09/03/2012- Latest News

From the Chair

As I mentioned in my Chair message last week to members, and in my address to the recent AGM, the Board set in hand last Autumn three reviews as part of the “Green” agenda, ie to enhance our governance of the sport.  These Reviews were of the Board itself; of Head Office; and of our Committee structure.  We can now announce the outcomes of the Board and Head Office Reviews; the Committee Review is ongoing.  

Below is the Board’s statement on the outcome of its Board Review.

Also here is Peter King’s Summary Report of his Review of Head Office. Peter King is well known both as the former CEO of British Cycling and for his consultancy work with other sports bodies.  In section 7, the Recommendations, you will find the Actions being taken by the Board on this review.

If you have any queries, on either Review, please do contact me. Or, please come to one of the Roadshows now being planned for this purpose  –   the programme will be posted on the BF website as soon as it is finalised.


David Teasdale              (Chair, British Fencing)

Tel  07803 891623           [email protected]





As part of its “Green for governance” agenda  –   and its determination to strive toward being a world class governing body  –   and after an internal review, the Board of British Fencing has decided upon a restructure, to take place in 2012 and 2013.  The changes depend upon alterations to the Articles, to be put to members in an EGM  (date and venue to be announced very soon).  The key points are;

the Board will comprise eleven Directors, one more than now.   Seven will be elected by the membership, the others to be independent, to include the Chair and CEO, and two new independent Directors selected by the Board to meet skills and experience needs.  This new structure meets the governance standards recommended by our funders;

to achieve this new composition, the eight elected Directors currently on the Board will retire, in two stages –  four in October, and another four in March 2013.  There will be elections for four Directors in October and three the following March, followed then by annual elections for at least one new Director;

of the current eight Directors who were elected, only those in their first term now are eligible to stand again for re-election, in March 2013;

the post of President will become an honorary one, rather than an elected position, and will not carry Board membership.  The Board will recommend the appointment to the British Fencing AGM each year.

The Board believes these changes will bring fresh energy and drive to the British Fencing operation, as well as enhanced transparency.  We shall all commend the necessary amendments in Articles to members at the EGM.  A formal document detailing all the proposed changes in British Fencing Articles will be sent to all members in good time for the EGM. 

If you wish to discuss any aspect of these important changes, or ask questions, please call or mail me.   Or, please come to a Roadshow.

David Teasdale  

Chair, on behalf of the British Fencing Board


British Fencing    The “King” Review

Prepared for the Board

By Peter A King CBE

Sports Management Consultant                                    January 2012



1. Introduction

1.1 The Management Audit of British Fencing undertaken by Littlejohn Frazer for UK Sport in March 2005 identified a number of significant weaknesses in the corporate governance of British Fencing; the Management Audit Report undertaken for UK Sport and Sport England by Moore Stephens in February 2010 indicated that weaknesses continued to exist.  Between February 2010 and February 2011 a number of changes were made at Board and Executive level in order to address the issues identified by the Moore Stephens report and to assure the funding partners that governance weaknesses were being tackled in order to bring the R.A.G rating back from Red to Green. The most significant move came in March 2011 with the appointment of David Teasdale as Independent Chair of the Board with a remit to drive through all the changes necessary to ensure that British Fencing becomes fit for purpose and an acceptable vehicle to continue to receive both Exchequer and Lottery funding from UK Sport and Sport England.

1.2.  The newly appointed Chair has overseen a thorough and detailed review of the corporate governance of British Fencing, culminating in a proposal to fundamentally restructure the Board.  In November 2011 the Chair of British Fencing asked Peter King to undertake a review of the corporate governance structures which are in place at Head Office to support the Board and service the members. This review embraces all aspects of the effectiveness of Head Office in the areas of administration, operations and finance. It was carried out in December and the outcome, conclusions and recommendations are now summarised.


2. The Brief

The brief provided by the Chair and CEO of British Fencing to Peter King was as follows:

2.1 Aims

2.1.1 To review the capability of British Fencing Head Office to: (a) Achieve British Fencing strategic objectives (b) Operate efficiently within budgetary boundaries

2.1.2 To make recommendations for the future

2.2 Authority and reporting     To the Board of British Fencing.

2.3 Key outcomes     To review the following functional areas of Head Office: a) Staff

b) Administration and efficiency of the administrative processes  c) Membership/Customer services and the customer interface   d)   Head Office budget.

2.4 Timelines   To report draft findings to the Chair and CEO by December 20th 2011

To present final report to the Chair and CEO by January 20th2012

To present final full report to the Board by February Board meeting

3. The Process

3.1  Face to face interviews were carried out with all available permanent staff, temporary employees and consultants, followed by a review of relevant documentation relating to the operations of the British Fencing Head Office.  The interviews began with the CEO who then assisted throughout the process.

