Under the direction of the Boards of BF and BDF, with the support of Sport England and other partners in Para-fencing, work is progressing on transferring delivery responsibilities from BDF to BF. Here is the latest update and answers to some frequently asked questions.
The transfer of activities from BDF to BF has progressed a step further recently with the agreement of the BF and BDF Boards to move to the next stage of the project – drawing up the legal transfer document. Subject to satisfactory negotiations, the provisional working date for the transfer is the 31st March, which means as from 1st April, British Fencing will be responsible for Para-fencing.
BDF and BF members were recently invited to participate in a survey to gather views. Results show that those who responded were overwhelmingly in favour of the move.
A set of FAQs has been produced below. We hope it helps to address any queries you may have but should you wish for clarification on any matter, please email the Project Manager, Jackie Bryson at [email protected]
1. The community engagement event in October indicated most members think this is a good idea. Who else beyond BDF and BF have you been speaking to and do they also think it’s a good move?
Early engagement with stakeholders by BDF prior to progressing to the project stage indicated it would be a positive thing to explore further. There is widespread support that includes: Sport England (who funded this project), UK Sport, EIS, IWAS, Wheelpower and the BPA. All buy into BF’s ambition to create more inclusive environments for fencers. We are in regular contact with these organisations as their continued support is vital to the project’s long-term success.
2. What are the next steps?
This is a two-stage process.
• Stage 1: Identify the activity that would be required to transfer the responsibilities from BDF to BF and make recommendations as to how to effect this change
• Stage 2: Implement the agreed actions to effect the transfer.
We are at the end of Stage 1 and approval has now been given by both the Boards of BDF and BF to advance to Stage 2. The survey findings were key to help the Boards better understand the feeling of members.
To be clear, whilst everyone seems to think it’s a good idea, the proposal has yet to be formally approved. That happens as part of Stage 2.
3. Is this a merger of the 2 bodies or a transfer of delivery responsibilities from BDF to BF?
This is a transfer of delivery responsibilities only from BDF to BF.
4. What differences will we see as of 1st April?
The changes will be gradual and are, to an extent, dependent on the confirmation of Sport England’s funding to British Fencing. That announcement will happen within the next 2-3 weeks. BF has requested specific resources to help realise its ambition. Although nothing is yet confirmed, we are hopeful that this and other opportunities will start to present themselves as we work to increase the profile of Para-fencing.
It’s worth reminding ourselves what it is we’re setting out to achieve longer-term:
• The creation of more inclusive and accessible environments for the sport of fencing, embracing fencers, coaches and officials who are able-bodied and those who have a disability
• A fit-for-purpose governance system for disability fencing, delivering a more robust and sustainable future
• The retention and full exploitation of the knowledge and information gained over the years on disability fencing.
5. I’m a BDF member. Will I get a refund of my BDF membership when the transfer takes place?
BDF will refund members 50% of the membership fee in March 2022. Membership fees cover the day-to-day costs of the NGB which have remained including insurance, subscription fees, IT support and website. The NGB is also using its available reserves to contribute to meeting the legal costs of the transfer. Every effort is being made to minimise all transfer costs but due diligence is required to ensure all obligations are met.
6. What will happen to the funds that BDF hold?
After legal and ancillary costs, BDF will transfer the remaining funds to BF.
7. Complaints were included in relation to some volunteers (the BDF board had also received them directly) and whether they would have a future role within BF. Please provide an update.
Complaints were included in the feedback in relation to specific volunteers within the BDF structure. Where appropriate these complaints have already been dealt with by the BDF Board, responsibilities/activities adapted and the outcome shared with BF to inform their decision making around future operational delivery structure. All operational delivery of BF Para-fencing activities will fall under the responsibilities of the BF Executive team. See the response to Q17 on how you can have your say.
8. Issues were raised in terms of the accountability for current operational delivery of BDF and responsibility for key decisions lying with a few individual volunteers and the need for this to change.
The BDF board recognised the current structure is not fit for purpose and have pursued the transfer with BF. It is confident that members will benefit from BF’s professional staff, governance structure and systems that are already in place.
9. What will happen with BDF after the 1st April?
BDF will no longer operate and the legal entity will be wound up as soon as possible in line with legal requirements
10. What is the intention of the BDF Independent Chair, LC, and the BDF Board after the transfer?
Having been appointed in April 2021 Liv Corbishley is committed to ensuring the transference of activity from BDF to BF is successful. That remains her primary priority. Thereafter she and the BDF board will oversee the actions required to ensure BDF is correctly wound up, based on legal advice. They have not sought to represent the community or give further support beyond this point.
11. Why isn’t the WCP being transferred to BF rather than retained by EIS? And will BF have the same responsibilities that BDF have?
Importantly the UK Sport funded World Class Programme (WCP) is currently operated by the EIS. There will be no transfer or responsibilities from the EIS to BF as part of this project. There is an existing contract between BDF, UK Sport and EIS. This will come to an end and a new contract drawn up, with BF providing an advisory and small delivery element similar to that currently undertaken by BDF. We are using this new contract setting process as an opportunity to clarify the roles and responsibilities of BF over the Paris cycle in relation to supporting the WCP and there is a productive and positive dialogue between all 3 parties (UK Sport, EIS and BF). To be clear, there is no desire for or expectation for BF to take on additional responsibilities in this area. The system and structure requirements for an NGB to take on the delivery of a WCP are exceptionally challenging and BF is not at this stage ‘WCP-ready’.
