30/11/2020- Covid 19

Update to Fencing Specific Adaptations for Sparring

Following review, BF publishes updated guidance in relation to fleching and close quarter sparring between members.

(Note added 03/12/2020. This announcement is specifically about the adaptations to fencing where fencing activity is permitted. Fencing and other sporting activity is still restricted in many parts of the country. Before engaging in any activity please check your local/tier restrictions – more info here.)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues we are continually reviewing the fencing specific adaptations that we put in place.

Earlier this year, BF and the Home Nations created and published our Return to Fencing plan. Following this we published our specific guidance covering community fencing in clubs, which was submitted to DCMS and Sport England for review.

At the time, we chose to adapt our sport in the same way for all, from beginner to competitive athletes representing GBR to reduce confusion and avoid mixed messages around restrictions and guidelines.

Since then a large number of our clubs and coaches have joined our community discussion events to collaborate on implementing these guidelines to help support a safer return to fencing.

A number of coaches and members have asked us to review the rules and risks regarding use of fleching and close quarter actions in advanced competitive sparring, particularly in relation to those members who plan to return to high level domestic or international fencing.

The outcome of the review is as follows:

The measures adopted at the start of the pandemic are likely to have a significantly higher negative impact over a period of time on the development of competitive fencers aiming to compete at top domestic (GBR team qualification competitions) and international level once these opportunities resume.

Fencers with the existing ability to perform fleches and close quarter actions at an advanced competitive standard (speed, control, technique) do not significantly increase the risk of body contact or the amount of time spent closer than 2m within a bout. It is the view of BF that the small increased risk of permitting these actions for those types of fencers during competitive sparring can be offset by a series of measures.

We are not satisfied that the same applies to other types of fencing. Examples of fencing that is not of advanced competitive standard would include beginner/recreational/non-competitive sparring and all pairs work. We are concerned that permitting these actions for this level of fencing activity is more likely to lead to a significant increase in the length of time spent in close quarter distance and body contact.

Therefore, from 2nd December the BF Guidelines for Fencing in England will be updated as follows:

1. All fencing
Corps a corps and any actions that result in body contact are not permitted.

2. Advance Competitive Standard Sparring
Clubs may permit two fencers to spar/fence each other ‘normally’ ie include fleching/running attacks and close quarter moves provided all the following measures are in place:

  1. Both fencers are of sufficient technical and evidenced competitive competency. To be assessed by a L2 or above BF registered coach. Indicators include:
    – a technical ability to execute the moves correctly at competitive speed with no body contact
    – prior advanced competitive record (BF/FIE rankings, GBR selections)an
    – intention to return to advanced competition (BF U20 or Full compete membership)
  2. An updated risk club assessment is uploaded into the BF platform
  3. The activity is taking place in Covid-19 government guideline compliant venues
  4. Face-coverings (low intensity) and/or mask liners (higher intensity) are in use by both fencers
  5. Temperature checks are in place on arrival
  6. After each hit both fencers return immediately return to a position 2m or more apart
  7. Existing bout limits are strictly adhered to

The Covid Officer and Coach are responsible for risk assessing this and noting the decision. For each session the Covid Officer records:

  • that the activity is taking place
  • the fencers have been reminded of the protocols (we recommend this is added to the briefing already in place at every session)
  • the names of the fencers involved and the approximate time spent competitive sparring
  • confirmation these mitigation steps are in place.

Should any club member test positive, these anonymised records must be provided to the BF Medical Officer to assist with our ongoing efforts to monitor the effectiveness of the guidelines and support our efforts to lobby for relaxation of restrictions particularly in areas where no fencing is currently permitted.

3. All other fencing in clubs
Including pairs work, beginners classes, recreational fencing:

  1. Deliberate close quarter actions and any actions that breach the 1m distancing are not permitted.
  2. Fleching/running attacks are not permitted.


Lessons: With regards to lessons, deliberate repetition of these moves in or from a static position within 2m (in a way that would not happen in competent competitive sparring) is a concern. Therefore close quarter training where distance is 1m or less is not permitted in lessons. Fleching is permitted based on the competency and mitigation indicators as listed above.


The BF Return to Fencing Guidance will be updated to reflect this announcement and will be published here.

If you have any queries regarding this and other announcements please contact us using this form. Many of the queries we receive are answered in our guidance and resources here so we strongly recommend reading this in advance of contacting us.


BF 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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