Welcome to the 2020/21 Combat Sports Commission Annual Report.
With much of our community in lockdown over the last 12 months, many of our public activities have been affected by COVID-19. Our industry was no exception. Again, it affected the number of promotions which were able to be staged, not only in Western Australia but across the country. This meant contestants were not only limited in their home state but were largely unable to fly interstate or overseas to compete.
Various stages of lockdown and local closures across the year also made it difficult to train. This created greater challenges for the Commission to cultivate the combat sports community, when so many things had to be done alone or via media and virtual platforms. We acknowledge how much emotional and financial concern this caused to individual and commercial livelihoods. Those badly affected have expressed their appreciation of both the State and Federal Government support for sectors of combat sports-related businesses, particularly those related to gyms and fitness programs.
As a Commission, we’ve continued to track the ever-changing landscape and are working with the industry on discovering and planning for what the coming 12 to 18 months might bring.
With much of our community in lockdown over the last 12 months, many of our public activities have been affected by COVID-19. Our industry was no exception.
A major undertaking has been the development of the Commission’s Strategic Plan 2021–2025. Explained later in this report, it offers a roadmap for the work we’ll be undertaking over the next five years around governance, research, enforcing regulations and policies, education, training and meaningful engagement.
Our key strategic objective is focused on putting contestant health, wellbeing and safety first. This primary target area will continue to address the issues of weight cutting and rapid weight loss by dehydration across the industry.
The Minister for Sport and Recreation, on behalf of the government and the Commission, received and accepted the Coroner’s recommendations into the 2017 death of Jessica Jackson. The measured response is solidly based on the three pillars that underpin the Commission’s Strategy to address rapid weight loss by dehydration, reflecting the Coroner’s views of namely, education, regulation and weight assessment. The strategy will continue to evolve as contemporary research is done and forms an essential segment of the five-year Strategic Plan.
It is time for the industry to fully recognise the inherent medical dangers and consequences of severe weight cutting, which is often considered a rite of passage across the industry. That is why, since 2017, the Commission has undertaken a comprehensive program of continuing education directed to all facets of the combat sports industry. This will be ramped up as research programs deliver fresh information and approaches to this vexing practice.
I am confident the calibre of the Commission members and staff, their mix of skills, passion and fighting spirit will continue to support and position the combat sports industry as a national leader in its field.
This work has been led by Executive Officer Antoni Grover, who has successfully steered his team through another challenging year. Once again, I thank him for his hard work, guidance and exemplary commitment.
The Commission’s administrative team saw some movement with the departure of Tracey Roper, while Melissa Baker and Erin Guthrie were joined by Mark D’Costa and Claire McLean, who bring with them valuable new skills. Together they have been working diligently to deliver our mission and to ensure the Commission complies with and enforces the Act’s requirements. I thank each of them for their creditable work ethic and support of the Commissioners and the overall industry.
Over the past year commission members Pearl Lim and Glen Austin completed their terms of office. I’d like to thank them for their commitment, hard work and valuable contributions. We’ve welcomed the appointment of Gary Ingraham to the commission. He has an extensive and respected history officiating boxing, as a senior referee and official, as well as being the long-time owner of a fitness business.
Our long-standing and popular Minister, the Hon. Mick Murray, retired at the state election. He was a great advocate for the combat sports industry and the Commission, providing outstanding support throughout his term in office. The Commission wishes him well on his next step in life’s journey.
He has been succeeded by Hon. Dr Tony Buti as Minister for Sport and Recreation. Minister Buti has already indicated his strong support for the Commission’s direction and is a strong advocate of research and scientific appraisal of the industry. We have already formed a firm association and look forward to working closely with him and his staff.
Finally, I would like to thank sincerely, my fellow commissioners for their dedication, integrity and determination to see that the industry continues to grow and prosper.
In these unique times, none of us can be sure of what the immediate future may bring, given the challenges of the past year. However, I am confident the calibre of the Commission members and staff, their mix of skills, passion and fighting spirit will continue to support and position the combat sports industry as a national leader in its field.
Bob has had a life-long involvement with sport and served on numerous sporting administration boards and committees. He completed terms as the Chair and a director of Football West, a six-year term as Director and Commodore of Fremantle Sailing Club and Deputy Chair of Basketball WA for 10 years.
