This Thursday, the MPs constituting the panel of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Professional Wrestling in Great Britain published a report some six months in the making. The cross-party Inquiry panel, led by All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling co-chairs Alex Davies-Jones MP and Mark Fletcher MP has taken written and oral evidence on the professional wrestling industry from some 80 wrestlers, promoters, ring crew, training school operators, academics, health care professionals and others connected to the British wrestling world.
The report marks the first time that this unregulated industry which crosses the threshold between sport and theatre has been analysed in a systemic way by parliamentarians, and the first official intervention in nearly 80 years. Co-designation of wrestling as both sport and theatrical, improved licencing and insurance arrangements, minimum standards for health and safety and safeguarding proposals are amongst the measures included in the report which sets out 30 recommendations.
- Wrestling has fallen between the categories of sport and theatre, sometimes characterised as sports entertainment. The panel recommends that wrestling training schools be considered as ‘sporting’ and shows, promotions and associated activity be considered ‘theatrical’ or ‘artistic’ or ‘performative’, in respect of future guidance, legislation and regulation.
- The minimum health and safety standards across independent wrestling in Britain is worryingly low. The parliamentarians have recommended a raft of measures most notably, enhanced requirements under the licencing and insurance arrangements wrestling companies have in place, and the adoption of concussion protocols. Signed PAR Q fitness forms, guidance from the Health and Safety Executive and minimum first aid training are also recommended.
- Wrestling’s own MeToo movement, known as SpeakingOut highlighted stories of sexual abuse, assault and predation. The report makes a number of recommendations in response to the movement, including hardwiring the voice of abuse survivors into British wrestling, the development of practical guides for first responders and working to establish case management systems to address allegations of abuse.
- Wrestling training schools have insufficient protections in place, particularly given they are regularly working with minors. The report recommends that, as is proposed under current legislation, sports coaches be recognised as a position of trust for the purposes of child sexual offences and that wrestling coaches be considered sports coaches for this purpose. A number of interim steps in relation to safeguarding and data protection are also proposed.
- The wrestling industry suffers from a lack of official representation, and the report recommends the establishment of trade bodies to more effectively promote British wrestling.
- Other recommendations include a call for increased data collection about the industry, appropriate memorialisation of great British wrestling talents building on the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame for Scotland, work to better understand the gender pay gap in wrestling, infrastructure to support wrestlers working overseas and better measures to accommodate visiting talent, and creating a safety standard for wrestling rings.
APPG Co-Chairs Alex Davies-Jones MP and Mark Fletcher MP said: “We are delighted to take what we hope will be a first step towards strengthening and improving the British wrestling industry which brings joy to so many people, ourselves included. We don’t do reports that sit on a shelf and look forward putting our recommendations into action in the coming weeks.”
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “The Government welcomes the APPG’s report and will be carefully considering its findings. We want to see a successful wrestling industry for its participants and many fans right across the country.” Shadow Sports Minister Alison McGovern MP said: “This is a detailed report covering both the performance and sporting aspects of wrestling that many love dearly, but which also have long-standing issues that need attention. The APPG have done a great piece of work here, and I hope DCMS will look at it.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Professional Wrestling in Great Britain was established in late 2020. It is the first major initiative of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling. The inquiry was conducted by a panel of MPs, representing three different political parties. The panel members are Alex Davies-Jones MP (Labour, Pontypridd), Mark Fletcher MP (Conservative, Bolsover) [APPG Co-chairs], Paul Bristow MP (Conservative, Peterborough), Tonia Antoniazzi MP (Labour, Gower), Kirsty Blackman MP (Scottish National Party, Aberdeen North) and Ruth Jones MP (Labour, Newport West).
The Terms of Reference of the Inquiry were:
- To inquire into the current status of British wrestling, the contribution the industry makes to Britain and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its success.
- To review whether the current law and regulations governing the industry are fit for purpose and to uncover models of good practice.
- To make recommendations, rooted in best practice where possible, for frameworks to improve, or measures to support, the industry.
A full copy of the report is available on request and will be accessible here. Stay tuned on SteelChair Mag the next few days as we attend today’s MPs press conference and will talk exclusively to Michael Fletcher.
All pics and screencaps courtesy of APPG and Oli Sandler