Edmonton moratorium on combative sports could be lifted as soon as February 28
Edmonton councillors have asked administration to draft an amendment that could see the blanket moratorium on combative sports events lifted as early as Feb. 28.
The mayor said as long as steps are being taken to improve fighter safety, the moratorium could be lifted.
“The next [time] council will talk about this is Feb. 21, which is a little over a month,” Don Iveson said on Wednesday. “We think that if the all-clear is there, that fighter safety has been improved materially, and that important recommendations are in place, then a week later at city council, we’d be able to lift the moratorium and be back in business.”
City administration was asked Wednesday to prepare an amendment to the Combative Sports Bylaw so that wrestling events would be exempt and that Edmonton-based athletes could train here and compete outside the city.
“The wrestling moratorium will be dealt with next week,” Iveson said. “They’ll be back in business in a week.
“The other important change is that we’ve said fighters can train here and compete elsewhere as of next week, because that was an unintended consequence of a blanket moratorium.”
Councillors and members of Edmonton’s combative sports industry spoke at city hall on Wednesday, responding to an independent review done in the wake of Tim Hague’s death.
Hague, a UFC fighter and boxer, died on June 18, two days after a KO Boxing event at the Shaw Conference Centre.
In December, a third-party report was released. It included 18 recommendations, including that a provincial commission to oversee combative sports in Alberta.
The independent review was not meant to determine fault. It delved into the events surrounding Hague’s death, making recommendations to strengthen the oversight of combative sports and improve fighter safety in future sports events in Edmonton.
The report made 18 recommendations around medical suspensions, the qualifications of officials, oversight and monitoring, as well as licensing and permitting of promoters and contestants.
A moratorium on combative sports events in Edmonton was put in place on Dec. 8, 2017. It was set to remain in place until Dec. 31, 2018, or until city council provides further direction.
During Wednesday’s meeting, the head of KO Boxing Promotions called the moratorium a hasty and political decision. Melanie Lubovac said she’s not sure the city understood the ramifications of its decision before putting the moratorium in place.
“It’s huge. Just for myself. I can’t go a year. This is my full-time job. I don’t know anyone who could just sit around for a year and wait for something to happen,” Melanie Lubovac said.
“If it continues to be for a year, I’m going to have to shut down.”
“I think city council was very receptive today in the meeting,” said professional boxer Brad Switzer. “It looks like they’re going to lift the ban, they’re going do the right thing and work with us and come up with the proper recommendations.”
“We heard concerns right away from industry after we implemented the moratorium,” Iveson said. “And, even though we were clear that the moratorium could be much less than a year if we heard substantial progress and had assurances, the industry, of course, was concerned about that uncertainty.
“I think we’ve been able to give them some certainty that the moratorium could come off within a matter of weeks as long as city council is assured that substantial progress is being made on the priority fighter safety recommendations, which seems achievable,” he added.
“There are six fighter safety recommendations, some of them are for the commission to address in policy, which they’ve said they’ll look at quickly.
“Some of them can be addressed with changing processes. One may require a bylaw amendment. All that’s achievable within the next four or five weeks and then work will continue on the balance of the recommendations over the next six months.”
Administration was also asked to work with the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission and industry to report to the city committee on the progress made on priority safety recommendations. The moratorium could be lifted Feb. 28, “subject to satisfactory progress of the recommendations.”
Councillors will get a report on recommendations 1-17 on May 23.
Administration was also asked to work with the mayor’s office to update “continued advocacy to the province regarding… the establishment of a province-wide Combative Sports Commission.”
While Iveson has been in vocal in his preference for a provincial regulatory body to govern combative sports consistently across Alberta, others have said municipalities should be able to manage events themselves.
On Wednesday afternoon, at least 18 people were registered to speak at the Community and Public Services Committee meeting.
The agenda included an analysis of the consultant’s review and a response from the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission.
“I’m at a loss for words,” WBC/WIBF World Featherweight Champion Jelena Mrdjenovich said, explaining she was confused by the moratorium. “Nobody consulted me.”
“I’m embarrassed to be an Edmontonian for the first time in my life,” she added.
“To put a complete ban on it is a little ridiculous,” Mrdjenovich said.
“An object in motion should stay in motion and I think that you should fix things as they go. But, to put a halt on everything — to get that object moving again, is a lot more effort and resources.”
The boxer was set to fight March 23 in Edmonton.
“It’s a lifestyle,” boxer Robbie Cusine said. “It’s a part of us.”
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