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Proposed change of BVF name

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Thu Jul 29, 2021 11:38 am
I started fencing at the age of 42 and was delighted to learn that there was a fencing circuit for older fencers. It became a goal. Of moderate eduction and intelligence I had no difficulty at all in recognising the meaning of the word veteran in this context and was very excited at the prospect of veterans competitions. Anyone who has fenced before becoming a vet will be well aware of the Veterans circuit, the Winton, and other competitions like Hampshire that have a vets comp run alongside. A name change will not do anything for them.

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Thu Jul 29, 2021 11:21 am
I have read John Crouch’s excellent case against the proposed name change and would endorse everything he says. I have no desire to repeat his points but would like to expand the debate.

What is the purpose?
Supporters of the name change suggest that changing from Veterans to Masters will broaden the appeal of veterans fencing yet they have produced no evidence to support this. Where is the research into public attitudes to naming conventions that suggests veterans is a barrier to people taking up or continuing sport after 35/40?

The argument that people confuse veterans sportspeople with former military personnel is similarly unsupported by any credible evidence.

What do other sports do?
Almost all other sports in the UK call their over-35s veterans or seniors. No major sport uses the term Masters. It would actually do fencing more harm than good to step away from this norm.

Masters is elitist
Where Masters is used in other sports it is usually applied to elite participants only. In tennis the Lawn Tennis Association classifies over-35s as Seniors. The term Masters is reserved for an ATP tour series for top-ranked male players only. Football – the largest mass participation sport – classifies over-35s as Veterans. Again, the term Masters is reserved for competitions involving top-flight former professionals, men only.
Masters will almost certainly put off people who have not previously fenced or who have not fenced at an elite level as they will perceive it as an organisation for elite performers.

Masters is gender specific
There is no ducking this. Masters is a male noun. Mistress is its female counterpart. We had masters and mistresses at school. There are, of course, plenty of examples of uses of master where it is applied to both (all) genders but they are historic uses from the days when only men exercised those roles, such as a Master Mariner or the Master as head of a City livery company. Many are now questioning those usages. Why does fencing want to take a leap back into the 19th century and earlier when others are looking to embrace 21st century norms?
Primary and secondary school children are now encouraged to seek out and challenge inappropriate gender-specific language. The application of Masters to women would be an obvious target of criticism.

Masters has overtones of slavery
While for some this may seem a less pressing objection, we need to be aware that the Black Lives Matter movement has raised awareness of the legacy of slavery, especially in the British Empire. Master is a term that has a resonance with many people exploring the history of slavery. It is a sensitivity we would do well to avoid.

We cannot see ourselves in isolation
Many of my concerns are about the image of our sport this will present to the wider world, and the potential that has for driving us the in opposite direction from that hoped for by the committee. Just Google “Change use of Master as a term” to see how widespread concern about the term Master is.

Where’s the evidence?
The biggest weakness in the arguments for a change from Veterans to Masters remains the complete lack of data and evidence to support the contention that it will attract new members.

The way forward
There is only one way this issue can be settled and that is to, after the forum discussions conclude with a full one member, one vote online ballot of the membership and access to postal vote for those not online .

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Thu Jul 29, 2021 10:18 am
Doing a quick google search, in USA use of the term 'Master' for example when describing 'Master Bedroom' is being dropped due to a growing perception the term has racist and sexist connotations. There has been a reference in the response to John Crouch's document that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the term 'veteran', and that a name change is all about progress.
If there is a name change, it might be better not to change to 'Masters', a name which some will already find uncomfortable, and which might become politically incorrect, (intrinsically wrong?) causing a further name change, or a return to 'Veterans'.


Last edited by PeteEames on Thu Jul 29, 2021 11:24 am; edited 1 time in total

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Thu Jul 29, 2021 9:43 am
Having only started to fence at 60 I realise that I was not a 40 year old youngster when I joined but I would have found the name Masters very off putting with its connotations of a greater level of skill than I was ever likely to attain. It would be very sad if the name change deterred social fencers from joining an organisation which has given me so much pleasure over the years.

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Wed Jul 28, 2021 4:54 pm
Having read through the various comments above, John Crouch's objection to the change of name as circulated by Carl Morris on 28/07/21, I'd like to make the following additional comments.

