It’s no joke! Today, British Fencing declared its ambitious goal to be the world’s leading fencing nation by 2014. A sport Great Britain are notoriously yet anonymously bad at.
Prompted by the funding boost the sport received in the wake of the 2012 Olympic Games, the British organisation outlined three main aims to be reached within eight years. Each one is as outlandish as the last:
. Britain will be recognised as the world’s leading fencing nation;
. Membership of British Fencing will exceed 50,000; and
. British Fencing will be considered Britain’s best sports governing body.
British Fencing has admitted that these are long term goals that will be tough to achieve. Unbelievably, they have also admitted they have absolutely no idea exactly how to get there. They place the focus on local fencing clubs but faith in the “grass roots” of an “elite” sport is only going take you so far.
Keen to boost the profile of a sport that nobody in this country cares about, Sport Britain outlines five ways to make the United Kingdom a leading fencing nation:
1. Depth in talent
Great Britain seem to be a long way off obtaining an Olympic medal. The last – and only – gold medal was way back in 1956 when Gillian Sheen won the women’s individual foil. The next two Games brought us two further silver medals but the medal table has been barren of British fencing medals since then.
Even if a British fencer performed miracles and won an Olympic medal in Rio, we wouldn’t suddenly become a leading fencing nation. Not even close. It requires sustained success at the top level, including European and World Championships. British Cycling is understandably regarded as one of the top organisations in the world, particularly on the track side. The road racers aren’t bad, either. When Britain’s fencers dominate the several events in 2024, then we’ll be the leading nation.
2. Continued funding
Great, UK Sport provided British Fencing with an extra 22.56% for the next four-year cycle, a modest increase of £600,000. The likes of Natalia Sheppard need more than that to get past the Round of 32 next time around. Should they fail to reach the targets set of them, then they can wave goodbye to their funding and future medal chances. It happened to basketball and handball, there’s no reason to say why fencing won’t fall foul after Brazil.
3. Media interest
For people to get involved in fencing, people need to know about and be interested in it. There’s little to differentiate the sport’s individual nature from the likes of golf, yet the sport about to be inducted into the 2016 Olympics has far more participation in this country. True, this country is one of the sport’s hotbeds of talent and not all countries can be good at every sport, but if British Fencing want participation to increase in their sport, then they need televised coverage and news updates from the big media outlets.
4. A decline in global fencing
Slightly cynical, but if Britain are become the leading fencing nation, other leading nations are going have to suffer a severe drop in stature. Italy won three of the available ten gold medals in London, plus two more silvers and bronzes that included a clean sweep in the women’s individual foil. If Britain are to aspire to these heights, Italy are going to need to boycott the 2014 Games for whatever reason.
No, no. Sport Britain doesn’t advocate the systematic doping procedures that have rocked cycling. The suggestion isn’t as insane as the three goals laid out by British Fencing, though.