29/06/2015- Latest News


Over the last 12 months, British Fencing, supported by Sport England and other partners, has transformed its approach to increasing participation in the 14-25yr old market.

Earlier this year Sport England confirmed financial commitment to British Fencing to support its new insight-led Growth Strategy based on the development of attractive, participant focused opportunities for 14-25 yr olds to take part in community fencing.  

The 2015-17 growth strategy is based on four key principles:

  1. develop ‘new style’ fencing experiences to respond to participant preferences;
  2. create a workforce that’s equipped to deliver insight led experiences;
  3. establish new partnerships with national level organisations to better connect with potential new participants and deliver networks of participation opportunities, and;
  4. work closely with selected fencing clubs & providers, to support both the delivery of these opportunities and subsequent retention of participants in local areas.

The Sport England target is to attract over 3000 new young people by March 2017, retaining 60% of them in regular fencing activity.

Over the last few months, the Development Director, working with internal colleagues and external partners has been driving forward the delivery of this strategy. British Fencing also has a strategy for Talent and the World Class Programme, plus work is underway on a Membership Strategy.

An important first step was to establish a Development Team with the right skills and knowledge to ensure the strategy is successful and ultimately sustainable. The recruitment process started in April 2015, alongside a review of internal Development staff. As a result, British Fencing has now established a team of people that between them have the right mix of skills, knowledge and industry connections to increase participation in fencing.

Whilst not all the new members of the Development Team have direct experience in delivering fencing, they do have a track record of delivering new participation programmes in a variety of sports. In managing these programmes they have demonstrated the ability to create a successful participation framework by bringing together all the fundamental elements – the partners, venues, equipment, coaches, marketing collateral and so forth.

To deliver against the four key principles of our growth strategy the following staff members that make up the Development Team will play a leading role in their respective areas of delivery:

  • Participation Programme Manager (Higher Education (HE)) – James Szymik a Sports Science and Nutrition graduate, joins us from The Rugby Football League where he established a participant centred offer for the HE sector using customer insight and led by the strategic priorities of the HE sector, Sport England and the NGB. With a re-brand of the University programme including a new website, social media channels (attracting over 3000 followers) and an online marketing portal for clubs, he delivered a 38% increase in the number of registered participants since 2014. Furthermore, by re-structuring the BUCS competition programme and introducing interventions to increase the number of people committing to fixtures, Rugby League delivered a fixtures completion rate of 98%.

James also has hands on event experience, delivering several international competitions and major international tours, including the design of volunteer placement programmes across events, media and match officials, leading to a significant increase in traffic on web and social media platforms. James’s passion however lies in the HE sector – a sector that he believes can offer significant opportunity for all National Governing Bodies to drive participation and develop a network of participant centric focussed coaches, leaders, officials and other volunteers.

James will lead on British Fencing’s HE offer – one that enhances student experience using a customer led approach, which will be delivered in a select number of universities across England. 

  • Participation Programme Manager (Youth) – Virginia Bailey joins British Fencing from Women In Sport, a charity that draws on its unique insight to champion the right of every woman and girl in the UK to take part in sport. Her expertise lies in her ability to understand girls’ perceptions of sport and respond by creating an attractive and suitable product for girls within different environments. Whilst at Women in Sport, Virginia led on a Department for Health funded project using ground-breaking research ‘Changing the Game for Girls’ – a national schools project creating innovative ways of engaging girls by shaping programmes designed by young girls, for young girls.

Virginia has a Masters in Events Management and a degree in Sports Science & Coaching with IT. In 2012 she worked for LOCOG and with FIFA managing the ‘Field of Play’. Here she led a team of both adult and young Games Makers, to ensure the delivery of a successful world-class football tournament at the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. Now, in a her spare time she is the Netball Europe Competition Manager where she has organised and delivered three annual world class European Netball competitions to date.

Virginia will lead on and develop further a British Fencing Youth offer – one that responds to our young customer insights, needs and passions, of which will be delivered in a select number of youth groups operating within England. 

  • Participation Business Manager – James Craig joins us from Badminton England where he established a new national account that became the largest leisure operator partner for Badminton England involving 60 leisure centres working with the ‘PlayBadminton framework’. James also helped Badminton partners access over £150,000 via a capital investment programme to improve Badminton opportunities for the local community, resulting in an increase in participation by 65%. 

James is excited by the opportunity with British Fencing, specifically how fencing can keep people participating in sport through programmes designed to meet participant needs by reaching out to new partners and audiences. He strongly believes that the community sport sector can drive player pathways but also enable other tangible benefits that only sport can provide.  

James will initially focus his attention on reviewing the existing Development services and products to identify and deliver improvements that will create the right portfolio for British Fencing and its’ members that is sustainable, financially resilient and ensures growth within our sport.

  • Coaching Development Manager – Steve Kemp moved into the sport industry in 1998 as a coach and fitness instructor and has been involved in coaching since 1996. Steve joins us from the Oxfordshire Sports partnership and with an MSc in Sports Coaching. As a qualified Level 3 Rugby Coach and a SCUK tutor, he has worked for the Rugby Football Union where he created a talent identification and development programme for junior players and worked on the development of a coach education programme with elite coaches to share ideas, insight and personal philosophy. He also established the coaching and club structure at Oxford Brookes University. Steve’s coaching development expertise extends further as a member of the “Movement Science Group” at Oxford Brookes University. Here he advises on local sporting research interventions and has assisted with academic paper on “coaches perceptions to coaching disabled participants”.

Steve brings a wealth of coaching development expertise with him to British Fencing, coupled with hands on experience and knowledge about the importance of creating a participant centric workforce in order to attract and keep people involved in sport.

Steve’s role is critical within British Fencing from grass roots through to the Podium. Working across Development, Talent and the World Class Programme, he will lead on the creation of a coaching development programme that a) empowers and supports a network of coaches and leaders to grow the sport at a grass root level, and b) drives coaching excellence at every stage of the coach pathway which is central to the delivery of a highly successful world-class fencing programme.

  • Project Officer, Neil Brown will continue to work within the Development Team part time, managing the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence (AASE) programme, whilst also better connecting the work of Development and Talent in his new role as Performance Co-ordinator – Talent.
  • Intern, Satish Thakuri continues to co-ordinate all current workforce opportunities.

If you or your club are interested in working with British Fencing on delivery of these participation opportunities, please look out for related announcements which will be posted on our website, and sent via email to our registered clubs and coaches.

The intention is to provide a series of strategic updates from the Development Director on a monthly basis – we hope you have found it useful and welcome any feedback.

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