Breaking Down the Calgary Combative Sports Commission’s Authority To Regulate AMMA
Yes, once again here comes a lawyer to take all the fun out of things! Today I will breakdown the legal authority (or lack thereof) of the Calgary Combative Sports Commission to regulate AMMA.
AFC 20 is scheduled to take place in Calgary in July and three amateur bouts are reportedly taking place. Given the new Canadian legal landscape relating to amateur combat sports, is there a proper framework in place to regulate AMMA in Calgary? The answer is likely no. Here’s why –
The starting point is section 83 of the Criminal Code which makes MMA illegal unless a proper Provincial framework exists.
Section 83(2)(d) gives Provinces the ability to create commissions to regulate MMA and does not appear to be limited to professional MMA. It specifically gives Provinces the ability to create “an athletic board, commission, or similar body” to regulate MMA so long as the body is “established by or under the authority of the province’s legislatute for the control of sport withing the province“.
In Alberta, no Province wide commission exists, with MMA instead being regulated on a municipal level. There is nothing wrong with this so long as the municipal commissions derive their authority “by or under the authority of the province’s legislature”.
Calgary purports to derive their authority from Alberta’s Municipal Government Act, which allows bylaws to be passed respecting “safety, heath and welfare of people” and also “business activities“. Although the Municipal Government Act does not expressly give the City the power to regulate MMA, such a power is strongly implied under section 535(1)which reads as follow
Protection of sporting commissions
535.1(1) In this section, “commission” means a commission
established by bylaw for controlling and regulating any of the
(c) full contact karate;
(e) any other sport that holds contests where opponents strike
each other with a hand, foot, knee, elbow or other part of
(2) A commission and its members, officers, employees and any
volunteers and officials performing duties under the direction of
any of them are not liable for anything said or done or omitted to
be done in good faith in the performance or intended performance
of their functions, duties or powers under this Act or any other
(3) Subsection (2) is not a defence if the cause of action is
MMA is clearly captured under subsection (e) so if this is an implied power Commissions can regulate MMA. There is nothing limiting this implied power to only professional MMA.
So, assuming the Calgary commission properly derives their authority in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code, the next step is to look at the bylaw setting up the commission. The bylaw in question is the Combative Sports Commission Bylaw.
This Bylaw creates a Commission and tasks them with authority to sanction and licence “combative sports events” . This is where the legal authority wanes thin. Events are defined as follows:
“combative sports event” or “event” includes any exhibition, card, contest
or promotion involving the presentation of combative sports but does not
include amateur events.
“combative sports” means a sport involving physical contact, the primary
purpose of which is the allotment of points, and includes boxing, kick
boxing, mixed martial arts and muay thai;
Since amateur events are specifically excluded from the definition of “events” the Commission does not appear to have the authority to regulate these. This becomes particularly clear when you look at section 34(2) which holds in part that “a licence shall not be required for amateur events featuring amateur contestants.“
So, if the Commission does not have the authority/ability to licence an amateur event or contestant which amateur events are legal in Calgary? Amateur Events and Amateur Contestants are defined as follows:
“amateur contestant” means anyone who participates in a combative
sport that is governed by one or more of the amateur bodies listed in
Schedule “F” and does not receive any money or other gain from such
(d.1) “amateur event” means a combative sports competition that features
amateur contestants and is governed by one or more of the amateur
bodies listed in Schedule “F”;
Schedule F goes on to list the following “governing bodies” who are given the ability to regulate amateur events:
F.1 Alberta Amateur Boxing Association and Boxing Alberta
F.2 CMTC – A, Canadian Muay Thai Council Amateur (Alberta)
F.3 World Kickboxing Association
F.4 International Federation of Muay Thai Amateur
To my knowledge none of these bodies regulate AMMA.
Where does this leave us?
1. The Commission does not appear to have the ability to regulate AMMA
2. The permitted amateur events do not include AMMA.
Not Done Yet –
This takes us back to section 83 of the Criminal Code. If a Provincially established commission does not have authority to regulate any given combat sport then one must look to the amateur exceptions in the Criminal Code. Presently none of these seem to apply since MMA is not on the programme of the IOC, nor has Alberta passed the proper laws to legislate AMMA outside of the Criminal Code. The Provincial legislature can easily fix this problem if they have the will to do so.
One last kick at the can –
I am advised that the CCSC deems AMMA to be professional thereby giving them the right to regulate the sport. The authority for this is apparently derived from the fact that the Unified Rules of MMA specifically deal with amateur contests.
This logic, unfortunately, does not hold water. While Schedule E of the Calgary bylaw specifically incorporates the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s Unified Mixed Martial Arts Rules, and while it is true that these do deal with the regulation of AMMA, Section 52(6) of the Calgary Bylaw reads as follows:
Where there is a conflict between the rules and regulations provided for in this
Section or in the Schedules to this Bylaw and a provision of this Bylaw, the Bylaw
provision shall prevail.
In plain English this means that the Unified Rules do not trump the fact that the Calgary Bylaw does not give the commission the authority to regulate AMMA.
So, AMMA appears to, unfortunately, lack a proper framework to be legal in Calgary.
The good news is this is a problem that can be fixed. This shortcoming can be remedied either on the Provincial level if Alberta decides to regulate MMA on a province wide basis, or, if local commissions will remain the law of the land in Alberta then the local Bylaw can be amended to specifically address AMMA.
Erik Magraken is a personal injury litigator and Partner with the British Columbia law-firm MacIsaac & Company. The article was re-printed with permission from his Canadian MMA Law Blog.