As a former Minister for Sport and Recreation in Western Australia (among several ministerial portfolios he held) and chair of the Australian Sports Ministerial Council, Bob brings a unique perspective in the relationship between the sport and all levels of government. He has a contemporary knowledge of the challenges facing sporting bodies having completed the Australian Institute of Company Directors Course in Sports Administration, with particular emphasis on issues such as gambling in sport, governance and the integrity of officials, administrators and contestants.
As a high-ranking police officer before entering politics, he received the Australian Police Medal (APM), the National Police Service Medal, the National Medal and the Western Australian Police Medal.
Brian was appointed to the Commission in June 2018. He’s an occupational and environmental physician and a public health physician with an interest in safety and risk management. He gained his Fellowships with the Australasian Faculties of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Faculty of Public Health Medicine, is a Certified Professional of the Safety Institute of Australia and an Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences at Curtin University.
Brian has extensive experience in health and wellbeing in the workplace, injury management and musculoskeletal medicine, pain medicine, health surveillance programs and their effectiveness, fitness for work with appropriate risk reviews and workplace risk and safety assessments.
Brian continues his role as a clinical consultant both privately and in the public system as well as on a medical board.
Marcus is a career police officer having served for more than 30 years in metropolitan and regional areas, predominantly on the frontline. He was appointed Officer in Charge of the WA Police Liquor Enforcement Unit in 2017 where one of his roles is to ensure the integrity of relevant industries through a stringent and ongoing probity process.
Marcus brings his experience and knowledge to the combat sports industry and is focused on ensuring those involved in the various professions are deemed to be fit and proper. On that basis, he provides valuable assistance and advice to the Commission during the assessment of permit applications.
Gary has 30 years of experience in the boxing industry. His initial involvement as an amateur boxer saw him turn to officiating as his interest in the sport progressed. An extensive history as a professional referee and judge has provided him with the opportunity to officiate at Commonwealth and World title fights throughout Australia, South Africa, Japan and around South East Asia. He has also made a significant contribution to WA events as a head referee.
The founder and owner of Fremantle’s Spring into Fitness gym, Gary’s interest in health and fitness has also helped make him a successful business owner over the past 17 years. As a small business owner in the industry, he has developed a strong understanding of the issues which surround it.
Gary has had a lifelong involvement with sport, particularly boxing and Australian Rules. He’s currently boxing coach for the Fremantle Dockers and continues to work as a personal trainer with a strong and dedicated following.
Ben has been a professional Muay Thai competitor since 2006. For a decade Ben has trained out of MMA and Muay Thai gyms gaining experience as a boxing and kickboxing coach, which has enabled him to fulfil the role as a second at promotions.
His time on the commission has made him a stronger advocate for it and allowed him to gain an appreciation for the work that goes on behind the scenes around regulations, education and promotions. Both as a competitor and official, he has been able to share his point of view with the commission and take his new knowledge back to the Muay Thai community.
Starting with the Commission in early 2020, Karim is an owner and director of a UFC gym which uses training but not heavy sparring or competing to embody a healthy respect for martial arts.
His range of professional experience includes sales, property development, local government processes and procedures and extensive background in business development and operations.
Karim has been training in mixed martial arts for a decade and hopes to use his experience and long-standing passion to enhance the image of the sport, while at the same time facilitating industry expansion through education and professional development.
With an extensive career and experience as a competitor, promoter and contestant manager, Renée was appointed to the Commission in January 2017. She continues to develop her knowledge and skills to build ongoing relationships between contestants, industry participants and the Commission.
As the combat sports industry grows, Renée utilises her passion and knowledge of more than a decade to ensure all competitors have a healthy and safe environment to perform in.
Jacqui was appointed to the Commission in February 2018 and is currently Manager, Sport Business Development in Sport and Recreation at the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.
She works with many State Sporting Associations and peak bodies, their chief executive officers and boards, to support implementation of best practice governance, leadership and management practices. She has a strong governance background and is a director on various not-for-profit sporting boards and nominations committees. Through work in and out of government Jacqui contributes a strong working knowledge of community and elite level sport.
Endorsed in March 2021, the Commission released its Strategic Plan 2021–2025.
Combat Sports Commission Strategic Plan 2021-2025
The Commission received and accepted the findings and recommendations arising from Coroner Linton’s report into the 2017 death of Jessica Jackson. The Commission also acknowledged her attention to detail, compassionate approach and sensible, practical suggestions.