1 - Is there any objective evidence to support the assertions that the term "Veteran" is off-putting to younger old fencers, and that the term "Masters" would be less off-putting? I have not been able to identify any in the discussion document. This seems odd to me, given that this assumption is presented as the primary rationale for the proposed change. With numerous objections to the change having been raised, it would be a shame if it turned out that the main point in its favour turned out to have been false, and based only on supposition.

2 - The discussion document states that changing to "Masters" is part of a drive to modernise BVF, or "look to the future", which includes a "totally overhauled" constitution. Yet in the forum discussion above, a senior member has indicated that online and postal voting remain unconstitutional. I struggle to reconcile these two statements. If engaging younger fencers is a genuine concern of BVF, surely enabling online participation ought to be a significantly higher priority than any potential rebranding? In-person voting by a show of hands (a practice more commonly associated with the 19th century chartered incorporations than contemporary sporting bodies) provides a significant obstacle to participation in governance for members in their 40s and 50s who are unlikely to be retired and are likely have young children to look after. I would suggest that a "not welcome here" sign pointed at the digital generation is significantly more off-putting for younger members than an issues around the current brand.

3 - Why has a response to Mr Crouch's objection been circulated? And why is it anonymous? And why is it a rebuttal? The committee has made a reasonable case both for and against the change in the discussion document. It is now up to the voting members to decide. This unattributed and unnecessary repetition of the arguments in favour (but absent those against) reinforces the impression that the committee is seeking to impose change, rather than making a humble suggestion with respect for the greater wisdom of the wider membership.

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Mon Jul 05, 2021 9:09 pm
Out of interest, why is BVF not just part of BF? Also, hockey seem comfortable with the Masters monicker and just say ‘ Masters Hockey provides the ability to keep playing and competing in hockey or returning after an absence. It is a great platform for players to come together in their age groups to renew old friendships and rivalries. The starting age for Masters Hockey does vary across clubs, but opportunities can begin at over 35 for both women and men.’
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Wed Jun 23, 2021 11:25 am
I for one do not like "Masters" replacing "Veterans" as for me as a social fencer it has connotations of a skill level I do not have. I also do not think "Veterans" refers to old or older people as it actually means persons with much experience (particularly in war and therefore apt for a martial art). There is also no certainty in a name change attracting more members and for some of the reasons in the discussion paper "Masters" may put off people joining as well. The admin changes should not be underestimated. As a result I would prefer to keep the V word.

If I was to accept a name change, it would be an alternative to using "Masters" instead of "Veterans" such as "British Experienced Fencers" or "British Versed Fencers" or "British Long-Serving/Long-Time Fencers". I am sure there are people who could come up with a better replacement name. This makes me think that the name change should be voted in two stages - the first to confirm that the majority of members have a problem with the existing name and the use of "Veterans" and would like to change it; and if this is the case, the second stage should be for an appropriate name out of a short list of possible names. My first stage vote would be to keep the existing name.

PS I've just noticed that the proposed constitution document says "Veteran" (singular) in the name while the website says "Veterans" (plural). Should the proposed constitution have the plural spelling?


Last edited by charlesh9 on Wed Jun 23, 2021 11:39 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : additional PS comment re proposed constitution doc)

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Thu Jun 17, 2021 12:49 pm
I think the discussion document that has been circulated is very comprehensive. I believe it has covered both positive and negatives and answered a few questions that members may have. I have been a 'Veteran' since I was 40. I am now in my 60's. I used to get laughed at when I first joined with references to walking sticks as weapons and zimmer frames. This is no joke at 40 and am sure puts off new members. The organisation caters for all abilities, previous Olympians , previous and current World champions as well as new fencers . Masters covers all of us, veteran categories separates us and is easily understood.

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Sat Jun 12, 2021 1:22 pm
I would say the third age is a long way off for a 40 year old who has only just entered middle age!
Masters and veterans are both widely used for older sporting organisations. It comes down to a choice between the two.

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Sat Jun 12, 2021 1:14 pm
Problem: "Veterans" or "Masters".
Solution: "Third Age Fencing".

