The 2018 International Fencing Federation (FIE) Congress, to be held December 8th in Paris, is almost upon us, and this year features a 66 page long document of rule change proposals to be worked through.

Certainly not all of these proposals will make it through or even be considered. But in somewhat standard faire, there are some potentially impactful suggested rules changes on the docket to be discussed. In this article, we take a look at some of the more interesting ones that could impact the day-to-day fencer. As a reminder, these are all currently proposals. Decisions are yet to be made on anything, so there are no current imminent changes.

Executive Committee Proposal 4: Removing Off-Target in Foil

This is what it sounds like. Completely remove the off-target light. If you hit off target, no light registers. The justification is around managing complexity for non-fencing spectators.

Luckily, most Commissions are not in direct favor of this rules change. As the Athletes Commission points out, this is a fundamental change to foil and would change the very core of the weapon. A change like this would likely result in a greater emphasis on counterattacks and much tighter direct attacks, as an attack that hits off target would be effectively the same as missing your attack.

The current proposal is to institute a two year provisional test period to see how this change impacts the game. Limited tests on this topic have already been run recently. It is unclear if this proposal takes those into account. If this proposal is accepted, 2018-2019 will see a few Satellite World Cups and Junior World Cups run with this ruleset. 2019-2020 will see a few more Junior World Cups running the test, with the results to be discussed in the 2020 FIE Congress.

Its likely they don’t want to make such a major rules change before the next Olympic Games, hence the scheduling. For example, the “Russian Box of Death” testing rolled out around and after the 2016 Olympics. It is also fairly standard practice for the FIE to test rule changes with Junior World Cups before Senior level implementation.

Executive Committee Proposal 5: Enabling The Fleche in Saber

This one is a bit more specific than it sounds, and the wording of the final version of the rule would dictate a lot of how this gets implemented. The general proposal as it seems to be written is to continue to disallow the cross-over, but to allow saber fencers to do a single basic fleche instead of the flunge. This would allow the crossing over exactly once on the single cross-over inside a simple fleche, and only on the final scoring part of the attack.

Its hard to analyze the impact of the proposal here, as it does sound like they’re trying to preserve the “no running” ethos of the rule. But with no specific written rule change suggested, it does all come down to how this gets worded. For example, would you get carded still if you correctly executed one simple fleche, but missed?

Similar to the previous proposal, most Commissions are not in direct favor of this change. The proposed test schedule and review process is identical to the previous proposal, as well.

Athletes Commission Proposal 1: Professional Athletes and Sponsorships

The text of this rule change is lengthy, but the summary is this: allow more and/or larger sponsorship logo space. All of the Commissions seem to be generally onboard in spirit, with the idea being that we as a sport could be doing a better job of supporting and enabling our professional athletes.

Athletes who train and compete professionally need sponsorships and similar deals to pay the bills instead of working a job. Companies who provide sponsorships want to see their brands supported and promoted by the athletes. Our current Publicity Code limits this pretty heavily.

It seems that given the length of the proposal, there are some things to be worked out still. But it appears that a potential compromise might be to expand sponsorship space to the back of the lame/jacket. Most Commissions seem strongly against adding sponsorship space to the front of the uniform as it could be distracting to the actual fencing.

It appears likely a compromise will be achieved and implemented.

Refereeing Commission Proposal 3: No Re-Fencing Bouts

This seems to be a straightforward rules change that is worth mentioning as it could clear up some issues commonly seen at local events:

t.37.3. The same bout or match cannot be restarted after the bout or relay is finished according to t.122 even if a formal mistake took place.

All Commissions are generally onboard with this as a change.


A hot topic in this congress, with the Athletes Commission (Proposal 3), the Refereeing Commission (Proposal 1) and the Italian Fencing Federation all submitting their own version of changes to the non-combativity rules.

There’s a lot going on in each one of these proposals, and some are very different. Consequently, its hard to say which one will have legs, or what the outcome will be, specifically. What does seem clear is that there is disagreement on how to handle the topic, and that given the amount of discussion here, some sort of action seems likely, so if you’re a fencer, prepare yourself for some sort of change. What change? We’ll have to see what happens in Paris.

For interested parties, we suggest you read all of the proposals individually. Each one has merits.

Everything Else

The bulk of the remaining proposals are all centered around clarification and modernization of the existing rules. For example, adding “Grand Prix” to appropriate places in the rules, removing duplicated rules, fixing translation errors, etc..

Some are interesting, such as a proposal to clean up the wording around Point In Line. But the changes don’t really impact the practicalities of how Point In Line actually works on the strip. It just clarifies things for the readers of the rulebook.

Some are structural, such as the Veteran’s Commission changes which are largely around the structure of Veteran World Championships, or the Athlete’s Commission modification about the points awarded at Zonal Championships.

Make sure to keep an eye out for our follow-up article on what actually occurred at the Congress in mid-December!