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 prior to 31st July please contact British Fencing. We will work with you to help navigate the Roadmap and what that might mean for planning a competition.  As of 12th April indoor competitions could be held with up to 15 U18 fencers.


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 )

The majority of indoor venues will require people (other than those with legal exemptions) to wear face coverings at all 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 should be worn whilst coaching (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 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.
  • Indoors – In the absence of face coverings, fencing mask liners are recommended (but not required) for community groups consisting of fencers aged 11 and over when participating in 1:1 lessons and sparring

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 changes in this area it is up to clubs to make an appropriate risk assessment for their club environment based on all the relevant factors.

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 face coverings, 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 should wear a face covering whilst refereeing unless you are legally exempt (in which case you should wear a visor). 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.

Until competitive fencing resumes there is no requirement for formal 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 changes to restrictions?

Where BF has previously published guidance relating to the easing of lockdown this is subject to change as the restrictions ease in accordance with government guidance.

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

This will be different in Scotland, England, 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 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?

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 has been 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.

Additional notes:

  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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