September 08, 2014 - 7:02 PM
VERNON - Vernon City council shouldn't be afraid of any gang involved in mixed martial—there’s not enough money in for them. You can take that from a man who knows a thing or two about organized crime.
William Mastop, the former lawyer convicted of helping a notorious Vernon gang known as the Greeks, was the only person who stepped up to the mic during an opportunity for public input at City Hall.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s money in Mixed Martial Arts," Mastop said. "Where there’s no money, there’s no organized crime."
Mastop pleaded guilty in December 2012 to passing on information about police activity to Greeks gang leader Peter Manolakos. While his original sentence called for a year in jail, the Crown appealed and Mastop was instead handed a 30-month jail term. The former Vernon lawyer was disbarred in December 2013.
Council’s reasons for the ban stem from a closed-door meeting with police in which counsellors were told that MMA contests are linked to organized crime. Mastop calls that allegation ‘ridiculous.’
“This is an active sport, not some sort of underground thing that’s going on,” Mastop said.
While not actively involved in the MMA industry, Mastop said he’s a big fan of the sport.
“Although I wanted to go (to previous tournaments in Vernon) I never got around to going which is unfortunate because it sounds like maybe I won’t be able to now,” Mastop said.
After the window for public input, council adopted a bylaw banning professional Mixed Martial Arts events, but Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe said there’s some misunderstanding about what it actually means.
“The only people we’re eliminating is people with a professional designation, organizations that put on big shows with a big cost involved,” O’Keefe said.
Amateur events, including contests between local clubs, will still be permitted, she said. The specific bylaw states no person may act as a contestant, promoter, or matchmaker if the contest 'relates to a business or business activity.' Nothing in the bylaw regulates amateur mixed martial arts contests or exhibitions held by the business of a mixed martial arts training studio or trainer holding a valid business license.
The adopted bylaw deviates from the one council originally proposed, which O’Keefe worried was too all-encompassing and restrictive on sporting opportunities for youth.
“The first time it was limiting everything,” O’Keefe said.
The bylaw is getting positive feedback from Vernon’s top cop. Supt. Reg Burgess said banning the professional events and allowing those at the amateur level is a good approach.
“(They’re) letting the provincial government deal with it at the high end of the money-making end which is where there are concerns,” Burgess said. “I’d have to agree, it isn’t the local sports clubs that are the issue.”
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014