supported the creation of a young squad of fencers aiming for Tokyo. These athletes made significant life choices to join the programme, often at significant personal financial detriment. With no warning or discussion, just before Christmas, UK Sport told the NGB and athletes that their funding was ending. Irrespective of the decision, the way in which public money is being pulled away from athletes and a sport meeting all its targets, shows little consideration for the sacrifices that these young athletes have made.

In these tough financial times, it is understandable that tough decisions need to be made. Perhaps the government believes that there is nothing more important than an Olympic medal, irrespective of the cost and the sport. I strongly believe that the government has a duty to look at other factors when it sets out its investment strategy, such as a diversity and a healthy nation.

Recently British Fencing commissioned research about fencing’s current and potential participants. In summary, it showed that fencing is most likely to attract young people who are seen as ‘alternative’ individuals, particularly ‘non-sporty’ online gamers. (#Fencing topped the Twitter hashtag charts on the day our athletes competed in the Olympics.) With the population of online gamers increasing and the hours each individual spends gaming increasing, year-on-year, the impact on well-being is obvious. The research shows clearly that fencing is one of the options to inspire them to get off their couches, and with a credible GB team competing in the Olympics, this happens. The government should review the supporting evidence around the investment assumption that winning more medals in one of the already multi medal winning sport has the same impact on our societies sporting motivations and habits than winning across a diverse range of sports.

British Fencing has had to make radical changes to its organisation in order to gain government funding for its elite and development programmes. The success of those programmes has proved to be an inspiration to the current and future fencing community. This funding cut means that fencing as a sport in this country will regress. Of course, well-meaning volunteers will try their very best to step up where they can but there will be no money to support our very best athletes for training, equipment, competition entry fees, travel, coaching and sport science support.

This will be the first time in the history of British Fencing that not a single penny of government funding will be given to British Fencing to enable it to support its elite senior athletes. Does the government expect fencing as a sport to survive in the UK, let alone succeed, given this decision? And, where does the responsibility lie for the athletes who have been dealt the roughest of all hands and the young talent and participation programmes that now have no aspiring role models? Is it the expectation of the government that the financial burden falls on the fencing community itself – for example is the expectation that all the members (including young school children) of British Fencing fund these athletes from their own pockets, via increased membership fees? Or does elite fencing finally and genuinely become in Britain the preserve of the amateur elite?

I urge you to think about the long term impact of the way our sport has been treated – not just for fencing, but all the other sports and athletes that over the next few cycles will find themselves inevitably losing funding, thus taking away all their hopes and dreams of an Olympic medal.

With best wishes
Yours sincerely

[insert your signature and name]
British Fencing member