02/07/2018- Governance Notices

An Open Letter to the Fencing Community

As UK Sport looks ahead to Paris 2024 with a new public consultation, the athletes within the sports, including fencing, cast aside by UK Sport’s current investment policy have little hope for change.

Your say in this consultation (https://survey.euro.confirmit.com/wix/1/p1865845301.aspx) will influence how our athletes are supported in the future.

At the London 2012 Games, UK Sport invested the public’s Lottery money into 70% of Olympic and Paralympic sports. At Rio 2016 this figure reduced to 64% and in Tokyo 2020, the investment is likely to be in the region of just 48%. With less lottery investment predicted post 2020, UK Sport’s policy is fast becoming an exclusive club with fewer and fewer members allowed in.

This approach has to end and I am writing to you to urge you to have your say on how you want the future investment into the British elite sports system to be used. Should the current policy continue, the implications for fencing are huge because our sport is not one where the income from membership is sufficient to cover any costs of our elite athletes, and financial support from other sources (Sponsorship, Charity donations) is limited.

Despite meeting targets set by UK Sport in Rio, and the improving results of our top athletes we are still unable to convince UK Sport to fund fencing. Yet without funding our athletes will struggle to ever achieve the results necessary to demonstrate they can win medals at the Olympics. Fencing is one of many sports left wondering what it has to do to receive investment that can support our current athletes and our future potential.

Since UK Sports investment decision in December 2016, the impact on our sport has been significant:

  • British Fencing’s performance programme has been completely decimated as the ‘medals at all cost’ funding policy has started to unravel the opportunities, infrastructure and pathways for future medal success in fencing.
  • We have seen talented senior athletes retiring or leaving fencing because they cannot afford to compete and we cannot afford to support them.
  • We have less athletes in our senior squads, fewer athletes travelling to competitions, fewer top class coaches working in our environment and no sports science and medical support.

Around 18 months ago, a group of Olympic and Paralympic sports came together around the concept that Every Sport Matters.  The group strongly believe that:

  • The existing approach to National Lottery funding of Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic sports has created a two-class system (those that are fully funded and those that have nothing) that runs counter to Olympic ideals.
  • Opportunities for elite British athletes in all Olympics and Paralympics sports need not run counter to the pursuit of medals.  More sports competing and more athletes delivering more medals will make Great Britain even prouder.
  • Medal targets alone should not be the sole criteria for funding because UK Sport has a responsibility to ensure that all our Olympic and Paralympic athletes are encouraged to achieve their potential
  • An investment system should be developed whereby every Olympic and Paralympic sport would receive ‘baseline funding’ – this would protect the high-performance system in the UK.    If this approach were applied for the Tokyo Olympic cycle, the money required to provide baseline funding for those sports that are currently unfunded would represent a little over 1% of UK Sport’s total budget of £550 million for the cycle.

We believe there is an opportunity to create a new, bold, inclusive goal to underpin the next 20+ years of participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games: more sports (represented), more athletes (qualified) and more medals (won across more sports).

This goal can be achieved without sacrificing current medal success.  But it will require a change in UK Sport’s current approach to one in which the leading Olympic and Paralympic sports will continue to be rewarded and all sports and all Olympic and Paralympic athletes will have a chance to succeed.

You are all passionate about fencing and I hope you are as proud as I am when our fencers stand on the podium, not just because of their achievements, but because we know it inspires kids to fence in schools, more people to participate, more members to join clubs, more fencers who want to improve and more fencers who want to compete.

I want to keep the dream alive for those young fencers in every weapon who look to follow in the footsteps of Richard Kruse and every other fencer who sets out to make our sport proud.

I am calling on you all to have your say – https://survey.euro.confirmit.com/wix/1/p1865845301.aspx – in the hope that UK Sport, and the Government, will help us keep those dreams alive.


Georgina Usher

CEO, British Fencing



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