Including the responsibilities of Referees.
British Fencing clearly states that the welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility, particularly when it comes to protecting children from abuse. Everyone in fencing – administrator, club official, coach, parent, friend and children themselves – can help by reporting any suspected abuse.
Abuse can occur anywhere – at home, at school, in the park, at the club and even in fencing competitions.
In competitions, it can manifest itself in a number of ways but often from parents of new fencers who are not familiar with fencing’s customs. This has included weapons being used to inflict discomfort as a tactic (in a county competition!), over enthusiastic parents living through their children and engaging in intimidatory behaviour against young opponents.
Coaching from the sidelines has become ‘accepted’, unfortunately, but the rules are there to support the referee if he needs them.
British Fencing has a full Child Protection and Welfare policy and process in place and encourages all clubs with U18 fencers to have an independent Welfare Officer.
England Fencing – London Region has a Welfare Officer (see Committee) and has an appointed Welfare Officer at all competitions.
If anyone has any concerns about the treatment of children at a competition, by coaches, referees, parents or other fencing personnel they should report them to the competition organisers, usually found in the DT office.
It may be helpful to outline some of the most important fencing regulations surrounding these issues and remembering that the Referee has the final say in these matters on the piste.
Referees should also be aware of their duties detailed in FIE rule t.96 and of the Directoire Technique (DT) under t.97. Remember that FIE regulations apply to fencing competitions at all levels
Fencing has integrity at the heart of it’s sport and the framework of its regulations is good for young children at all stages of their life in and outside the sport. Parents are advised to look up the rules and explain the spirit behind them to their children.
The full rules, including those quoted below, are available online http://britishfencing.com/governance/rules/
Rule t.82 covers maintenance of order including the customs of courtesy and integrity, preventing people going near the piste, or giving advice to fencers, criticising the referee or insulting or influencing them. It also says the Referee must stop immediately any activity that disturbs the smooth running of the bout and punishments are laid down in t.114, t.118 and t.120 (use of the coloured card system). This includes black carding (ie excluding) members of the public and spectators. See t.93 and t.108
t.83 (Expulsion) applies to any person who by gestures, attitude or language, disturbs the good order or smooth running of the event
t.87, Fencing Etiquette, states that all bouts must preserve the character of a courteous and frank encounter. Irregular actions such as jostling, disorderly fencing and irregular movements on the piste or hits achieved with violence are strictly forbidden.
t.84 is the Pledge of Honour that all fencers take, simply by entering a competition, to honour these rules
t.120 is a table of offences and penalties that applies to all competitions and t.114-t.119 describes their application
Jostling, disorderly fencing, hits made with violence are in group 1 (yellow card for first offence, red for subsequent meaning point awarded against).
Dangerous, violent or vindictive action, a blow with guard or pommel are group 2 offences. (red for all offences)
Persons not on the piste disturbing good order is in group 3 (yellow first warning, black on 2nd.
An ‘offence against sportsmanship’ is in group 4 incurring an automatic black card. This includes failing to salute the referee or opponent or spectators before or after a bout.
As with all rules, there is scope for interpretation (offence against sportsmanship? Good Order?) but in the end the referee must be obeyed. t.84
If you feel the referee is not applying the rules or powers available to him then you may appeal to the DT.
It is the case that while many referees are familiar with the rules on fencing itself they should also have the knowledge of their ‘keeping good order’ duties and of the powers they have to manage it and should therefore have the confidence to apply them.
The best approach to avoid disputes is for the ground rules to be stated before a bout so that everyone is aware of what will and will not be permitted by the referee. Eg requesting that onlookers desist from anything other than encouragement during a final.
Fencing is supposed to be fun and young fencers in a final are under enough pressure without having to put up with bullying or intimidation from adults let alone their peers.
The impact of such poor behaviour on young people is very damaging to their personal development; it is not “character building”, certainly not in a positive way, and should not be condoned at any level.
Fencing is a great sport and with everyone’s goodwill, support and vigilance, it will continue to be so.