Through the 2018 calendar year and in the lead up to the Commonwealth Cadet, Junior, Open and Veterans Championships, the Fencing New Zealand Board authorised a trial that gave access to menís Championship events for some women.
This trial covered all National events from the Cadet age group up. It allowed females to fence in the male equivalent events providing they also fenced in the equivalent female event at the same competition. It is important to note that this meant that those females were fencing in a male event, i.e. as distinct from a mixed event. Prior to this, mixed or combined events were only held when low entry numbers resulted in a single sex event not being viable.
The trial was aimed at giving female fencers aiming to fence in that yearís Commonwealth Championships increased competition and was to run only to the end of 2018.
Early this year, a panel was formed to review the trial and to make recommendations to the Fencing New Zealand Board as to whether the trial should be made permanent or extended.
As part of the review process, feedback was sought from the fencing community, with the feedback being evenly split, for and against. Most of the coach feedback was against females fencing in male events. A key factor highlighted in the feedback was safety for competing athletes. In addition, consultation was also undertaken with the FIE through the Woman and Fencing Council and Women in Sport Aotearoa. The recommendation from both was firmly against combined events. Weighing up all the feedback and evidence, the majority view of, and the recommendation by, the panel was to not continue the practice of opening male Championship events to female competitors. This was agreed, again by a majority, by the Fencing New Zealand Board at its March meeting.
It should be noted that this decision applies to FeNZ Ďchampionship eventsí (specifically National Championships at all age groups, Presidentís Cup and North & South Island Championships) and does not preclude mixed events for other Regional or Club competitions. The Fencing New Zealand Board acknowledges this issue has been quite polarising and it has not taken this decision lightly. It has reviewed the evidence, sought feedback from the Fencing New Zealand stake holders, and consulted with the FIE and external experts in womenís sport. It remains committed to developing womenís fencing in New Zealand, as it is fencing in general. It is also committed to working with the FIE Women and Fencing Council and Women in Sport Aotearoa on any initiatives they believe will benefit the womenís game in New Zealand.
I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this decision-making process, particularly the review panel and especially those who provided feedback.
Mark Rance President Fencing New Zealand
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