Return to Fencing – FAQ’s on Guidance issued for Indoor Fencing


Questions on this page
Can I run a fencing competition?
Do I have to wear a face covering at all times?
Do I have to wear a face covering whilst refereeing? What if I can’t be heard?
As a coach do I have to restrict indoor fencing lessons to 30min?
What do I do in the event of a changes to restrictions?
If I am working in a school with U18s do I need to restrict sessions to groups of 15?
The restrictions refer to exemptions for elite athletes? I’ve fenced for GBR, does that mean I can claim the exemption?


Can I run a fencing competition?

If you are looking to run a competition in England please contact British Fencing. We will work with you to help navigate the competition protocols and what that might mean for planning a competition.


Do I have to wear a face covering at all times?

(Please note a fencing mask IS NOT considered a face covering – face covering is a generic term for the face masks used in daily life)

BF strongly recommends the use of face coverings when not engaging in aerobic/physical exercise such as fencing (unless exempt).

The majority of indoor venues are expected to still require people (other than those with legal exemptions) to wear face coverings at certain times. This may or may not include wearing face coverings whilst engaging in certain types of physical activity.

BF does not state that face coverings MUST be worn whilst fencing,


The BF position is:

  • Face coverings are still recommended for use whilst coaching indoors (excluding lessons, see below) and refereeing. Hand signals should be used where possible in place of verbal signals.
  • Face coverings and/or mask liners are not required when fencing outdoors although individual participants may choose to continue using these.
  • Individuals can choose to use face coverings or mask liners under fencing masks for low intensity training. Participants (fencers and coaches) wearing face coverings should monitor their breathing and heart rate and take regular breaks. Where face coverings are used, coaches should adapt lessons and training to keep physical intensity levels low with frequent breaks.
  • Clubs may choose (subject to their risk assessment) to require the use of mask liners or face coverings for those people that are not exempt.

With that context it is up to individual community clubs to set out their policies for face coverings and mask liners in accordance with the club and venue risk assessment (which MUST exist) to protect individuals.

As the government guidance or local infection rates change it is up to clubs to make an appropriate risk assessment for their club environment based on all the relevant factors.

Clubs may choose to continue to put in place other risk mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of transmission where face coverings/mask liners are not in use. For example, during 1:1 fencing activity younger fencers are typically shorter which requires them to get closer to hit each other. They may also not be as technically able to retreat from attacks and thus be spending longer time at closer distances. Whilst one possible mitigation is use of mask liners, an alternative mitigation strategy would be to reduce the time spent in 1:1 sparring element, and use constraint coaching methods to limit certain moves.


Do I have to wear a face covering whilst refereeing? What if I can’t be heard?

Yes, you are strongly recommended to wear a face covering or a visor whilst refereeing unless you are legally exempt. Shouting, particularly inside, increases the risk of transmission.  Wearing of a face covering by a referee protects the fencers as well as the referee. All refereeing activities should maximise social distancing where possible. FIE hand signals should be used to phrase and award hits if necessary.

For indoor ranking events it is likely to be mandatory for referees (and other event volunteers) to wear face coverings or visors unless they are exempt.

In the event that a person (coach/referee) needs to oversee an activity and is concerned that participants cannot hear/see instructions to start or stop, we recommend the use of electronic whistles. These should be sanitised between uses.


As a coach do I have to restrict indoor fencing lessons to 30min?

There is no requirement to restrict lesson lengths. Coaches/clubs must perform and retain their risk assessment. This must include risk mitigation plans including consideration of factors such as lesson length, content, intensity etc in light of the guidance issued by the government and BF.


What do I do in the event of changes to restrictions?

Where BF has previously published guidance this is subject to change in accordance with government guidance.

Guidance will be different in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Where changes to restrictions are announced COVID-19 Officers are required to review the government guidance and any associated Home Nation/BF guidance and update their risk assessments before engaging in any activity.

In updating the risk assessment, the priority of the guidelines is as follows:

  • The Government Guidelines – must be followed, at all times
  • Facility Guidelines – these may have changed in light of change of restrictions and may vary according to venue
  • BF Guidelines – specifically in relation to the type of fencing activity that can be performed.  For example, if strict 2m social distancing measures are in place this means people cannot engage in fencing activity where one person is hitting another person with a sword (lessons, adapted sparring and so forth).


If I am working in a school (with U18s) do I need to restrict sessions to groups of certain sizes?

If you are delivering to pupils in a school (either in curriculum or as part of an after school club only for pupils of that school) then coaches should agree with the school the size of the group. This might be based on the size of the venue and any current ‘bubbling’ practices of the school.

Coaches are still advised to run adapted sessions that minimise transmission risk – eg splitting the participants up into smaller groups (eg groups of 6-8) for the fencing element of the session should be considered, use of hand sanitisation protocols and maximising social distancing where possible.


What about any exemptions for elite athletes? I’ve fenced for GBR, does that mean I can claim the exemption?

The exemptions for Elite athletes exist to allow National Governing Bodies (NGBs) to continue delivering elite training programmes (eg World Class Programmes) usually at elite training centres to support athletes on a path to the Olympics. Prior to COVID, BF did not have such an elite training programme in place, however with the support of UK Sport, BF was able to support a small number of athletes in preparing for Olympic (Tokyo) qualification. The government guidance sets out details on the responsibilities of NGBs that wish to make use of these exemptions.

There are no current plans to continue providing any Elite Training Environments or Elite Exemptions after Tokyo due to restrictions being lifted sufficiently for athletes to be able to train in their clubs, and the fact that there is no benefit in relation to international travel/competition. This position will be reviewed on a regular basis.



If you have any other questions that aren’t on this list please fill out the form here and we will come back to you.


Also make sure you check out the guidelines in full here.


We will continue to update our COVID-19 advice here.  You can also subscribe to our new weekly summary email featuring the previous week’s latest news and announcements. Sign up here.



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