4. Documentation

4.1  The CEO provided copies of the Management Audit Reports from 2005 and 2010, a copy of the accounts for the year to 31st March 2011, a copy of his own Governance Update from May 2010 and a copy of the Governance Plan update from 22nd November 2011. The CEO and staff provided documentation to support the operating procedures currently in place.

The CEO provided output documentation in respect of financial data and reporting. The website was a source of much useful and readily accessible information.

5. Key Areas

5.1 Staff

The Senior Management Team (SMT) comprises the CEO, the National Development Manager (NDM) and the Performance Manager (PM). Without exception, all of the staff interviewed demonstrated commitment and enthusiasm for British Fencing and their own role within the organisation. They were also hopeful that the outcome of the current on-going review process would be positive and they were generally eager to be a part of the process. A number of key themes came through consistently, indicating weaknesses that must be addressed by the Board if British Fencing is to achieve its aims within the budget available to it. These themes can be summarised as follows:

–  Leadership issues at all levels

–  Structure of the staff group

–  Teamwork within the SMT and in operational sectors.

5.2 Administrative processes

5.2.1 The two areas of administrative process which we looked at were general office procedures and finance.  There are indications that the CEO and Head Office Manager have improved the general office procedures in recent time and most procedures appear to be properly documented. This is an area for continuous review and improvement but while there is always more that can be done the relevant staff appear capable of maintaining a good level of performance in this area. Those shortcomings we identified in the implementation of procedures are recognised and are, for the most part, already being addressed. In the meantime we understand that there is some anecdotal evidence of continuing dissatisfaction among some members.

5.2.2  The switch from Quick Books to Sage appears to have improved the book-keeping process, although the impact of staff changes in the processing area may have played a part. In our experience there is no better accounting software package than Sage for organisations such as British Fencing.

5.2.3 We were struck by the number of staff who drew our attention to the excessive number of emails they were receiving each day. While this has become a fact of life for all of us the numbers quoted did seem to be excessive and it did appear that much of the traffic emanated from Board members or other members of staff. The time being taken to deal with these emails does appear to be having a significant detrimental impact on the efficiency of some members of staff.

5.2.4 We did not feel that the location of the office and the space and environment offered are conducive to the core Head Office administration of a modern, vibrant and forward-looking governing body of an Olympic sport. There is a remote feel to the office and the offices are cramped and unsuitable.

5.3  Membership/Customer Services

5.3.1  There is evidence of significant improvement in procedures and processes for dealing with membership applications, renewals and enquiries since the appointment of the CEO and most procedures are documented. The relatively recent introduction of an on-line membership system appears to be working well and there does not appear to be any unreasonable delay in processing the membership applications of those members who choose not to take the on-line option. Similarly we found no tangible evidence of delays in responding to contact from members, clubs or third parties although there is anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

5.4  Head Office budget

5.4.1   The budget handed to us appears to be reasonable for the operation of the Head Office and the management accounts now being produced regularly will enable the CEO and the Board to monitor performance against that budget. However, we were extremely concerned at the number of prospective overruns against that budget as the accounting year draws to a conclusion. These are likely to result in an overspend for the current year and the need to review these areas of expenditure in next year’s budget. The areas of expenditure which attracted our attention were Website Maintenance, Audit and Accountancy Fees, “The Sword”, Marketing Resources and Legal Costs. There is no budget for Website Maintenance so while we were impressed by the standard of the website, the relatively low cost of maintaining it and the on-line membership system which relies upon it we would comment that proper provision must be made for this item in next year’s budget.

While Professional Fees and Audit Fees were both within budget at the end of November, almost £30k had been spent on Accountancy Fees against a zero budget provision. We also identified a number of very significant pending invoices which would push Audit Fees above budget and add to the excess on Accountancy Fees. This seems to be an area of expenditure in urgent need of investigation and/or review.

5.4.2  We cannot comment on the quality, desirability or relevance of “The Sword”, particularly given the improved website, but it does represent a considerable expense out of the income from membership fees. Again, we feel that a review could be worthwhile.

Marketing Resources are another area of expenditure where no budget exists. If it is on- going then the budget for next year needs to include it.

5.4.3   There is a significant overspend on Legal Costs, which accrue at a rate faster than almost any other cost, so if there are ongoing cases they need to be concluded as quickly as possible or the Board must be made aware of the likely extent of this expenditure.

5.4.4  All of the above items, taken together, will seriously damage the resources and viability of the Association if not addressed and managed.


