Wheelchair fencing completes review of referee licensing

06/02/2024

Wheelchair Fencing’s Referee Commission has completed an in-depth review the sport’s referee licensing system which will lead to a clearer and more structured system for officials.

The changes and improvements cover how to become a licensed referee, examinations, training, levels of licensing and how referees are assessed throughout their careers.

Chris Farren, the Chair of the Referee Commission, said:

“Wheelchair fencing is getting increasingly professional – the quality of competition and athletes, organisation of events, coaching and all elements of the sport is improving all the time. Referee licensing and how we train and grow the capability and skills of officials should be no different.

“We hope that these amendments will allow the entire referee cadre to continually develop, whilst maintaining a transparent and clear pathway for every stage of the entire referee lifecycle.”

A wheelchair fencing referee observes a match closely as the arms of two fencers are shown
Credit: British Fencing

The development pathway towards referee licensing will now take place over multiple stages, with referees progressing from Ca to P to B as they pass the various theory and practical stages of the examination process (INSERT flowchart).

The ‘wheelchair fencing referee lifecycle flowchart’ can be downloaded here.

After passing the theory examinations a candidate will be awarded a ‘Ca’ licence, after passing the first practical examination a candidate will be awarded a ‘P’ licence, and after passing the practical examination the candidate will be awarded the B licence. Category P referees can be selected by countries as their referee delegates for World Cup competitions as they may undertake the final practical examination at the event.

It is envisaged that most referees will progress through these examination levels and then remain in category B for most of their career for as long as they stay active on the competition circuit. Any referee that is inactive for a period of four years on the international circuit is likely to have started to lose some of their skillset, so these inactive referees will be dropped down one level to P and asked to re-test with an active referee at the next World Cup prior to re-attaining the B licence.

All existing/historical A licenses will be transferred to B licences, to create a clean slate, and a brand-new system for awarding the elite A licences will be initiated. The very best performing referees at an international event can be nominated to category A by the Local Organising Committee at the competition and the entire Referee Commission will vote on these nominations – a minimum of 80 per cent votes for are required. If a referee is subsequently awarded an elite A licence after this vote, then it will last only for a four year span, naturally expiring back to B after this time.

A line of four referees walk out onto the field of play during the Hangzhou 2023 Asian Para Games
Credit: Hangzhou 2023

If any referee with an existing B licence does not consistently achieve the required standard on the international stage, then they will receive advice and coaching to try to improve their skillset. In the most severe cases these referees will be nominated for re-testing by the Local Organising Committee at competitions and the entire Referee Commission will again vote – a minimum of 80 per cent is also required to proceed. Any referee identified will be dropped down one level to P and asked to re-test with an active referee at the next World Cup prior to re-attaining the B licence, in order to maintain the highest of standards.

Anyone with any questions about the new licensing process can contact the Wheelchair Fencing Referee Commission on email.