Caution urged regarding provincial combative sports commission

By Josh Hall (Twitter: @Vancan19)
March 13, 2018 - 9:39am

Great caution should be taken if the powers that be decide to implement a provincial commission to oversee combative sports, according to one local official.

Edmonton city council recently lifted a moratorium on combative sport events, including boxing, mixed martial arts and pro wrestling. The ban had been in place since Dec. 8 in response to the untimely death of Tim Hague, who died two days after a fight in Edmonton last June.

Later that month, Edmonton council received a report with 18 recommendations, which included forming a provincial commission. Alberta is the only province without one.

The recommendation states a common set of policies and procedures would provide better clarity and consistency across combative sports in Alberta.

In early November, Red Deer city council passed a resolution supporting the same thing, which was then supported at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association’s annual convention a couple weeks later.

Curtis Bouteiller, who chairs the Penhold-based Central Alberta Combative Sports Commission, believes a provincial commission could work, but it would be risky.

“You still need commissioners on the ground, working the events, working the technical zones and they’re all in place,” he says. “There was clearly an issue with the Tim Hague fight and there was a report done and the Edmonton Commission is making changes so that they live up to that report. Every other commission, I can guarantee you, has read that report.”

Bouteiller adds, “If the province comes in and says we’re going to do a provincial commission, they better be very careful who they put in charge of that. In my view, there are groups that could want to railroad and push commissions like ours out of the way so that they can control everything.”

There are currently several commissions in Alberta, including in Calgary and Edmonton, as well as Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Fort McMurray.

For areas which fall outside the boundaries of any commission, they can come to the Central Alberta Combative Sports Commission for sanctioning, Bouteiller explains, because the bylaw it operates on allows it to move around. Grey Eagle-Tsuut’ina Nation near Calgary recently did just this.

The Central Alberta Combative Sports Commission was formed in 2016 and several prominent community members sit on its board, including Rick Van Hemmen with Nova Chemicals, Michael Szewczuk with the Town of Penhold, Terry Balgobin of Artistry in Gold, local Commissionaire Frank Yakimchuk, Red Deer accountant Don Oszli, and Todd Liebig with South Gaetz Chiropractic. Penhold Mayor Mike Yargeau also sits on the commission.

“We were very clear that we wanted people on our commission that were above reproach, people that generally speaking weren’t doing it for the money, because with the last Central Alberta Combative Sports Commission, there was no record keeping,” says Bouteiller. “Commissions are allowed to charge whatever they can charge to promoters to do their events. So without record keeping and proper reporting back to the municipality that allows them to exist through their bylaw, what’s really happening with all that money?”

Bouteiller says several events are in the process of being approved for Penhold and Red Deer, including boxing, potentially at the Sheraton. The commission also recently signed a deal with River Cree and Enoch Cree Nation to do fights with Unified MMA, and also has plans for five fights in 2018 with Dekada Boxing. There are also plans for Havoc MMA to return to Red Deer.

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