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Notes from 9 AM CSAC stakeholders call

By Zach Arnold | July 15, 2012

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It’s a miracle that anyone showed up for the 9 AM stakeholders meeting this morning that was booked by the California State Athletic Commission. They gave promoters less than 72 hours notice. Craig Zimmerman, Roy Englebrecht, and Tom Brown (Goossen-Tutor) made the call. No notable pure MMA promoters participated. Kathi Burns (who introduced herself now as Assistant Executive Officer), George Dodd (Executive Director), and Che Guevara (CSAC top inspector) were on the call.

At the beginning of the call, Roy suggested that since only a couple of people showed up that maybe it shouldn’t continue. Kathi Burns called George Dodd up and George got on the line. He admitted that he thought the call started at 10 AM. Roy talked about how the calls used to happen at 1:30 PM. George asked if the stakeholder calls should be held on weekdays and the promoters agreed on Mondays or Tuesdays.

“Not a lot of people are here,” Roy exclaimed.

“That shouldn’t surprise you, Roy.”

The reason for the South Dakota conference call number (605-715-4920) is because it is a free conference call set-up.

Inspector issues

George Dodd announced that 3 inspectors per show is the standard for small and mid-sized boxing & MMA events in the state, with 5 inspectors being the max for big events unless more are needed for drug testing issues.

(Does this mean that not every fighter is getting tested for recreational drugs now?)

Incredibly, Dodd said that there could be more inspectors at shows if they happen to ‘volunteer’ and that he’s been pleased so far about those who have done so. He noted that the budget remains and will always be a big issue.

Roy Englebrecht brought up how inspectors in Nevada are paid a flat fee to work a show and if that could be done in California. George said that Department of Consumer Affairs recognizes that house-to-venue costs involve ‘some waste,’ but then backtracked and said waste wasn’t his own characterization. He noted that DCA is considering an implementation of a daily fee instead of an hourly wage for inspectors and that this process could happen in August or September.

(The issue here is that inspector salary costs blew up because many inspectors who are full-time state employees were getting paid time-and-a-half overtime rates. What wasn’t discussed on this conference call was all the perks those full-time state employees get for travel & meals.)

George made sure to tout that revenues for the last month for CSAC in 2012 are $139,000 as opposed to $30,000 for last year. He emphasized that the state’s TV tax is the big driver for the budget.

He also noted that a lot of cuts are being made at the Sacramento office, including scanning documents and sending e-mails to officials instead of physically mailing documents.

Promoter & fighter issues

Mr. Dodd said that CSAC/DCA wants 45 days notice from promoters before putting on an event. He then noted that DCA has a 5-to-7 day delay in which they post event announcements on the CSAC web site. 30 days notification is the bare minimum, but he wanted 45 days notice.

Che Guevara stepped in and noted that the irony of the 9 AM conference call is that the promoters who need to be smartened up or need the most help aren’t the ones on the call.

(What do you think is going to happen when you hold conference calls on 9 AM on a Sunday and give less than 72 hours notice?)

Regarding the new inspector limits, George praised the layout of Roy’s shows in regards to the proximity of locker rooms to the ring. The less locker rooms used, the less problems there will be.

(Can you imagine trying to regulate a UFC show featuring that cavernous layout with 3 inspectors?)

The debate about last-minute fight bookings

This easily turned out to be the highlight of the call.

Che Guevara stated that the quality of the bouts approved at the last-minute by CSAC has improved and that California is doing a better job than other states as far as approving last-minute bouts and who is getting the green light to fight. He told promoters to get him information ASAP so that lead inspectors at shows are not loaded up with medicals because last-minute bouts are considered ‘high-caution fights’ by CSAC. He told promoters to not hand over bout cards at the last minute.

George & Che made sure to note that if a fighter who is currently on suspension gets booked, that’s on the promoter and is their responsibility to make sure a fighter is cleared before getting booked.

Interestingly, Che noted that there are fewer workers for CSAC now at the Sacramento office physically.

(Wonder if what DCA said in their insolvency letter has anything to do with this?)

Che sternly noted that he will not accept behavior from promoters in regards to trying to re-book fighters who do not get CSAC approval at the last minute. He gave an example in which two fighters will get booked, one fighter is not approved, a replacement fighter is found but that fighter gets injured, so the promoter tries to get the original unapproved guy booked at the last minute. There would be more on this later in the call.

Handling of the box office

This became quite an expansive discussion, thanks to Roy’s insights.

George Dodd reiterated that promoters must make box office payments + documentation to the commission after a show within 72 hours. If tickets are not collected by the inspector at the show, the promoters must send in the tickets as part of the FedEx package.

Roy pointed out how this could be problematic for someone like him because fighters get blocks of tickets to sell and trying to get back the unsold tickets within a short time frame is hard to do. He also brought up the issue of deadwood (tickets). He said that it made little sense to send those tickets back to CSAC. George said that he wants the tickets sold that night included in the promoter package because if the commission gets audited, they need their ducks lined up in a row. He said that tickets marked at a certain price can be mislabeled (e.g. a $40 ticket gets labeled a comp), which makes doing ticket manifests hard.

