Former President of Australia Muay Thai Responds Part 1
By Mike LNg
When news first came out about the former President of Australian Muay Thai John Cockburn being expelled from his post the uproar among citizens of the Australian Muay Thai world was immediate. Rumors began circulating about John Cockburn’s exit and the circumstances surrounding it. It resulted in letters surfacing with communiques between Stephan Fox and John Cockburn much of which was less than flattering to the World Muay Thai Council (WMC) Vice-President and International Federation Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) General Secretary Stephan Fox.
John Cockburn had no means of disputing rumors in a public forum so I have elected to give him the space to answer these questions in a public format. I of course invite anyone from WMC to respond as well. My email contact is accessible from the about me page.
The interview with John Cockburn is in 2 parts and this is the first of those parts. In this part John Cockburn details some of the causes for the dispute between he and Stephan Fox and some of the interworkings of IFMA and WMC as well as the details leading up to Cockburn’s exit from the Australia Muaythai Federation.
Question – Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed John.
John Cockburn – No problem. Given that International Muay Thai Federation Amateur (IFMA) wouldn’t agree to have my expulsion reviewed by the international court for sport as the independent arbitrator I am comfortable answering questions. The expulsion was really about Mr Fox having to shoot the messenger. I am still very good friends with many of the IFMA Board but IFMA needs to be able to properly govern itself if it wishes to be a true international sporting body.
I had asked for an independent inquiry into a number of serious irregularities in relation to the governance of the IFMA and WMC so the best they could do was to shoot the messenger. You have the letter calling for the Inquiry.
Why wouldn’t they agree to have the expulsion reviewed?
That is really a question for Mr Fox but I can say that my appeal would expose the wrongdoings I allege against Mr Fox. Equally the disciplinary process was so badly flawed it was embarrassing for all concerned. Mr Fox talks up IFMA’s mission for IOC acceptance but when its gets its 1st opportunity to act like an IOC sport and have its decisions scrutinized by the court for sport – it refuses. This is particularly worrying when the complaints against me were made by Mr Fox and I had openly expressed my concerns that he had involved the IFMA in improper activities and he had acted against the interests of our Australian federation.
It seems to me to be a very serious thing to expel an organization’s Vice President and Chair of its Legal Commission.
Ordinarily it would represent some form of major scandal having occurred. If I was advising the IFMA I would have advised that the exact allegations should have been disclosed publicly and independent lawyers brought in. The most senior lawyer in the IFMA Legal Commission was not even asked to assist. IFMA even had non English speaking/reading people form part of the Judiciary Committee.
What were the actual complaints against you?
I’ll give you the complaint or charges documents and you can post them up if you wish. The documents really amount to meaningless verbiage. While I do disciplinary work in my legal practice, I engaged both a barrister and lawyer at my own expense to act for me. They suggested the “charges” were drafted by someone trying to impersonate a lawyer’s language.
Did IFMA have its own lawyer?
Certainly – 1 of IFMA’s own people – though I would be very surprised if he was responsible for the very poor documents that were sent to me. Unfortunately when my lawyers wrote to the IFMA lawyer seeking clarification of the charges and pointing out some difficulties the IFMA lawyer would not respond. I eventually met with the lawyer at the world championships – the day before the world meeting (by accident) and he told me that he was under no responsibility to communicate with them and he refused to talk with them. Hardly openness and transparency.
Is that legal?
Not illegal but bordering on an abuse of the process – especially when he was dealing with me as the long standing international Vice President and the Chair of the Legal Commission. I had asked for an independent lawyer to be brought in to avoid the process looking bad because of perceived influence by Mr Fox. A General Secretary making complaints about the organization’s own lawyer would be exactly the sort of matter where an independent lawyer should be brought in. I even wrote and asked that an independent Inquiry be established into my various concerns but that letter was not even responded to.
Why do you say influence?
In mid 2009 Mr Fox had written to me and others saying that if I was not expelled from the IFMA he would resign from the IFMA ( this was well before any issues that I was “charged” with). Mr Fox has telephoned another member of the Legal Commission – a very senior lawyer – asking that he get me to resign from both the IFMA and the Australian Federation. He refused and then rang and told me what had happened. Mr Fox has never spoken to him since. Mr Fox also spoke to our other Australian IFMA Executive Board member trying to influence him to get me to resign and Mr Fox was told to butt out of Australian muaythai affairs.
