By James Eakin
This year’s edition of the international sport industry event Host City saw IMMAF CEO Densign White present impactful messages surrounding the need to ensure integrity of leadership in organisations and encourage diversity at all levels. On the panel with White were representatives from multiple governing bodies in sport. Key figures like Rita van Driel, who is a Governing Board Member and Chair of the Women in Sport Commission, Vice President of FINA, Sam Ramsamy and Brendan Williams, Chair of the Athletes Advisory Commission, and a member of the Commonwealth Games Federation. Amongst other key speakers at Host City this year were the head of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Organising Committee Etienne Thobois and the newly elected President of GAISF Ivo Ferriani.
One of the main points of discussions of the panel was leadership and its impact on the culture of big organisations. When White was asked on how integrity within an organisation develops, he answered:
“The leader of the organisation impacts on the culture of that organisation. It comes from the top. Integrity and trust depend on how well the organisation is led.”
In IMMAF’s mission to make sure that the integrity of the sport is maintained at an amateur level, White revealed that it is sometimes necessary to go against the opinions of the majority in order to protect the image of amateur MMA. White described how such an instance developed with IMMAF during discussions around the Youth Rule Set. White explained how the process of deciding whether head shots should be allowed in youth competition occurred was not straightforward:
“We conducted a survey of all the coaches and their opinions on headstrikes. Around 80-90% of coaches were in favour of headstrikes, and more than 50% of those coaches wanted headstrikes included at the lowest age group, which includes 12-year-old athletes.”
In the end, after lengthy discussions at board level, it was agreed that head shots would not be permitted. White made the salient point that these figures highlighted the need for better education of coaches at amateur level. White also pointed out that as MMA is a relatively new sport in comparison to the likes of Boxing, kick boxing or Muay Thai, there is no room for any mistakes, as they cost the sport’s mission for recognition dearly. The decision to swim against the tide proved a wise one, and since then IMMAF has clearly demonstrated a desire to offer a safe and attractive sport for all age groups. White also identified how this decision put concerned parents at ease:
“The decision to ban headstrikes helped to recruit more kids. Parents would always be concerned about their children receiving headstrikes from a young age and the decision to rule them out makes the sport more welcoming.”
The Host City event is a massive opportunity for organisations to put across their values, and Densign White has emphasised the need for leaders to be pilots not passengers. In their quest for Olympic recognition, White and the IMMAF team continue to set a gold standard in competition, prioritising integrity, diversity, and safety within their events.