A legal prespective: How the first MMA event was approved in France

  Translation of article in L’Express  by Clement Daniez , published on 09/21/2015 at 17:28 , updated at 18:22 Read original article in French: http://bit.ly/1QTzaTi    Image by Julien Brondani On Saturday, Paris’ Cirque d’Hiver welcomed the first public demonstration of French mixed martial arts. It is a story of official authorization that infuriates the Secretary of State for Sport . [Exclusive] “We are no longer in sport, but in the game of circus,” said the Secretary of State for Sports, Thierry Braillard, to L’Express in January to justify the refusal to allow Mixed Martial Arts (or MMA) in France. On Saturday night, not only did France host the first event of this kind, but it took place – a cruel irony for the Minister – at the Cirque d’Hiver, a famous hall in the eleventh district of Paris. For fans and practitioners of this controversial discipline not approved in France, combining all combat sports (judo, wrestling, Thai boxing … ) this Saturday, September 19 will go down as a historic day. Never before “Cage Encounter 4″  had  France “officially” allowed within its territory fights with ground strikes in a combat area enclosed by a fence, commonly called “cage”. Officially? For it is in compliance with the law that the event took place, say the organisers. “A case was filed on August 19 at the Departmental Directorate of Social Cohesion (DDCS ), as is usual for a public boxing event,” the promoters’ lawyer Ms. Tatiana Vassine told L’Express. “The authorities had ten days to authorize or prohibit the event or to require additional information. There was no response after this this time. It was thus tacitly allowed.” In this case, the administration was silent on an application requiring agreement (see the list of the relevant procedures on the site of Légifrance ). The seats could then be auctioned publicly on via online ticketing, for “mixed martial arts”. The tickets were snapped up. On Saturday, the venue’s 1600 seats were full.

Surprise visit from the authorities

Until the day before the event, the organizers had received no news from the authorities. They were contacted on the evening of Friday, September 18 by the DDCS in Paris who asked for information regarding the structure of the event.  “We sent them those they already had on file, including the details of the attending medical team headed by leader of the ICU Hospital Beaujon in Clichy,” explains Ms. Vassine, a partner in a firm specializing in sports law. Two police raids took place at the Cirque d’Hiver on the day of the event. The first time, in the afternoon, the Artistic Director of Cirque d’Hiver, Joseph Bouglione, satisfies the agents who were dispatched on site that everything is in order and that for the Cirque d’Hiver, this is not its first combat evening. They leave immediately. The second time at around 19:00 hours, the local police commissioner arrives with the Director of the DDCS and inspectors. “After 5 minutes the commissioner left after noting that the security situation, both for combat and for medical purposes, posed no problem,” testifies Ms. Vassine. “The departmental agents consulted the records of all competitors and left at the end of the event, at around 23:00 hours, without placing a ban on the event, proof that all was well within the framework of an authorized event.”

The anger of the Secretary of State for Sports

In Le Parisien on Monday, Thierry Braillard is still furious. “I do not like being ridiculed,” he says, adding that “to hold an MMA event, you must be a member of a federation, which was not the case.” This is wrong, according to the organisers. “Mr. Bawler has an interpretation that departs from the provisions of the Sports Code, because everyone can organize a public demonstration of boxing, an affiliation with a federation is only a relaxation of the licensing process scheme,” says Ms. Vassinne. “The administrative authority may, by reasoned order, prohibit the holding of this event [sports] when presenting risks to dignity, physical integrity or health of the participants, as is stated in Article L 331-2 of the Sports Code. If the demonstration was illegal, why did they not shut it down, as agents were there? It was because the law has been respected,” insists Ms. Vassine. “The documents provided on the application for this competition are in a foreign language and they evoke a combat sport meeting, without specifying that it is MMA,” Thierry Braillard attacked in the newspaper. This is also wrong according to the organisers. “Mixed Martial Arts is spelled out in the technical regulations introduced in the definitions, says an astonished Ms. Vassine. “And there is no requirement in the Code of Sport that a file should not be a submitted in English. Besides the definitions did not require a translation.”

Bawler promised an investigation

What will the sports ministry do? “Our investigation (administrative) may result in sanctions,” promised Thierry Braillard. “We will organize a new event in the coming months,” promises Fernand Lopez, one of the event organisers. “It will be within the legal framework. They have the right to say no and if they say no, we will carry the matter before the Administrative Court (TA).” “Cage Encounter 4″ sets a precedent. The approach could inspire more promoters across French territory, if not the UFC [the equivalent of the Champions League football for MMA], and appeals to the Administrative Court could thus multiply.” The authorization of Cage Encounter 4 is one of the arguments that can be presented to the TA,” confirms Ms. Vassine.

In court

Under the current law, how can the minister defend his position? “When we fight to the ground and use elbow strikes, one is in the violation of human dignity, so for now MMA is prohibited by the Sport Code,” assured Thierry Braillard on Saturday, at 13:00 hours on JT France 2 . “He will have to prove why there is less bodily integrity in MMA than in other combat sports,” warns Lopez. In boxing for example, fighters are permitted to continue if they fall in within 10 seconds after a concussion.  In MMA, the fight is stopped right away.” The fight for the recognition of MMA could last a little longer. [/spb_text_block]

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