It has been another challenging 12 months as I welcome you to the 2021/22 Combat Sports Commission Annual Report.
When the Western Australian border opened in March 2022, we saw a gradual return to normal, with interstate and international contestants finally returning. This has also meant WA contestants have been able to participate in interstate and overseas events.
The good news is that the Commission has seen a steady increase of registrations during the COVID period. This indicates a continued strengthening interest in combat sports generally and a reminder of the valuable work done by the Commission in ensuring the industry is a safe arena to compete in.
These ups and downs have challenged the Commission and its staff in continuing to build a strong, connected and aware combat sports community. I believe we are getting the messages out successfully, despite an entrenched culture and perceived barriers. We continue to be mindful of working hard in the present, whilst proactively looking toward the horizon — of our own sport and the wider sporting landscape — to see what the ever-evolving terrain will look like over the coming few years.
Significantly, in March 2022 the Commission had its first round of industry consultation in relation to the legislative review of the Combat Sports Act 1987. The Commission has also established a Legislative Review Working Group. This is the first significant review of the act since 2009 and gives us the opportunity to re-visit the framework which governs the sport and our activities. Of particular interest is testing any elements which are considered outmoded in today’s environment.
During the year, we had a change in Minister. Thank you to the Hon. Dr Tony Buti and his staff for the exemplary work we did together, especially in dealing with the implementation of recommendations arising from a previous coronial inquiry.
We welcomed a new Minister for Sport and Recreation, the Hon. David Templeman. We have already started to build a close working relationship, with him, his valued advisers and his office. I was personally delighted when the Minister extended my tenure as Chair of the Commission this year for a further two years. I thank him for his confidence in our team.
Once again Executive Officer Antoni Grover has calmly and steadily steered the Commission through the restrictive waters of the pandemic. He has used the Strategic Plan 2021–2025 deftly and been guided by its goals and aspirations. I thank him for his insight, hard work and attention to detail.
The Commission staff have continued to work diligently in ensuring the demands of the relevant legislation are met, in all their work and dealings. They have again been a solid support and source of information for the Commissioners. We said goodbye to Melissa Baker and welcomed Ryan Wells as the new administration officer.
I am pleased to mention the extension of terms for commissioners Dr Brian Galton-Fenzi, Renée Felton and Karim Girgis to January 2024. We welcomed new Commission members in Erin McGowan and Milan Bevk. Erin has decades of professional experience as a champion boxer while Milan has trained in most styles of combat sports. Both Milan and Karim are completing their law degrees and bring invaluable expertise in their respective fields.
The Commission is further bolstered with the support of the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries representative Jacqui Jashari and highly respected boxing official Gary Ingraham, both of whom are acknowledged experts in their fields.
The Combat Sports Commission always has a Western Australia Police Force representative. After four years we said goodbye to Inspector Marcus Murray and thank him for his knowledge and service. Appointed to this position is Inspector of the Licensing Enforcement Division, Inspector Troy Cooper, who brings with him a wealth of experience that will be beneficial to our activities.
I’d personally like to thank the Commissioners for their support over the last year and their fervent commitment to continuous improvement of the industry they are so passionate about. A member’s role in the field is difficult and often misunderstood, subject to all the usual passions and abuse that any official experiences in contestant sports. As Chair I do not and will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour toward appointed officials. This has been amply demonstrated over the past year with any such instances being swiftly and properly dealt with. The Commissioners have handled themselves professionally and with an understanding of their roles that is a credit to them and the sport they represent.
Even though we now live with COVID and times remain uncertain, there is a growing demand for combat sport throughout the community, especially with the return of international and national events. I am confident the Commission and its staff — infused with new blood — are well prepared. They will rise to any challenge that the coming year brings with the diligence, passion and commitment that signifies the underpinning strength of the combat sports industry.
Over the last year a secondary weigh-in was imposed, which takes place for 2 hours after doors open at an event. The commission was pleased with the 96% to 97% compliance rate.
The Commission also lowered the age of a person who can act as a second from 18 years to 16 years. A second supports the trainer during a contest. This gives young participants the opportunity to undertake duties outside being a competitor and fosters an understanding of compliance and non-competitive roles. The development of the combat sports industry happens at all levels and it’s important that the youngest members of the community are nurtured and given opportunities while also being educated on safety and best practice.
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 now lodge both parts of their permits online as a result of part 2 going online in the last 12 months.
Fight results from combat sports events in Perth and around Western Australia are now on the website and date back a year. They include the promotion date, discipline, location and name of the promoter.
The online education unit within the portal continues to be widely used and is providing contestants and industry participants with essential information for Commission registration and participation in combat sports. This is proving particularly useful to those new to the sport, offering the most up-to-date information in one location. New and renewing registrants are required to complete the online education unit as a condition of registration.
Access the online education unit.
The Industry Development Series is part of the Commission’s commitment to ongoing training and development. Unfortunately, COVID-19 restrictions curtailed much of the work in this area. There was however, one boxing and MMA seminar and an opportunity offered to industry personnel to do a first aid course.
The Commission approved 29 contests in 2021/22 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.
Overall though registration numbers have continued to climb. In 2021/22 there were 559 contestants registered, compared to 197 in 2016/17. Over the last year, 14.6% of the contestants were women and 85.4% men.
With Western Australia opening its borders, international and interstate competitors travelled more freely and returned to be part of Western Australian events. Local competitors were finally able to head over east and overseas to join cards.
There were 56 breaches of the Act and the Regulations occurred this financial year, primarily around noncompliance. The Commission is pleased with how they were all handled.
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 640 contestants participating in 29 contests directly overseen by the Commission in 2021/22, there were 40 reportable injuries. This equates to 6.25% of contestants suffering a reportable injury during a contest and is a 0.4% decrease from 2020/21.
Further analysis of those 40 reportable injuries shows:
Across all contests, 16 mandatory medical suspensions were issued.
With COVID making plenty of in-person interactions difficult, the Commission has done much of its engagement work with the community via Facebook, the online portal and the website. We continue 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 remains 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.
The commission actively uses Mailchimp for global emails and the website to regularly communicate with the industry.
The tagline 'prepare well, perform better' remains important and 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.
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