The Commission has undertaken extensive consultation throughout the development of the Weight Cutting Strategy and will continue to do so.
The Coroner’s recommendations support the Commission’s resulting Weight Cutting Strategy, namely education, regulation and weight assessment. The strategy will continue to evolve as contemporary research is done but that research is now part of the focus areas of the Strategic Plan.
Access to the strategy and other important health and safety information can be found on the Commission’s web page
The initial implementation of the weight assessment pillar in the Strategic Plan was the amendment to the Commission’s Certificate of Fitness to include the contestant’s past contest weight, current weight and proposed contest weight. This is to ensure contestants and medical practitioners consider whether the intended weight can be safely achieved. It will also ensure medical practitioners have an opportunity to raise any health concerns with contestants prior to any proposed weight loss.
The Commission has started a 12-month weight assessment trial and is exploring a scheme that requires contestants to submit their weights periodically during their registration and during the lead-up to contests.
As of the 1 January 2021 the following weigh-in rules were implemented:
The online portal for registrations and promotion applications continues to provide a streamlined process for all registrations, permit applications and submission of key documents such as certificates of fitness and serology reports. Registrants can view and update personal details, view their fight records and the expiry dates of their registration, certificate of fitness and serology. Promoters can lodge part 1 of their promotion permits online while work and consultation on part 2 is underway.
The number of registrations being processed remains steady and in raw numbers, female participation is increasing. It’s suspected that some of this is due to increased exposure of combat sports events being streamed internationally and an increased profile and popularity of its use in television and movies. The online education unit within the portal is now being widely used. It provides contestants and industry participants with essential information for Commission registration and participating in combat sports.
All new and renewing registrants are required to complete the online education unit as a condition of registration. The solid uptake of existing registrants completing the unit has been an opportunity to reengage with this group.
The Industry Development Series is part of the Commission’s commitment to ongoing training and development. Workshops recommenced during the year and included an event for MMA officials with a focus on the development of judges, referees and timekeepers.
The Commission approved 20 contests in 2020/21 across all disciplines including boxing, mixed martial arts and Muay Thai. Once again, a number of contests were cancelled or not staged due to COVID-19. Equally, the contests which did go ahead had significantly larger bout numbers, specifically within Muay Thai promotions. Contestants were predominantly local, with minimal interstate or international visitors. Less promotions also saw the number of participants wanting to be part of an event creating a backlog.
Several breaches of the Act and the Regulations occurred this financial year, however the Commission is pleased to see the number of breaches remained relatively low.
The Commission continued to maintain a database of reportable injuries suffered by contestants. Reportable injuries are defined as any injury sustained during a contest that is recorded on the Post Contest Medical Examination Form and required treatment from the ringside medical practitioner or follow up treatment after the contest.
Of the 612 contestants participating in the 20 contests directly overseen by the Commission in 2020/21, there were 38 reportable injuries. This equates to 6.21% of contestants suffering an injury during a contest and is a 7.95% decrease from 2019/20.
Further analysis of those 38 reportable injuries shows there were 19 mandatory medical suspensions issued, six concussions, nine lacerations requiring steri-strips, glue or sutures, two dislocations, breaks or referrals for x-rays and 21 miscellaneous injuries ranging from bruises and sprains to strains.
The Commission continues to engage with the industry by providing information on proposed contest dates, current projects, opportunities for engagement and policies as well as focussed activities around the Strategic Plan.
Facebook has continued to be a key stakeholder engagement tool. It’s used to share important information, messages and policies with the industry and community. Like our page to connect with the Commission and the combat sports community: @combatsportscommissionwa
The commission actively utilises MailChimp for global emails and the website to regularly communicate with the industry.
The tagline 'prepare well, perform better' has continued to be embedded in communications and branded documents. It talks to the Commission’s view on the dangerous practice of weight cutting, further emphasising it as an important issue.
Without the support of the Combat Sports Commission’s major partners, a great deal of the Commission’s work would not be possible. The contribution of these partners and supporters is gratefully acknowledged:
The Commission remains in a funding arrangement with the Department of Treasury.
The Commission’s finances are managed by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries finance branch under a service level agreement. The finance branch provides effective governance of the Commission’s financial policies and processes.
The Commission thanks the department for the ongoing support it provides.
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