Through the Athlete Development Programme, BF will incorporate Para-fencing into the Sport England funded Talent stages of the pathway. This work will be possible through additional funding provided by Sport England (subject to funding decision, due mid-Feb).
12. When is the next training camp?
Going forward there will be more training opportunities locally in clubs as well as regionally, fencing alongside and with non-disabled fencers. Responsibility for the ‘Come and Try’ sessions, along with Club support will be moved into the participation/club/regions area of work in BF.
BF will be looking to adapt the ADP camps to meet the needs of pathway para-fencers. In order to better understand these needs, the first piece of work will involve articulating the pathway for Para-fencing, working closely with the EIS to ensure that it is aligned to the needs of the WCP.
The EIS will continue to run the Wheelchair Fencing World Class Programme during the Paris cycle. As part of the programme, it will maintain its established centralised programme for full-time athletes based at Bath University, together with a number of training camps and activities for non-centralised nominated WCP fencers. Where appropriate, and through invitation, there may be an opportunity for non-WCP athletes to participate in some programme activities.
13. Will BF devise a new set of policies for wheelchair fencing?
Whenever possible this will be subsumed within BF’s existing policies, with adjustments/amendments as required.
14. What are the plans around selection?
Work will need to be done on the overarching selection policy that provides for the WCP to run selection for certain spaces, and the ADP to run selection for the remaining spaces (‘Talent’ and non WCP ‘National Team’ fencers). Associated updates to BF procedures to support this will be required that includes the BF selection policy. The current BF policy is robust and tried-and-tested so this is the starting point. BF is aware it has a lot to learn around classification and selection for non-WCP para fencing athletes but is confident that revision to the current selection policy will be robust, fair and inclusive.
15. When attending world cup events there ‘is a team within a team’. What plans do you have to address this?
There are instances where two sets of athletes (WCP and non-WCP) attend the same event and participate as part of the National Team. That said, we do think there is an opportunity to address some of your concerns, so the athlete experience is more aligned. We are in the very early stages of discussing this with EIS and we will give you more information as this progresses.
16. Will BF be able to provide new equipment?
We now better understand our current equipment inventory including what kit we have, who has it, and its general condition. We plan to publish this in due course – but to manage expectations, BDF has limited kit and it is often of low quality. This kit will transfer from BDF to BF as part of the proposal. BF will explore what it can do to purchase new frames and equipment, potentially loaning these to clubs interested in trying Para-fencing before supporting the club in fundraising to buy their own kit. There are lots of interesting ways other sports clubs are raising funds to buy equipment and BF will work with clubs to support them in this process.
17. Will there be an athlete rep / BDF representative on the BF Board?
The BF Board is responsible for the overall governance, development and management of the sport of fencing in GB. It sets the strategic direction of the sport, appoints the CEO and monitors progress and results. The Board consists of 12 Board Directors, none of which are there to represent a particular discipline or group.
There will be no change in the Board structure of BF, which is in line with the UK Code for Sports Governance, a requirement of a body in receipt of public funding.
BF will continue to encourage a diverse range of candidates to apply for elected/non-elected Board positions and would welcome candidates with skills and experience in disability sport. These opportunities come up on a regular basis and are advertised on the BF website and through the weekly bulletins.
18. How can BDF members ensure wheelchair fencing has a voice in shaping BF’s plans in this discipline?
Within the survey responses, a few people were concerned that decisions by non-disabled people for disability-specific areas could be a challenge given the majority of members and decision-makers were non-disabled. Our current thinking is that BF will create two staff-led transition advisory groups:
• An Athlete Advisory Group (transition) – aimed at those BDF member fencers not involved in the WCP. But those in the WCP can attend knowing that the remit of the discussion is grassroots to talent (pre WCP).
• A Workforce Advisory Group (transition) – aimed at those existing people in BDF who currently deliver to para fencers.
This is an open invitation for every BDF member to sign up to one of these two groups so please Save the Date, Wednesday 23rd March to find out more. This will be a BF session and be led by BF’s CEO Georgina Usher. Georgina is keen to listen to how you’d like to get involved and is focused on future planning.
Over time we expect this structure to change to adapt to new community members. Eg we would set up a community of clubs offering Para-fencing, coaches that are trained in Para-fencing, athletes that are part of the Athlete Development Programme (Talent) would participate in the existing feedback structures and would join the Senior Athlete Panel.
The roles of existing BF Standing Committees (Safety, Rules, Medical, etc) will be broadened to encompass Para-fencing and BDF members will be invited to apply to join committees. Noting that some BDF members are already members of BF committees.
If there are other questions or points of clarification, please address these to the Project Manager, Jackie Bryson ([email protected]).
Note: UK Sport currently funds the EIS to deliver the Wheelchair World Class Programme (WCP). Delivery of the WCP falls outside the scope of the responsibilities of BDF and as such is outside the scope of this merger of responsibilities.
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