International Refereeing

Last updated – 09.09.2022

Once you have gained a Level 3 qualification you are ready to start refereeing internationally. The route to FIE examinations requires refereeing young people internationally and as a result welfare and additional GBR policies apply.

Step 1.  Get a Criminal Record Check

GBR Referees travelling to international EFC Cadet competitions are required to have a current enhanced DBS check (or the Home Country equivalent) and ensure that they are familiar with current BF welfare policies and practices.

It is strongly recommended that referees who frequently referee children attend a Safeguarding and Protecting Children in Sports course.

Step 2. Familiarise yourself with GBR policies

Step 3. Referee Abroad at EFC Cadet Competitions

Once you have a level 3 qualification and are ready to progress then the EFC cadet nominated and non-nominated competitions will be your starting place.

Referees that have applied and been accepted onto part of the Referee Pathway Program will be given priority in the annual allocation process for selection to the nominated EFC cadet competitions each season in order to achieve their EFC C grade.

Step 4. Be awarded a C Grade by the EFC

The EFC C Grade is a qualification set by both the EFC and FIE. Referees are  required by the FIE to achieve a C Grade in a weapon prior to submission for an FIE refereeing exam in that weapon.

To be awarded a C Grade a referee must achieve a mark of 4 or 5 in a minimum of 5 EFC competitions from an EFC observer within a maximum of 2 seasons. C Grades are awarded at the end of the EFC Cadet season. More Information can be found in the recent information letter (dated June 20th 2018) attached here.   Unfortunately the C Grade license is only valid for two seasons.

The role of an EFC observer is to help prepare candidates for any forthcoming FIE exams and improve refereeing knowledge. The observer will keep records from having observed referees at EFC competitions and will report back directly to the FIE arbitrage both any concerns and commendations. A referee intending to become a successful international referee must ensure they demonstrate professionalism and exemplary behaviour at all times.

An addendum to the current EFC C grade observation is that if a referee scores less than 2 in any competition they will not be able to act as an international  referee for the rest of that season,

More information can be found in the attached letter here.

Step 5. Attend FIE Training and pass mock FIE Examinations (BF Level 4)

Step 6. Pass an FIE Exam in 1st Weapon

Applicants for the weapon specific FIE refereeing qualification should have international refereeing experience at Cadet level as well as significant domestic experience and hold a minimum of one Level 3 referee qualification. Those on the referee pathway will be given priority. Please note that further conditions may be set by the FIE eg regarding gender diversity.

It is important to note that once qualified the FIE require a 10 year commitment to refereeing at this level, but enforce retirement (at Junior/Senior level) the season after your 60th birthday, so those who are within 10 years of this date are less likely to be put forward for their 1st FIE licence.

Candidates for exams will need to commit to being available for 15 international competitions over a 3-year period, although it may be fewer competitions in reality.

Information about the process to be put forward for the exam can be found here: FIE REFEREE EXAM SELECTION PROCEDURES 

Step 7. Gain FIE Experience

Nominated Junior World Cups are subject to selection procedures. You may volunteer your services for any FIE Satellite or non nominated JWC through the BF Head Office  and BF will pass your contact details to the athletes competing. For more information click here.

Step 8. Gain a 2nd Weapon FIE Qualification & Experience

Repeat the above steps 3. to 7. to gain an FIE qualification and experience in a second weapon

Step 9. Cadet & Junior European and World Championships

The EFC and FIE define the process by which referees will be selected for major events, usually form the EFC or FIE Master Lists. This may include approaching the federations for FIE level referee candidates that fulfil the selection criteria. In those cases BF will then announce this publicly on the website. Those suitably qualified can then submit their application. The International Selectors will then nominate the  referees. The successful referees applications will be to submitted to the FIE who will then nominate referees from this. British Fencing will inform all applicants whether they have been successful prior to announcing it on the website.

Step 10. Senior World Cups/Grand Prix’s and other major events

Referees for senior European and World Cups and above (ie Olympics) are not selected by British Fencing but directly by the FIE from the FIE Master List. They are required to hold a FIE A or B qualification in two weapons and be considered to be actively refereeing by the FIE.

Additional considerations when planning your FIE career

When planning your FIE career it is prudent to consider how much time you have to commit to international refereeing and your personal development beyond the first FIE exam.  If you are serious about selection onto the FIE Master List, within two seasons of qualifying, you will be

  • expected to be refereeing into the mid-later stages of JWC DE’s
  • be planning or sitting your second weapon FIE exam

Therefore the timing of when you sit your first exam is critical, so you can dedicate appropriate time in the following 2-4 years prior to being put forward for the FIE Master List.


Useful Links


Rules around referee quotas and fines can be found on the FIE website here, o.25 and o.31. 

Rules around referee quotas and fines can be found on the EFC website here.


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