Last week, while browsing TopMMANews, I read that the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission announced an “MMA Fighter of the Year” for 2013.
I noticed this was written in the April Fool’s day edition of the Rumour Mill so I chalked it up to a gag. Curiosity got the best of me, however, and I searched the ECSC’s website to see if they actually hand out annual awards and to my surprise the answer is yes. While their website says nothing verifying the rumoured 2013 selection, their “News” section highlights at least one past such award show. The 2011 press release discusses awards in the following categories:
- The Athlete of the Year in boxing
- The Athlete of the Year in MMA
- The Athlete of the Year in professional wrestling
The press release goes on to note that “Each year the ECSC also reviews nominations for induction into the ECSC Honour Roll for either lifetime achievement or for an outstanding athletic accomplishment.”
There is nothing wrong with recognizing excellence in the performance of sport. I make no comment on any of the ECSC’s choices. What is noteworthy, however is that a government regulator is hosting an awards show recognizing those that they regulate. Imagine being a licensed combatant facing an opponent that the government regulator has deemed to be an “athlete of the year“. If this does not amount to actual bias it at the very least, from my perspective, creates an appearance of bias.
I find it difficult to find a parallel to this situation but it seems akin to a Judge announcing ‘lawyer of the year‘ awards or to a Government Liquor Control Board handing out ‘Pub of the year‘ trophies. If I appeared before a judge that bestowed a “lawyer of the year” honour on my opposing colleague I would have little difficulty removing that judge from the case based on a reasonable apprehension of bias. There is simply no place for a regulator to engage in such activity.
Combative Sports commissions exist to regulate sport. There is no room for blurring the lines of oversight by picking favorites. While there is a time and a place for recognizing excellence in combat sports, Government regulators should not fill such a role if for no other reason than that of appearances.