The British Federation for Historical Swordplay

BFHS Position Regarding Scottish HEMA Controversy

The bellow is a message from the President of the BFHS, Martin Dougherty:

BFHS Position Regarding Scottish HEMA Controversy 

This matter was brought to my attention some time ago by some of our Scottish members, who were concerned about claims of BFHS involvement in an initiative led by one Gordon Love.

Mr Love seems to be campaigning for the recognition of HEMA as a sporting activity, and for the creation of a governing body to oversee it. The BFHS has no official position on this matter, but we are concerned at the way Mr Love is going about it and the claims he is making. Notably, he seems to be claiming to have the support of the majority of Scottish HEMA groups. Some of those groups have expressed surprise at hearing they are supporting this initiative, which does raise questions about Mr Love’s statements.

What follows is to the best of my knowledge a true and accurate account of the matter to date.

The Initiative

Mr Love is ostensibly trying to achieve recognition of HEMA as a sporting activity by the relevant authorities. On the face of it this endeavour is not without merit. However, recognition requires a governing body, and the emergence of such a body would be of great concern to our members. Mr Love has already made reference to an AGM of the ‘governing body’ – it is clear that whilst he is taking the line that recognition is good for everyone and those who oppose it are some kind of bad guys, the fact is that he means to take control of Scottish HEMA.

The document sent to myself and my predecessor outlining Mr Love’s initiative could best be described as a sales pitch rather than a framework for a successful recognition campaign. It essentially presented the idea that creating a governing body would result in various benefits, notably funding. This does not necessarily follow, but in any case the document contained nothing resembling a workable plan for making any of it happen. It was, to my reading, a pipe-dream at best and possibly a pitch to garner support for Mr Love’s attempt to gain control of Scottish HEMA. It did include the warning that ‘there can be only one’ and ‘it’s govern or be governed’. According to the emails sent to my predecessor this section was removed from the versions sent to some recipients.

My predecessor offered no comment on this document and could not do so until a formal proposal had been put to the BFHS membership. He asked to be kept up to date for information purposes.

This response was, in my opinion, quite correct. From the generally unprofessional appearance of the document and its (lack of) contents it seemed at the time that this was nothing but an unworkable pipe-dream.

In due course I was elected as President and the matter was brought to my attention by our Scottish members. I attempted to investigate and received a variety of rather vague responses from Mr Love which did not address my concerns.

Eventually, a facebook group for the initiative appeared and I applied to join it. After hearing nothing for about a year my membership was suddenly approved. This occurred very recently. Seeing that Mr Love was still claiming to speak for BFHS clubs – some of which have expressed concern to me over this – and that he is trying to form a governing body for HEMA, I raised my concerns again. Mr Love’s response was not satisfactory, and I remain gravely concerned about this initiative and more importantly how it is being approached.

BFHS Concerns

At the time I became involved in this matter Mr Love was claiming that ‘fruitful discussions’ had taken place with the BFHS and we were supporting his initiative to create a Scottish governing body for HEMA. As President of the BFHS I would surely have been aware of such a discussion or offer of support, so I queried Mr Love about it.

What came back was a cryptic statement that I was not the first President he had spoken to.

That may well be true, but it was not an answer to my questions. I have since asked – repeatedly – what was said by whom, and what was agreed. Mr Love’s responses range from further vague statements that discussions were held to a suggestion that the BFHS needs to keep proper records and hand over correctly between officers.

In fact we do, and I have a record of the emails sent to my predecessor by Mr Love. Mr Love states in some of these mails (which went to a group audience) that my predecessor’s HEMA group is ‘fully on board’ with the process and that as President of the BFHS he is supportive of the project.

The truth, however, is that my predecessor was included in these emails for information only and did not reply to any of them. He certainly did not express support or claim to be ‘fully on board’ with the process. On what basis Mr Love decided to claim this is a matter for conjecture.

There is no ‘fruitful discussion’ there, nor any agreement to support this initiative. Essentially Mr Love sent a document outlining his ideas to the previous President, and a few later mails to my predecessor and then to me. On the strength of this, I assume, he says that the BFHS has been ‘kept in the loop’. That, at least is somewhere vaguely near the truth.

This was not a ‘fruitful discussion’ – it was an unsolicited document outlining an unworkable idea, followed by further mails to which no reply was made. This hardly constitutes a ‘fruitful discussion’ and it is difficult to see why Mr Love would represent it as one.

Mr Love may have misunderstood something, or there may be some other reason why he has made this claim. I did wonder if some other discussion had taken place, and have repeatedly invited Mr Love to explain what was said by whom so that we can clear up any misunderstanding. The vagueness of his replies is, in itself, informative. It appears that the emails sent to my predecessor represent the ‘fruitful discussion’ to which he refers.

I can therefore only conclude that Mr Love’s claims of a ‘fruitful discussion’ with the BFHS are nothing more than a misrepresentation or at best a misunderstanding; I do not know which. I do know that the BFHS never agreed to support Mr Love’s endeavour despite his claims that we did. Similarly, his claims that certain of our member groups support his project are untrue.

In Summary

The BFHS does not support Gordon Love’s attempts to achieve recognition for HEMA in Scotland. We are opposed to his attempt to create a governing body for HEMA in Scotland.

The BFHS is concerned that Mr Love has chosen to claim the support of our organisation and some of its member groups. Were Mr Love to address these concerns there would be some grounds for discussion but he has chosen not to.

As President of the BFHS, I have investigated this matter to the best of my ability and my conclusion is that Gordon Love has misrepresented the level of support for his endeavour from the BFHS and its member groups. If he continues to claim support that is not there, we will have no alternative but to challenge this assertion on every occasion.


BFHS Position Regarding Scottish HEMA Controversy

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