Sport and Violence Closer to your kids than you think

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Two children, thought to be just eight, scrap it out in the cage-fighting ring in front of the all-ticket crowd at the Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, northern England. Photo - MEN

By Ali Hirji

Last week, children as young as eight were seen fighting in a cage in the form of popular sport, Mixed Martial Arts, with hundreds of adults cheering them on, as reported by the English newspaper, The Guardian. A YouTube video was then uploaded which caused frenzy and now has over 100,000 views in just over a week. This begs the question: where do you draw the line between sport and violence, when it comes to entertaining the public.

Sport outnumbers all forms of entertainment in terms of viewer ratings. Add a little violence, make it controversial and the public flog in to see what happens next, with ratings going through the roof, making sport producers very happy. Shows like the World Wrestling Entertainment and Ultimate Fighting Champion, to name a few, have ignited public interest to the extent that these companies are now worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Ultimate Fighting Champion, also known as UFC, is a sport that has come to prominence in the last five years. It consists of two fighters competing in a cage, in the style of Mixed Martial Arts, and has grown at a rapid pace since its inception. Unfortunately, as we learned last week, it has filtered down to youth level, with children as young as seven fighting to win a gold medal.

CONTROVERSY

Caught on camera and shown on YouTube for the world to see, the Greenlands Labour Club in Preston, England, hosted the bout. Michelle Anderson, owner of Greenlands Labour Club who was in attendance declared there was nothing wrong with it. And events such a Children Beauty Pageants do support her view. Putting children in adult type competitions, which they are not mentally prepared for, are common and cause social and physical issues.

The British Medical Association said it is completely opposed to boxing and cage fighting, especially between children, calling it disturbing and abusive. Boxing and cage fighting enthusiasts defend the sport on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control. BMA, however, disagrees and insists there are many other sports, such as athletics, swimming, judo and football, which require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury.

LUCRATIVE BUSINESS

Apart from the physical issues, violence in sport is now becoming more acceptable. It could be argued that the more violent the sport, the more interest it generates. Take the World Wresting Entertainment for example. It posted a profit of $14.3 million in the Q2 alone, even though its fights are known to have story lines, with matches fixed and fighting quite far way from being real.

The UFC has a much bigger appeal with average revenue of $20.1 million per pay per view and around 1.6 million viewer base. But the money and popularity comes with a price, in form of injuries, often life threatening, to athletes.

HEALTH HAZARDS

Sport injuries are common in contact sports but there is an increasing number in head injuries when it comes hockey, American football and wrestling. A 2009 study commissioned by the National Football League reported that Alzheimer’s disease or other similar memory-related diseases appear in the league’s former players at 19 times the normal rate for men aged 30 through 49.

PARENTAL CONCERNS

Children are engaged in sports like boxing and cage fighting which are purely meant for adults. Cage fighting is becoming more of a a childs sport, astonishing and shocking people around the world. Parents from the MENA region have been disgusted by the video put out on YouTube, and believe the sport is completely avoidable at all levels.

There are so many other sports my children have grown up to play and enjoy, without the use of violence, and it has taught them a lot more about discipline and authority, than children cage fighting, says Fatima, a mother of two living in Dubai, but originally from the UK. There is no justification of any kind that should condone these kind of activities and I believe the authorities should deal with this straight away before it starts becoming a normality.

The authorities in the US insist they’re doing their bit by curbing such sports filtering into the American youth. Their TV rating system, also called the TV Parental Guidelines, are divided into four categories: TV-G (General), TV-PG (Parental Guidance), TV-14 and TV-MA (Mature Audience). A programme like UFC will still be shown, but it is up to the parents to decide whether it is appropriate for their child to watch it or not.

With technology on the rise, videos of almost anything can be viewed via the Internet. Bearing that in mind, the government, along with an active participation of parents, need to find a solution. Banning the sport altogether is a good option. This would not only make the future of our kids safe, it will help them make a healthy contribution to the society and grow up in an environment which is violence-free and peaceful.

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