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Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:49 pm
The committee has gone to great lengths to ensure there is every chance to debate this issue before an EGM. Postal and online voting is not constitutional, so cannot happen. A Zoom meeting is accessible to all members with a computer, phone, or tablet, which I imagine is the vast majority. Out of 53 respondents to the AGM survey, 80% had no problem using Zoom, 10% had no problems although the technology was unfamiliar and 10% did not wish to attend. It was also heartening that 30% of respondents were attending their first AGM, which is evidence that Zoom allows us to reach more of the membership than usual. 56% were also in favour of Zoom AGMs and a further 24% had no preference.In my view these statistics back up using Zoom as a tool to allow the maximum amount of members to attend.
I am puzzled as to why you think this is a 'stitch up' or that we are not concerned about getting this question out to the widest audience.

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Fri Jun 11, 2021 5:32 pm
A M Steiner does not appear to have studied Carl’s document on the committees reasons for changing the name. The link to the full document can be found in the email from Luce on 11th June.
The justification for having another vote were-
1. The last vote was nearly 2 years ago.
2. Less than 10% of the membership participated. The 2/3 required vote was only missed by 1 vote.
3. The current proposal is different in that the term Vets will still be used internally.
We need to reverse the decline in membership, and many younger fencers do not join because they do not want to be termed as a ‘veteran’.
In the light of the above, I do not believe that AM Steiner’s accusation of poor governance can possibly be justified.
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Fri Jun 11, 2021 4:51 pm
If the intention is genuinely to capture the opinions of the widest possible number of members, then surely a postal and/or online vote would be the best possible solution?

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Fri Jun 11, 2021 2:50 pm
In response to the first point raised regarding the decision to bring this suggestion back to the table.
I attended the AGM when the last vote was held. There was a show of hands, a recount, some confusion and the proposal was defeated by one single vote, due to the 70% majority requirement. That means that only a third of the people attending were in favour of keeping Veterans in the name.
As an elected member of the committee, I represent the membership and when such a sizeable majority was defeated by such a narrow margin, I think it not unreasonable to allow a further vote, particularly as Zoom now allows a much larger group of members to attend the meeting and the proposal is slightly different allowing for veteran categories and continuing use of the term 'veteran'.

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Fri Jun 11, 2021 1:28 pm
This is an interesting approach to the issue, and something I was discussing at home yesterday evening.

The Golf Masters comes under the auspices of the PGA, whilst the equivalent tennis event is built within the LTA or some other similar body. Fencing does not have the equivalent, as posted above. If I were being invited to an event run by BF that catered to former elite fencers I would potentially better understand the "Masters" moniker.

One consideration that has been raised is the various potentially harmful racial and socio-economic nuances of the concept bound up in the proposed name. Irrespective of ones personal opinion, this is definitely something that needs consideration.

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Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:07 am
Firstly, I'd like to flag that irrespective of one's views on the change on name or the intention behind the decision,  having been involved in multiple boardroom stitch-ups over the course of my career, bringing back to the table a proposal which has already been defeated because the leadership didn't like the initial result would ordinarily be considered extremely poor practice. I believe that the decision to do so does not reflect well on the BVF's governance.

In relation to the name change itself, I believe that some important nuances have been missed in the reasons given for and against in the discussion document. There are many sports which hold masters categories events, but in those cases the term "master" does not merely refer to recreational older participants - it refers to highly successful professionals who are no longer able to compete at senior level, but whom the public still have an interest in watching. Many are invitational only, and restricted to competition winners and participants with international level experience. This sort of competition is in no way comparable to the core activities of  BVF - and indeed is the exact opposite of the inclusive and "open to everybody" message that BVF intends to achieve through a rebranding. Most ordinary people, when faced with an organisation called British Masters Fencing, will assume it exists to serve only elite level sport for the over 40s. I suspect that changing the name to "Masters" will discourage far more potential participants than the existing name.

Moreover, I do find the idea that a name associated with advanced years would be off-putting more than a little odd (and slightly rude). Many of the UK's businesses aimed at older people positively revel in the association, or celebrate it: The Oldie Magazine, Saga, and AgeUK being some more of the obvious examples. They do so with good reason. Like most of my peers, I'm rather proud of no longer being some spotty thirty something running around like a march hare and worrying about everything. I wear my advancing years with pride and I think that BVF should do the same.

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