The Commonwealths?

I have been asked a very good question. (Answer expanded thanks to comments received)

Why is Fencing not part of the Commonwealth Games?

Referring to Wikipedia you will see that with England winning 37 of 44 All-time Gold medals and only 6 nations figuring on the medal table at all over the period from 1950 to 1970, when fencing was included, there were grounds for deeming it not sufficiently inclusive at the time.

So, since then the Commonwealth Fencing Championships have been held every 4 years in the same year as the Games. This year it is, of course more confusing than in most years as both events are very close to each other in timing and geographically as they are both in England.

Might this change? Hilary Philbin, who is President of British Fencing does say in the 2020- 2021 Annual Report that she continues to be a member of the Commonwealth Fencing Federation Commission and that their long-term aim is to get fencing reinstated. So there is some hope.

To expand on the rather superficial explanation in the original post, Alex Savin, who, this year, is organising the Championships for the hosts, England Fencing has very kindly pointed out that the situation is “slightly more nuanced than Englands prevalence in the medal table… Fencing has historically been a sport with relatively low participation across the Commonwealth, particularly in the African and Caribbean nations. Additionally, it is often deemed to not be spectator-friendly to the fencing novice, and requires significant outlay in costs to put on even a modest sized event with the necessary bells and whistles.

“That combined with the historic dissociation between the Olympic and Paralympic disciplines on the Commonwealth stage (parafencing has not been at any previous commonwealth fencing event) has made fencing a hard sell for inclusion in the Games, particularly at a time when sports are being dropped from the Games.

“That said, a large part of the 2022 organisation has been geared towards laying the foundations for a strong case for inclusion in the Games in 2-3 cycles so there’s something to hope for!”

Jen Sancroft has further helpfully added that

“there are essentially 3 layers of commonwealth sport;

  1. Core sports e.g. athletics, which feature in every commonwealth games
  2. Rotational sports e.g. judo which feature occasionally in the commonwealth games but some cycles, are excluded and have their own championship instead
  3. Development sports e.g. fencing. Development sports tend to have historically had involvement in the main games but as highlighted by Savin, they have specific deficiencies or areas to be improved before they can be considered to become a rotational sport again. The work being done for this championship on inclusion is a considerable step towards achieving some of those development goals but needs to be repeated successfully to be seen as tackling the issues longer term.”

An encouraging precedent is the inclusion of Fencing in the European Games which is a multi event games, the next edition of which will be next year. The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted this in the draft selection policy published for consultation recently. As for the Olympics, the selection policy will be separate from the usual one.

So all that combined should give you a pretty clear picture of what the situation is.

Don’t forget that spectating is free and there is a huge amount of excellent fencing to watch! So invite your non fencing friends, get out your flags and other fan apparatus and get down to there from 9 August!

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