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?
If I am working in a school with U18s do I need to restrict sessions to groups of 15?
What do I do in the event of a local lockdown?
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?

No. We will be preparing for competition restart but this cannot be done under current government guidance. We do not have any information regarding timescales for competitive indoor events where the activity breaches the 2m social distancing.


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 )

We do not state that face coverings MUST be worn whilst fencing. However it is strongly advisable that they should be worn (for permitted adapted low intensity fencing activity)  and used in accordance with the club and venue risk assessment (which MUST exist) to protect individuals. There are no specific age or fencing activity exemptions indicated by BF.

As the government guidance changes in this area (specifically around age of participant) it is up to clubs to make an appropriate risk assessment for their club environment based on all the relevant factors.

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. Any risk assessment around use of face masks or fencing mask liners for young people MUST include consideration of these aspects.

The information available in the Return to Fencing Guidelines states; Whilst not engaging in activity everyone should wear face coverings. Face coverings should be worn whilst coaching and refereeing. Face coverings can be worn 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. If face coverings are not being used, fencing mask liners should be worn. Where face coverings are used, coaches should adapt lessons and training to keep physical intensity levels low with frequent breaks

Face coverings can also be worn for footwork and warm up activity and intensity levels should be adjusted accordingly.


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

Yes, you should wear a face covering whilst refereeing. 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 be done at 2m social distancing. FIE hand signals should be used to phrase and award hits if necessary.

As competitive fencing has not resumed there is no requirement for refereeing and clubs should adapt their sessions to reduce need and risk in this area where possible.

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?

The guidelines cover club activity and the giving of lessons in a club environment. If fencing coaches are hiring venues for private 1:1 lessons this time limit does not apply. However, coaches 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 a changes to local tier levels/restrictions?

Where BF has previously published guidance relating to the easing of lockdown this may no longer be valid.

Government guidance will typically cover travel restrictions and the numbers of people that can meet, numbers of households and locations, and social distancing measures.

Where changes to tiers/restrictions are announced COVID-19 Officers are required to review the government guidance and any associated 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 15?

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 have the flexibility to agree with the school an increase in the size of the group, based on the size of the venue and the current ‘bubbling’ practices of the school. Other than when two people are fencing (attempting to hit each other with swords, lessons included) all participants in the session must observe 2m social distancing.  Coaches are still advised to run adapted sessions that minimise transmission risk – and therefore splitting the participants up into smaller groups (eg groups of 6-8) for the fencing element of the session should be considered.


The restrictions refer to exemptions for elite athletes? I’ve fenced for GBR, does that mean I can claim the exemption?

No, there are no designated elite athletes in fencing currently permitted to make use of this 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. BF does not currently have such an elite training programme in place. The government guidance sets out details on the responsibilities of NGBs that wish to make use of these exemptions.

Update (10/11/2020) – BF has been receiving a high number of enquiries regarding this exemption.  This is the current situation (which remains valid from 2nd December):

  1. The definition of an ‘elite athlete’ is published by the government, and can be found here:–2
  2. UK Sport has issued further guidance with regards to the interpretation of the ‘elite athlete’ definition which BF is following – which (as fencing is not a professional sport) focusses on athletes that are on an Olympic pathway.
  3. The definition of an ‘elite athlete’ does not extend to fencers aiming at Commonwealth Championships.
  4. All training (S&C, fencing) provided to athletes using the elite exemption must be delivered in accordance with the Elite Return to Training government guidance. This sets out responsibilities on the National Governing Body.–2
  5. BF is piloting one Elite Training Environment (supported by UK Sport funding) to prepare those athletes currently in line to represent GB at the Tokyo Olympic Zonal qualifications.
  6. Athletes participating in this BF Elite Training Environment are currently not permitted to use the elite exemption outside of this environment.
  7. Where Tokyo Zonal qualification athletes are unable to access the BF Elite Training Environment we will work individually with those athletes to identify any other suitable training opportunities (UK based training to conform to Elite Return to Training government guidance, non UK based training to be assessed on a case by case basis)
  8. BF does not currently have the resources to oversee the implementation of further Elite Training Environments.
  9. BF is not the National Governing Body for Wheelchair Fencing. British Disability Fencing (BDF) is responsible for any elite programmes which prepare athletes for the Paralympics.





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.


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