It is a joyous time to be a MMA fan in British Columbia. On May 31, the Provincial Government passed Bill 50 “The Commissioner’s Act” through the provincial legislature. The Liberal Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Ida Chong, who was a big part of the creation of the bill, felt it was time to allow professional combat sports in any jurisdiction in the province of BC.
After talking to many different athletic commissions through out the province we believed that it was time to have a provincial commissioner who could oversee professional fighting like professional mixed martial arts, said Minister Chong. A lot of people enjoy watching the UFC and we fully understand how popular the sport is. Some parts of BC are allowing professional fights while others are not. We were hearing that one city would have different rules than another city and we felt that with how popular the sport was across the province, the safety of the participants had to be paramount and the rules had to be the same across the board for everyone.
This recent move by the Liberal government is very similar to what Ontario’s provincial government did back in 2010 when they appointed Ken Hayashi as their provincial Athletic Commissioner. Since then, they have had many successful professional mixed martial arts shows, including two UFC events, one of which was held at the Rogers Center for 55,724 screaming fans.
A lot of venom has been spewed at the City of Vancouver for how they went about their business in regulating two UFC events that came through the town in June of 2010 and 2011. The City made it virtually impossible for any promotion to wave through the red tape of crazy insurance and indemnity demands during their supposed two-year “trial” period. Even the UFC had grown tired of Vancouver’s silliness. So much so the UFC Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright through his hands up in the air and believed that it would be a long time before the UFC would ever return to Vancouver.
The disappointing thing for our sport is that after a two-year test period, they’ve had two tests… ours, Because no other promotion could afford the indemnification or the insurance costs or the other things or actually have the perseverance to get an event to be held there.
However, that was then and this is now. Through all of their political posturing, the City of Vancouver stood by their beliefs that the Province should be the one who regulated the fastest growing sport in the country. Many believed that was a pipe dream, but here we are, on the precipice of what many believed would be years down the road. Bill Mahood of MMABC (The governing body that looks over amateur MMA in the province) told MMASucka.com that when the bill was tabled he was pleasantly surprised.
It was a big surprise to all of us. I was at the [Vancouver Athletic Commission] having a meeting and we talked about the possibility of a provincial commission and our feeling was the province had no desire to pursue it; and then boom out of the blue came Bill 50. I think on a professional level it’s absolutely what the sport needs. The municipal commission structure is really difficult. There’s only six cities in the province that are regulating MMA and none of them are in the Lower Mainland area except for Vancouver which only [did] the UFC. I think it’s a big step in the right direction.
So what happens now? Liberal Minister Ida Chong says that the process of selecting a commissioner is going to start immediately but first comes the research into the rules and regulations that the province will adopt for professional MMA. There is no doubt that the Province will most likely go down the same road as Ontario and adopt the rules of the State of New Jersey, which are the most widely used in North America.
This Summer we will be putting together our provincial rules and regulations when it comes to professional MMA and other combat sports, says Chong. We will be talking to other provinces, I believe there are seven provinces in Canada that we will look at like Ontario, and we will also be speaking with people in the States about some of the pitfalls that we should look out for when putting this all together. We plan on putting a lot research into this. We want what is best. We will also be doing our due diligence in looking for a Commissioner who fits our criteria and we hope to have that process going on during the Summer months too.
So who gets the job? Many believed the Liberals would bestow the job of Athletic Commissioner onto one of their own, but Minister Chong says that is not the case at all.
We will be looking for someone who obviously has a certain skill set and knowledge of combat sports, says Chong. The person does not have to be affiliated with the Liberal party. This is not a party related matter. What we are looking for is someone who can enforce legislation on behalf the Province. So if a promoter is not following the rules and regulations, which will be provincial law, that commissioner will know what to look for and enforce the law and pull that promoter’s license.
The early front-runners for this position have to be MMABC heads Mr. Bill Mahood or Paul Lazenby. I’m sure you can throw in a few others into the mix, however, both men have experience in combat sports and both men have in-depth knowledge of all the rules and regulations that will be in place.
So does this mean that it will be a big open door for all promoters to set up shop in BC? Will the UFC be coming to Victoria or Vancouver early next year? Not so fast. Ida Chong says cities throughout the province can still control who puts on events in their city limits.
The commissioner will only be overseeing the sport, notes Chong. If a city like Vancouver wants to create bylaws to only allow certain promoters into their jurisdiction they have the right to do that. They can put whatever bylaws in place they would like. A city can still refuse to have a professional fight in their City. The province is only there to make sure that if a professional event does take place in their city that all the safety standards are being followed.
So now it’s up to your mayors to welcome professional MMA with open arms. Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and all his merry men and women have wanted the Province to oversee it. They claimed that once that happened they would be ready for the fight game… but for real this time.
Now we will see if they are truly honest politicians. It’s about time Vancouver and other cities allow promotions like Maximum Fighting Championship, Battlefield Fight League, Bellator, Strikeforce and of course the UFC to put on shows in Rogers Arena, Agrodome, Pacific Coliseum and BC Place. There are too many great promoters and athletes in this province that deserve a chance.
No more games…well unless the Province regulates them. That has a nice ring to it.
- Related Article: Will Bill 50 be a boon for BC MMA?
Well this is all very nice, but in the meantime you just dissolved every Athletic Commission in the Province. Right now Professional Combat sports cannot be sanctioned on a Province wide basis. How long will this go on, a few months or a year? And they’ve placed the Provincial Commission within the wrong ministry. Currently they have it within the department of Arts, Culture, Gaming Grants & Sport Division which oversees aspects of public health and fitness including the development of amateur sports. Professional combat sports are “prize fights” and are generally related to the gambling industry, such as horse racing that falls in the Ministry of the Public Safety and Solicitor General, specifically the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch. The Arts, Culture, Gaming Grants & Sport Ministry is not set up to handle prize fight winnings. And I have heard Minister Chong say many times that the purpose of this Bill is to provide equal regulation across the Province. However, the opt-out clause would cause exactly the kind of inconsistent regulation that has hampered the combat sports industry in the past. Some communities will use this clause to opt out completely, but others will use this clause to demand additional aspects to regulation. Some communities will disallow the use of facilities, demand additional insurance requirements, impose additional taxes, and all manner of other protectionist restrictions. I do not believe that the opt-out clause is in keeping with the intent of Bill 50, and in addition to this I believe that the opt-out clause is prone to abuse and discrimination. At it’s core Bill 50’s opt-out clause can be said to be unconstitutional, and I believe that this will be a liability for the government in the future.
Nothing wrong with that. They are going to go with one Commissioner. I’m sure within months after that he will have people contracted out to help with all the work, because the first few years it will be busy! Every promotion in Canada is going to want to be in Vancouver.
I predict that in a very short period of time the “opt-out clause” will become known as the “Vancouver Clause”.