The other Australian IFMA Executive Board member was then cut out of all communications from IFMA Head Office and wasn’t invited to any IFMA meetings. The Australian federation complained about this a number of times but never received a response from Mr Fox.
So Mr Fox was telling you that he would have you expelled in mid 2009 but it took until mid 2010 for that to happen?
That’s right. Even worse was that the “charges” that I was expelled for seemingly related to conduct in January and February 2010 – 9 months after he was already telling people I had to be expelled. Very strange.
You say the charges against you were not proper charges but you must have some idea what they related to.
As best I can understand it there were 2 issues about me having to speak to other muaythai bodies. Bear in mind that I never received any documents or statements for me to know what the issues were.
The 1st was when I found out that Mr Fox had advised the WKN Australian promoter that I was trying to use my power as a lawyer to block the WKN Wayne Parr World Title fight. I wrote to the WKN promoter and advised him this was not the case and I was very disappointed by Mr Fox’s allegations against me. In fact Mr Fox should have been subject to disciplinary action for making such false claims which he has never sought to dispute.
The 2nd was when I responded to a letter offering support from the WMF Sec General, Master Woody who I had never met or spoken with before. I said to him that I was disappointed I had been charged by IFMA and would let him know the outcome of the court for sport proceedings which I believed would have to occur to clear my name.
You have both documents – please make them public if you see fit.
Is that it? Surely there must be more to it.
That’s it. Please ask Mr Fox. Look the whole thing was a charade and a circus because I had challenged what I saw as falsifications in our membership claims, irregular practices and a lack of proper protocols in the way IFMA and WMC operated. Moreover the Australian federation was starting to look to take up a direct media position and this cut across how Mr Fox saw how muaythai was to be presented in Australia. Mr Fox had even secretly emailed ( and not to our Federation) to the major promoters in Australia saying that he would arrange a meeting between them, the current middle men and Fox Sports.
You have said the whole disciplinary process was farcical. How so?
I’ll list the problems as a chronology. I have provided you with the letter where I state same fore expansively.
1. They send me a letter which obviously has found me guilty of misconduct without even asking me for my comments/explanation.
2. There is some nature of report about me prepared that the IFMA Board and I never saw. I was never asked to answer any questions about what may have been in the report
3. There was an IFMA Executive Board meeting held to deal with the issue ( amongst other things) but no agenda for the meeting was ever sent out. This of itself invalidates the whole process. I challenged that there was no agenda and the only person who says they ever saw the agenda was Mr Fox. I have emails from IFMA Executive members saying they never saw an agenda. I have a video of the start of the meeting which you can show if you wish. I was refused the right to video the meeting because the IFMA lawyer says they do not want to air dirty laundry publicly.
4. I went to table several documents at the IFMA Board meeting and Mr Fox snatched them away from me and refuses to neither distribute them to the meeting nor return them to me.
5. I was refused the right to speak to the Board.
6. When I am charged no statements or documents against me are ever produced – especially the agenda notice I have spoken about
7. After the lawyer for IFMA becomes aware of me raising allegations against Mr Fox with the Thai IOC member and that the Thai IOC member being critical of Mr Fox the IFMA lawyer then admits there is an investigation underway. Within a day he then sends me another letter saying there is no investigation underway. Very bizarre.
Why do you say Mr Fox is able to exert inappropriate influence over the IFMA Board?
The IFMA Executive has only there are a limited number of “independent” Board members – by this I mean members whose livelihoods are not dependent upon their muaythai activities. There are others who are only figureheads. Then there are other notionally “independent” Board members but through a lack of understanding of English are not able to perform a full Board role and are essentially reliant upon Mr Fox’s advices. There is no attempt by IFMA itself to assist their understanding of what is said at meetings. Equally no proper papers in respect of what is to be dealt with at Board meetings are provided to Board members in advance of meetings. Then there are a number of commercially focused Board members who are reliant upon Mr Fox to ensure access to visas for athletes and assisting them with matchmaking. No headline international athlete – no major promotion. Equally many of those who want Thai trainers to come to their country are dependent upon Mr Fox either making visa arrangements for them or having letters of support from the WMC/IFMA. Some of these people are heavily dependent upon the WMC “brand”.
Much thanks goes to John Cockburn for responding and telling his side of the story. As always I invite the WMC, Fox, or any of the head generals to respond as well. In part 2 of this interview John Cockburn explains what specific issues were in dispute in regards to IFMA, WMC and the conflicts that arose specifically about policy.