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BF BOARD UPDATE ON THE FUTURE OF WORLD CLASS PROGRAMME (WCP)

29th March 2017

In December 2016 UK Sport announced that British Fencing would not receive any funding for their WCP in the four year Tokyo cycle. We were extremely surprised and disappointed by this decision and have taken a number of actions since then.

In February, along with seven other affected sports, we made our formal representation to the Board of UK Sport, which was unsuccessful. We have also prepared an Appeal that will be heard in March 2017 by an independent panel to assess the validity of the UK Sport process. With the guidance of the UK Sport transition team, we have also prepared a transition plan for the closure of the World Class Programme and successfully applied for a small amount of transition funding to support this closedown. Perhaps most importantly the Board of British Fencing has reviewed and updated our performance strategy, an outline of which I would like to share with you.

Background

UK Sport has been funding WCPs in other sports for several decades.   British Fencing received funding post Athens, but following a lack of governance progress and results, in 2008 funding for a WCP was removed.  We did continue to receive some limited support for the preparations for London to ensure that all sports could put in ‘credible’ performances at a home Games. British Fencing only started to receive full funding for a WCP post London 2012 on the basis on improving its governance and approach to high performance sport. In the last five years, we have made very good progress in developing our programme and starting to build the base for future Olympics cycles. Unfortunately we ran out of time. UK Sport have acknowledged that British Fencing is well run (achieving the highest governance rating) and has a professional WCP with emerging results and future medal possibilities.

Despite this, UK Sport decided that the medal potential, based on their assessment on the likely outcomes of specific athletes in Tokyo, is below the threshold for which UK Sport have funding. In other words, UK Sport have said while Fencing could ‘possibly’ win a medal, other sports will ‘probably’ win at least one medal. While we may disagree with this, it is outside our control. This decision should not reflect on the quality of our developing athletes and the WCP we are running, which is held in high regard for the implementation and progress made over the last 4 year cycle.

The financial consequence of the decision is that, in planning ahead, we must assume no funding at all for our WCP from UK Sport.

Future

The Board of British Fencing have reviewed our strategy around the existing WCP. As we will no longer be in a position to deliver a programme, we have refined the performance strategy for the organisation around the articulation of a Performance Pathway Framework. We have assessed the values, vision and mission of this as follows:

Values - Honesty, Excellence, Respect (all core British Fencing values), Teamwork and Professionalism. While these remain unchanged, the Board feels that we need to promote these in an ever stronger way, with a no compromise approach.

Vision – A performance pathway that consistently delivers International success. The vision is now broadened to not just focus on Seniors on the WCP and we have de-emphasised the focus on Senior World and Olympics medals (given that we will have no funding).

Mission – To deliver a performance pathway that supports individual athletes and teams to fulfil their international potential. The mission is to be aspired to over four years and the initial emphasis is on “supports” with the resources that we have.

We have then set out five objectives for our Performance Pathway from 2017 to 2020:

  1. Establish an end-to-end performance pathway framework for all six weapons. The framework will consist of an articulated journey for a performance athlete through the sport and include policies, procedures, performance standards and athlete guidelines and be operated by a predominantly volunteer structure, appointed by British Fencing. As British Fencing represents all six weapons, the Board feels strongly that our Performance Pathway Framework must cover all six. The Pathway will encompass how athletes move from cadet through Junior to Senior and from schools and clubs to Olympic level, taking into account any additional Home Nation or British Fencing led funded programmes (e.g. Sport England funded Talent Programme).
  2. Embed into the pathway framework the culture and learnings from Fencing’s “what it takes to win” model. The Board felt that it is important we should use the significant learnings and research and apply these where we can.
  3. Support the Home Nations to expand the pathway talent base. This is a recognition that a performance pathway starts with clubs in the Home Nations and we need joined up objectives and a joined up pathway so we can attract sufficient young talent into the sport and work together to keep them.
  4. Support the development of independent, self-sufficient and self-motivated athletes and teams. In an environment without central funding, these become essential athlete attributes necessary to compete against the best in the world.
  5. Deliver the Sport England funded Talent Programme. British Fencing has been awarded Sport England funding to rollout a Talent Programme based on a specific terms and conditions. We need to ensure that this is encompassed within our Performance Pathway in the best way possible.

It is important to recognise that the Performance Pathway is based on three stages – club and regional activities that encourage young athletes to compete and develop their skills, a Sport England funded (or HN equivalent) Talent programme that supports talented athletes on the next stage of their development (focussed on 17-21 age groups) and finally a structure to support Senior athletes competing for GB at a Senior level (21 +). At present the only element of this with funding in place is the Sport England Talent programme. 

The Board also considered a number of philosophies that support these objectives and act as a conjoint to the policies and procedures that must be refined and developed as part of the Performance Pathway Framework.  

  • We will expect athletes to sign up to additional codes of conduct and where appropriate contracts (especially where any public funding is being used to support them).
  • We will attempt to reduce discretionary selection to a minimum.
  • We expect to put in place minimum athlete performance standards with higher thresholds for major competitions.
  • We will also promote and publish guidelines on the training and preparation for events and conduct of athletes at events with these guidelines becoming standards at major events.
  • Our Performance Pathway policies will firstly encourage improved performance and secondly support the development of up and coming athletes, over and above simply increasing participation.
  • We will encourage and advise athletes to raise their own funding and any fundraising by British Fencing will prioritise supporting athletes and teams competing in major championships.
  • Finally the Board will agree policies around the Performance Pathway Framework that will be implemented and executed by British Fencing staff and volunteers.

We believe that over time, we can create a Performance Pathway Framework that supports individual athletes and teams to fulfil their international potential and consistently deliver international success.

Next Steps

Now that we have agreed our strategy for our Performance Pathway Framework, we are developing detailed policies that support this. As you can imagine, there is much work to be done on this and I would ask you to be patient as we develop this. At this stage we can provide no answers to specific questions.

We would however like to provide some clarity over timescales. Selection policies for all weapons and age-groups were published earlier in the season and it is the Board’s decision that these will continue in place for the remainder of this season. It is therefore our intention to publish new policies for the start of the 2017/18 season.

The existing WCP finishes on 31st March 2017 and where UK Sport have provided transition funding for specific athletes, based on their meeting eligibility criteria set out by UK Sport, this is being communicated directly to those individual athletes.

Conclusion

It is a difficult time for the athletes and staff on our WCP. The Board of British Fencing understand that and we will support them to the extent that we can. On the other hand, UK Sport’s decision gives us an opportunity to reset our performance pathway across all weapons and age-groups, taking account of the lessons learnt in recent years. It is also an opportunity for the sport of fencing to come together under a shared culture and support individual athletes and teams to fulfil their international potential.   

Mark Lyttle

Chairman of British Fencing

On behalf of the Board of British Fencing

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