6. Our Conclusions

6.1  We found the staff to be loyal, enthusiastic and committed to British Fencing and to their roles within the organisation but they did not generally feel part of a team and there is no programme of regular staff meetings.  We consider that weaknesses need to be addressed in the areas of structure, leadership and teamwork. We encountered a number of examples of the structure being unsound or of the leadership being ineffective or of the lack of an underlying team ethos. The Board need to address these weaknesses, both cause and effect, and satisfy itself as to the ability of the present management to implement remedial action.

6.2  While we understand that the Board is generally supportive of the CEO and the Senior Management Team (SMT) it is evident from comments made that the CEO and the SMT do not perceive that to be the case.

6.3  As far as operations are concerned, the administrative processes themselves are generally satisfactory but there are some shortcomings in their implementation. The level of service to members appeared to us to be adequate and improving.

6.4  The provision of accounts processing by a temporary staff member and the preparation of accounts reports by an independent consultant is not good governance, although the standard of recording and reporting appears to be adequate.

6.5  The office accommodation is inadequate, unsuitable and poorly located. The Head Office budget is coming under considerable pressure from a number of directions.

Our Recommendations are in section 7 below   –   together with the Actions agreed by the British Fencing Board.

7. Recommendations

7.1  The relationship between the Board, the CEO and the SMT should be reviewed jointly and severally by all concerned to eliminate the present uncertainty and apprehension within the SMT.

ACTION;  The British Fencing Board is determined that all parts of the organisation are together “firing on all cylinders” especially given the challenges of this vital Olympic year.  We have much to do, under our “3G (Green, Grow, Gold) strategy”.  The Board and the SMT will shortly have a weekend conference together to discuss thoroughly all the points raised by Peter King and to resolve any issues. 

7.2   The Board should take steps to address the identified shortcomings in structure, leadership and teamwork to establish the causes and to determine the ability of the present management to implement appropriate remedial action.

ACTION;  The Board will discuss these important findings with the SMT, including at the special conference referred to above; we believe the present management can implement the necessary remedial actions, with the Board’s full support.  We are also putting in hand the appropriate appraisal procedures for the SMT. It is essential that the management and staff can implement effectively the agreed British Fencing strategy, and policies and plans, with the Board’s full support.

7.3  The Senior Management Team should undergo, jointly and severally, a structured training and development programme.

ACTION:  The Chair will discuss with the CEO appropriate management training & development for him and for each senior manager.

7.4  The staff structure should be reviewed with particular reference to the involvement of consultants, temporary staff, part-time staff and staff whose responsibilities are split between more than one aspect of the organisation.

ACTION;  The structure is to be reviewed by the SMT, in the light of Peter King’s comments, but also against the operational plans and budgets for 2012/2013. 

7.5  Particular consideration should be given to the personnel who provide the recording and reporting of accounts and financial information with regard to line management, areas of responsibility and terms of engagement.

ACTION:  After full discussion by the BF Finance Committee, the bookkeeper has now been brought onto the permanent staff, as from 1 February; she reports to Solmann Kikett, hitherto a consultant, who becomes Finance Manager from 1 April. 

7.6  A programme of regular team meetings should be instituted and adhered to at SMT level and within subordinate groups of staff, along with a programme of regular meetings for the whole staff.

ACTION:   The whole HO team will now meet monthly, with minutes kept of matters discussed and actions agreed.  Senior Managers will make sure that individual teams also meet at frequent intervals where currently this does not happen.

7.7  The level of audit and accountancy fees should be investigated.

ACTION:  The Finance Committee Chair will take up the level of fees with the current auditors by the end of February 2012.

7.8  If the present auditors have been in post for more than five years a competitive tender process should be carried out to ensure best value.

ACTION:   British Fencing will have a competitive tender process to be completed by 1 September 2012.

7.9  The location and style of Head Office accommodation should be reviewed in the light of expansion of the Association’s operations in recent years and the geographical spread of the present activity centres.

ACTION:  The Chair is leading a review of different options for a new BF Head Office.  Opportunities are being identified; decisions will be made by the Board by December 2012 latest.

7.10        The range of communication media available to members should be reviewed.  The combined cost of maintaining the website and publishing “The Sword”, with the significant degree of replication of information entailed, does not appear to be justified.

ACTION:  British Fencing is keen to keep enhancing its communications with members, participants, volunteers, partners, etc, and already uses the full range of communication media, inc. Facebook, Twitter, etc.  The Board will review options for publishing “The Sword” that reduce costs and achieve the agreed goals.

7.11        The Board must ensure that the budget for 2012/13 properly reflects planned expenditure and that the anticipated total will fall within available income.  The Board must then closely monitor performance against this budget.

ACTION;  The Finance Committee has a full review under way, and will finalise the budget for 2012/13 by April, in a new format designed to enhance clarity, accuracy and transparency.


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