“We know human nature and everything else.”

(Given what we reported about DCA sending their suits to shadow CSAC at the UFC San Jose show, you can understand why he’s under pressure.)

Roy noted that he has his own printers which print out the tickets and that Tom Brown of Goossen-Tutor is also working with him now on this front. He noted the complexities of his ticket system, given that there is online ordering and that some tickets are marked up $5 so that if a fighter sells a certain coded ticket, the fighter gets the $5 for the sale. Roy said that him sending his tickets that are varied due to discounts would be difficult for CSAC to decipher. George replied that CSAC gets audited and has to show tickets that the consumer pays their price for.

Licensing of amateur fighters to become professionals

George Dodd said that the process takes at least 2-to-3 weeks and that it’s a waste of time to send out an inspector to analyze only a couple of fighters at a time. Roy suggested that CSAC use retired officials like inspectors who are qualified to help out in the process of giving out the green light as far as who should get professionally licensed. Roy said it would streamline the process and save the commission from spending $60-to-$80 to send an inspector to go check out an amateur fighter.

Che spent a few minutes talking about how, unlike other pro-sports, the amount of fighters who get approved to become ‘professionals’ is embarrassing. He said that he is ‘reluctant to have people tell me’ about which amateur fighters are qualified to get licensed as professionals. He noted that he, along with an inspector, would have a session on August 3rd to check out a dozen or so amateur fighters to see if they should get licensed professionally. He noted that by being more stringent on licensing, it would thin down the talent pool of fighters for promoters but that it’s ‘the best thing we can do for our sport.’

As far as unapproved fighters are concerned, Che said that he will not approve a fighter for a show booking based on whether or not that fighter is involved in a ticket purchase (i.e. selling a fair amount of tickets on his own accord to the show). Either the fighter is qualified to fight or isn’t.

Roy responded by saying that a thinner talent pool would hurt promoters. Craig Zimmerman noted that there are always last-minute bouts when you promote shows every two-to-three months. He suggested that promoters could pay for a monthly evaluation of fighters to get licensed. George Dodd responded by saying, “Everything at this point is obviously open (to discussion).”

Roy suggested that the cost for fighter evaluations should be put on the box office tab and taken from the gate when the promoter has to send in money to CSAC, just like promoters have to do already with money for the boxer’s pension fund, the neurological fund, the gate tax, and the TV tax.

(Of note, there was no discussion about raising the minimum gate fee if a promoter does not meet the 5% gate tax thresh-hold. Either there won’t be a raise in the fee or else this issue slipped through the cracks on the conference call.)

George replied that he would check through regulations and run this suggestion through DCA’s legal department. Roy immediately replied by saying ‘that’s a red flag.’

(I needed that laugh during this conference call. Thanks, Roy. Even he knows that DCA legal is a joke.)

After the red flag comment, Kathi Burns jumped in to try to put a stop to Roy taking up oxygen on the call. She noted that ‘we can’t just start charging a fee’ because they have to follow the regs. “It’s not, unfortunately, something we can do.”

George brought up the fact that CSAC has been eating costs related to boxers and their Federal ID cards and that fighters may have to pick up the tab on this front because it’s a waste of CSAC resources given the time and money if the cards get lost.

George told Roy that any idea of having promoters pay an extra cost for fighter evaluations must be added to the regulations. Roy then promptly suggested that it should be declared a fine so that CSAC can get around any delays. George replied he ‘works inside regulations and not outside them.’

Che Guevara stepped in with an idea of having sparring video sent in so that CSAC can evaluate the quality of an amateur fighter based on what kind of skills they display and against which type of opponent during sparring. He noted that 10-to-15 minutes for a video would be good. Roy and the other promoters agreed with this idea and said it would save everyone time & money to streamline the approval process. Kathi Burns jumped in and said she liked it because they don’t need to add a new regulation for implementation of this suggestion.

The call closed with George Dodd stating that the Monday, July 16th hearing would finish what was started on the June 30th, 9 AM fake emergency meeting. The 7/16 hearing is also a 9 AM affair. George told everyone on the phone that the meeting would last no more than 30 minutes, so if you spend 30 minutes in traffic to get to a teleconference site, then you’re spending a lot of time for a short meeting. At no point did George mention the word ‘loan’ nor did he volunteer any information regarding why the commission was in financial trouble.

“You guys are the bread bakers for the commission.”

Roy finished out the call by saying he would go to church to “pray for this sport.” I think Kathi Burns was praying for Roy not to challenge George any more on the conference call.

Topics: Boxing, CSAC, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 3 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

3 Responses to “Notes from 9 AM CSAC stakeholders call”

  1. Steve4192 says:

    “He also noted that a lot of cuts are being made at the Sacramento office, including scanning documents and sending e-mails to officials instead of physically mailing documents.”

    Glad to see that CSAC has finally stepped into the 1990s.

    Just think, in another 20 years or so, they might be using tablets and wireless communications.

  2. Jo says:

    Need to add Forrest Griffin to the TRT hall of fame….

  3. […] July 2012, Che Guevera was on a conference call with California promoters in which he deflected issues of medical suspensions away from the […]

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