MPs grapple with future of British wrestling

By Jennifer Scott
Political reporter, BBC News

Media caption,
Mark Fletcher: "Wrestling rivals politics for bravado"

A group of MPs is calling for more support and regulation for British wrestling to help it thrive.

Despite producing big names from The British Bulldog to Paige, there is no governing body for wrestling in the UK.

And a report by MPs with a passion for powerslams says safety and safeguarding is "sorely lacking".

Presenting the findings in the Commons, Tory MP Mark Fletcher also warned of a "toxic culture" when it came to abuse in the industry.

It follows the #SpeakingOut campaign in 2020, led by wrestlers who made accusations about sexual misconduct and assault against others in the industry.

Mr Fletcher said: "Wrestling is a wonderful bubble. You can escape the real world and see the contest of people in front of you as purely good and bad - a luxury we are rarely afforded in real life.

"But unfortunately that bubble that the industry operates in has been burst somewhat."

In Thursday's adjournment debate, Mr Fletcher - whose undertaking was inspired by The Undertaker - described wrestling as "the only industry that can rival politics for bravado, faux indignation and partisan crowds".

But away from the drama of the suplexes, he said there were serious issues to grapple with, from an industry "operating outside of the rules" through to "harrowing" accounts of abuse.

The Tory MP said there were plenty of "brilliant" things carried out by promoters and wrestlers, from fundraising to improving the lives of young people.

But he said there was a "total lack of governance" and it needed "turning around".

The group has made a number of ringside recommendations, including:

  • Establishing a governing body in the UK to effectively promote British wrestling
  • Defining training as a sport and shows as an art to ensure they are covered by the right protections
  • An increase to health and safety standards across the board, as well as safeguarding rules for younger fighters
  • Setting up a system for those who are abused or harassed in the industry following the #SpeakingOut movement

Mr Fletcher - who worked with Labour's Alex Davies-Jones on the report - called for the government's support in making these moves a reality, but said the industry also needed to "rise together and work together to be better".

Image source, Oli Sandler Photography
Image caption,
MPs Mark Fletcher (left) and Alex Davies-Jones (right) want more support for the industry to thrive in the UK

The MP added: "I am desperate to try and help British wrestling to overcome these barriers and become better, it doesn't have to be this way.

"It is an industry with hundreds of thousands of fans and has some of the most creative minds around.

"It can be better, but British wrestling needs to respect itself if others are to respect it as well."

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston welcomed the report, and even suggested MPs provide a physical demonstration on the floor of the Commons.

But when the contenders politely declined, he promised "the door is open for discussions about what support can be provided to wrestling" and that he would consider the report in full.