Changes to combat sports regulation in NSW

Sports Law eBulletin - 14 January 2015

Summary

On 15 December 2014, the Combat Sports Act 2013 (NSW) (Act) commenced.

The Act aims to promote the health and safety of combatants, to promote the integrity of combat sport contests and to strengthen the regulation of combat sports.

It introduces a number of important changes which will affect combat sports in New South Wales, and affected sports organisations will need to ensure that they are prepared.

In this eBulletin, we look at which sports are covered under the new legislation and outline the key changes which will affect NSW combat sports organisations.

 

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What sports will be covered by the Act?

The Act introduces a new definition for Combat Sport. Under the Act, Combat Sport means any sport, martial art or activity in which the primary objective of each contestant in a contest, display or exhibition of that sport, art or activity is to strike, kick, hit, grapple with, throw or punch one or more other contestants.

It does not include a sport, martial art or activity that is prescribed by the Combat Sport Regulations 2014 (NSW) (Regulation).

A number of sports are prescribed as exempt from the Act where they are conducted by a named organisation.

These are listed at Schedule 1 of the Regulations.

Examples of sports that are excluded sports, martial arts or activities under the Regulation include but are not limited to:
  • Judo – where conducted by International Judo Federation, Judo Federation of Australia or Judo NSW
  • Wrestling – where conducted by Federation Internationale Des Luttes Associees, Australian Wrestling Union Inc or NSW Wrestling Association.
  • Karate - where conducted by Australian Karate Federation Inc., International Sport Karate Association, Martial Arts Sports Association Inc., NSW Karate Federation, World Karate Federation.
Sports covered by the Act include:
  • Boxing
  • Kickboxing
  • Muay Thai
  • MMA (incl. Cage Fighting, Ultimate Fighting)

 

Key changes that will impact NSW combat sports

Role of the CSA

Under the Act, the Combat Sports Authority (CSA) will continue to regulate Combat Sports in NSW. Its functions have been broadened and now include:

  • supervising and regulating professional and amateur combat sport in NSW;
  • advising the Minister on matters related to combat sports and the Act;
  • promoting awareness of issues relating to combat sports; and
  • all such supplemental, incidental or consequential acts as may be necessary for the exercise of its functions.

Definition of combat sport

The definition of 'combat sport' in the Act is amended to ensure that it extends to all sports in which the primary objective of each contestant is to strike, kick, hit, grapple with, throw or punch one or more of the other contestants.

In creating the Act, it was suggested that the previous definition of 'combat sports' did not adequately cater for emerging sports or disciplines and as a result it was too easy to avoid being regulated by the CSA. The effect of the new definition is that new disciplines will be covered under the Act from the outset.

All combat sports and disciplines will be regulated unless they have appropriate integrity protection policies in place, and are deemed as not posing a level of health and safety risks that justify government intervention.

Regulation of amateur combat sport

The CSA now has the power to regulate amateur contests, in addition to professional contests. These reforms mean there will no longer be an incentive for professional combatants to conceal the payments they receive in order to compete without CSA regulation.

Registration

All industry participants, promoters and combatants wishing to participate in contests that are regulated by the Act will be required to register with the CSA. Registration will now last for three years. Previously people had to renew their registration each year to be current and able to participate.

Promoters continue to be required to obtain a permit to hold combat sport contests, and now only registered Promoters may obtain a permit, including for contests at the amateur level.

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Requirements for medical clearance

A contest promoter must not permit a combatant to participate unless the combatant has a certificate of fitness issued by a registered medical practitioner, which must be reissued every 12 months. A combatant is also required to have a valid serology certificate issued by a Medical Practitioner or a person who provides a pathology service stating that:

  • they are of the opinion that the person is not suffering from any medical condition or disease (specified by the regulations); and
  • the opinion is based on the results of blood tests or other relevant tests carried out on a date specified in the certificate.

Further, the tests must have been carried out within the last 12 months (for those under the age of 18) or in the last six months in the case of any other person. The test period is longer for children, as they have a lower HIV/hepatitis risk profile.

Registered combatants are also required to have pre-and post-contest medical checks to determine they are fit to fight at a contest and if an injury is sustained during a contest a medical suspension can be imposed.

Managing risk

The Act provides for combat sport inspectors, police and medical practitioners to attend contests and manage health and safety, integrity and public safety risks.

Referees' duty to stop a contest

A new offence has been established for referees who fail to stop contests when directed to do so by a medical practitioner, combat sport inspector or police officer. This offence carries a maximum penalty of $55,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment.

When the Bill was debated in Parliament, it was agreed that this offence may reduce the risk of referees being pressured to continue fights by promoters and managers.

Medical record books

The CSA will issue medical record books to all registered combatants and maintain records of all suspensions from fighting on medical grounds. As the CSA now regulates amateur as well as professional combat sports, combatants will no longer hold multiple medical record books. This will prevent fighters who are declared unfit by one body from fighting in contests sanctioned by another.

Security determinations

The CSA must refer an application for registration as a promoter, manager or matchmaker to the Commissioner of Police for a security determination. The Commissioner may refuse to register a person if they are not a "fit and proper person" or if it is not in the public interest. The Commissioner may consider criminal record information in making such a determination.

Disciplinary provisions

The Act sets out the penalties, grounds and procedures for the CSA to take disciplinary action against registered combatants, industry participants and promoters.

Combat sports inspectors have new powers of entry and inspection so they can properly fulfil their functions. The CSA also has new powers to compel the production of information.

There is no privilege against self-incrimination where information or documents are required as part of investigating a possible breach of this Act. However, those documents will not be admissible as evidence in subsequent civil or criminal proceedings.

 

Implications for NSW combat sports organisations

The Act creates significant changes to the way combat sports are regulated in NSW.

NSW combat sports organisations should ensure that they are prepared for the impact of these changes and seek advice where necessary to confirm that they will comply with their legal requirements under the new Act

For further information about your organisation's obligations, please speak with a member of our Sports Business Group.

Authors
Garth Towan, Lawyer
Amelia Lynch, Senior Associate

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Further information

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.