At the July Board meeting of British Fencing (BF), we decided that the Chairman would send a regular update to members on behalf of the Board. So here is the first one.
These updates will inform members of the discussions and decisions taken at Board meetings, including any significant strategy and policy updates. It is not an operational update and should complement other communications from BF (and we will still publish minutes of the individual Board meetings online).
I welcome your feedback on this first communication.
In the July meeting we reviewed the provisional end of year accounts produced by Finance Director David Moseley (pre-audit), which showed a small deficit for the year ending 31st March 2017, which is over £30,000 better than budget. In a very difficult year for BF (with the closure of our UK Sport funded World Class Programme), this is a pleasing result and largely due to the great efforts of BF staff in managing limited resources. Within this discussion the Board noted that membership numbers have risen significantly, which is excellent news for the longer term sustainability of the sport.
The Board expressed a desire for a minimal increase membership fees in line with inflation at the AGM in late September, to be discussed with the Home Countries Working Group in accordance with the existing Membership Scheme arrangements.
The Board also confirmed the budget for 2017/18, approved earlier in the year in March 2017. Two parts of the budget are ring-fenced (Talent and Sport England Projects and Programmes), which means that they are funded by Sport England, not BF. Sport England also contribute a small amount to the running costs of our core operations, on behalf of members. Without this contribution, we would need to grow our membership and commercial revenues significantly to cover core costs, which is the Board’s intention to ensure we can continue to operate in an environment with year on year reduction in public funding.
BF already have a “green” rating from Sport England / UK Sport for governance but with the launch of the new Sports Governance Code in 2016, we have a further small number of changes to make. It is the Board’s intention to be one of the first National Governing Bodies to comply fully with the new code, thus ensuring that we are eligible for continued public funding. The Board approved two changes that must be brought to the members at the AGM. These are to reduce the maximum number of directors from thirteen to twelve (currently only possible in exceptional circumstances anyway) and increase the time before a director can be re-appointed after serving two consecutive terms. Full details will be published in due course. We also approved one change in the Bye-laws, required to meet the Code, which will help ensure that the Board has the best skills needed to manage BF.
The Board approved a number of items in relation to risk management and terms of reference for sub-committees.
We agreed a new BF Communications Strategy, while acknowledging the very limited resources we have to implement this. In the context on the annual Board evaluation, we agreed to pilot this communication. In addition we discussed our policy in relation to inappropriate content on social media.
We agreed that the latter is regretfully part of the society we live in and it is not BF’s role to “moderate” all online discussions about fencing. However, content that is defamatory or abusive towards staff, athletes or volunteers would not be accepted and, where necessary, BF would take action.
Performance Pathway and Talent Pathway
The Board had an excellent presentation from Steve Garrett, Talent Pathway Manager, on plans for the Sport England Talent program, as well as an update from Georgina Usher, CEO, on the Performance Pathway and the closure of the WCP (see previous update here). The Talent program will be athlete-centred, collaborative and progression based and will strive to share and build on the knowledge the sport has learnt in recent years (update here). The upper age limit on part of the programme (Performance Foundation) has been raised to U23 and planning for the Talent Development Centre pilot is well underway.
The WCP has now finished and the Board thanked Alex Newton for her professional approach to transition and her significant contribution to the sport in recent years. Selection policies for seniors and juniors, recently approved by the Board, have now been published and selectors announced.
The Board also discussed next steps for supporting the Senior Performance Pathway while acknowledging that there are no staff employed in this area and no available funding to do so. The Chairman agreed to get further input from Board members before the next meeting.
BF runs seven events during the year, which combined made a significant loss in 2016/17. In late 2016 the then new event manager, Amy Grant, undertook a detailed review of the events and presented a series of recommendations to the Board in January 2017 to address this. Following that the Board agreed an action plan off the back of those recommendations to significantly reduce the losses.
Duty of Care to athletes, staff and volunteers
The Board discussed the recent report published by Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and agreed with the general thrust of the recommendations. It is likely that we will start by considering the recommendations in relation to our Talent Program, but should also bear the recommendations in mind as we undertake our regular review of all policies and procedures.