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Combative Sports

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Resolution Category: 
Provincial Scope 7
Red Deer, City of
Active Clauses: 

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association urge the provincial government to create a provincial commission to sanction combative sports events throughout the Province of Alberta.

Whereas Clauses: 

WHEREAS there is public interest in the operation of, attendance at and participation in combative sports events in Alberta;

WHEREAS section 535.1 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) contemplates the establishment of a commission by bylaw for the sanctioning of combative sports;

WHEREAS several communities in Alberta have established commissions;

WHEREAS there appears to be little coordination or consistency amongst the existing commissions throughout Alberta;

WHEREAS there are inherent risks to the operation and regulation of combative sports events that warrant a more detailed and coordinated approach;

WHEREAS there is a responsibility to provide oversight to combative sporting events that sets ethical and safety standards;

WHEREAS the regulation and sanctioning of combative sports is not a core local government function or service; and

WHEREAS other provinces in Canada have created commissions at the provincial level.

Resolution Background: 

This resolution was originally introduced by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo in 2013. While the AUMA adopted the resolution, in 2014 Tourism, Parks and Recreation provided the following response:

It is more appropriate for municipalities to make this determination at a local level through knowing the community and available resources. The response also indicated that these combative sports events should be guided by rules and standards for each particular sport that are developed and monitored by various provincial, national and international oversight bodies.

The AUMA rejected this response, however, this resolution has now expired.

Similar to the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, The City of Red Deer over the past two decades has received requests and statements of interest from the public, expressing desire to hold and attend combative sports events, such as mixed martial arts events.

Alberta is the only province in the country without a combative sport commission. This has been a matter of ongoing advocacy my many municipalities including the City of Edmonton, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and The City of Red Deer.

Alberta's Municipal Government Act (MGA), specifically section 535.1, makes some provision for the establishment of a municipal combative sports commission through bylaw. At the present time, there are combative sports commissions in Edmonton, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Cold Lake and Penhold. The bylaws in place vary significantly from one municipality to another, which means that there is no coordination or consistency in the regulation of events throughout the province.

Government Response: 

The Minister’s response to the 2017 resolution reiterates that municipalities continue to have the authority to regulate combative sports, but notes that the province is working with other organizations and levels of government to “ensure Albertans feel protected and safe when participating in any sporting event.” The response also states that Culture and Tourism staff will reach out with more information as it becomes available.

AUMA Notes: 

Municipal combative sports commissions often have neither the expertise nor the resources to fulfill the full scope of regulatory oversight required for combative sporting events. Provincial commissions typically have a higher level of oversight and accountability, as they are the single point of contact for an entire province, and draw from larger human and financial resource pools. Provincial commissions can also ensure consistent regulation across the province and centralized information related to athlete background checks, which helps ensure a higher rate of athlete safety at the point of matchmaking.

All other Canadian provinces have already established provincial combative sports commissions. Alberta, as a province with a growing number of combative sporting events, is behind in creating standardized regulations. While the latest response from the Minister indicates that work is ongoing, no concrete actions or outcomes are described.

AUMA will therefore “consider” the province’s response to the resolution on a provincial combative sports commission, and take the following actions:

  • Reach out to the City of Edmonton and the consultant MNP, which completed a report for the City on this topic, and invite them to present to the Safe and Healthy Communities Committee;
  • Reach out to grassroots combative sports clubs to learn more about their perspective on this issue; and
  • Gather information regarding the potential costs of establishing and operating a provincial combative sports commission.

The goal of these actions is to obtain more information so that the Committee can make a more detailed and informed recommendation.

AUMA Comments: 
Considers government response