During Saturday night’s Pay-Per-View broadcast, play-by-play commentator Mike Goldberg announced that Toronto’s UFC 206 event was sponsored by the Government of Ontario. The announcement, which was accompanied by the Ontario government logo on the ‘Tale of the Tape’ segment of the broadcast, took some fans and pundits by surprise, as the government of Ontario is also responsible for regulating the UFC 206 show.
While it appears as though the government was well within its rights to sponsor a sports event, the decision to sponsor a particular show that also falls under the regulatory responsibility of the Office of the Athletic Commissioner in Ontario raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest.
When asked to comment on the decision to sponsor UFC 206, a spokesperson for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport in Ontario offered BloodyElbow a statement, which can be read in full below:
Our government supports a number of high profile sporting events and festivals that attract tourists, generate economic growth and support job creation through our Celebrate Ontario Blockbuster Program. The Program has been tremendously successful, as funding recipients have helped generate $18 in visitor spending for every $1 received from our government. As part of this program, we committed $150,000 to UFC 206 at the Air Canada Centre. Attracting major international events of this nature builds Ontario’s reputation as a must see destination.
As with any professional combative sporting event in Ontario, UFC 206 was regulated by the Office of the Athletics Commissioner to ensure the health and safety of contestants was prioritized. The Office has an excellent health and safety record in professional combative sports, enforcing fair and strict protocols as outlined in the State of New Jersey rules, which were adopted in Ontario and are the most widely used in North America. Enforcement of these rules helps to reduce risks to participants and ensures consistency. Key policies and procedures in Ontario include rigorous match approvals, extensive medical testing requirements, the presence of experienced ringside physicians and paramedics, pre and post-bout medical examinations and attendance of Officials to carry out the Office’s health and safety mandate.
UFC 206 was a successful, sold out event and the Office of the Athletics Commissioner ensured that all rules and procedures were followed. We’re confident that the Office of the Athletics Commissioner is effective in maintaining safety and preserving the integrity of combative sports, providing a fair and transparent licensing process and providing the public access to quality combative sport events.
While the government of Ontario’s response does not admit to any potential wrongdoing, Erik Magraken of CombatSportsLaw explained why the issue does not necessarily present a conflict of interest.
“I suppose the conflict is as an advertiser they want to reach as large of a commercial audience as possible and as a regulator (concerned with safety) they may feel pressure to make sure the show goes on or otherwise compromise standards. It may be a conflict but if so it would be on the lower end of the scale. The government can reach a similar audience in other ways (ie advertising in other UFC events).”
UFC 206 took place at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The event drew an attendance of 18,057 for a live gate of $2,429,300 CAD.
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