Former President of Australia Muay Thai Responds Part 1

By  Mike LNg

John Cockburn former Australian Muay Thai president

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.

Stephan Fox, Vice President of WMC and IFMA General Secretary

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.

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~ by fatsoking on February 1, 2011.

6 Responses to “Former President of Australia Muay Thai Responds Part 1”

  1. THANK YOU!

  2. What a load of bullshit, if you want to beleive the crap that comes out of that mans mouth you can, I have witnessed first hand how much John has ripped every Australian off who had anything to do with the IFMA games, so much it is not even worth it, why don’t you ask him where all the money for the OMF went and why the OMF was not set up in Australia properly, I have had many of phone calls with him as I was the state Rep for WA for 10 years, until I started asking where haa all the money gone and if we in WA can keep a percentage of the money in our own state to develope our state, oh but no everything had to go to him in QLD, and in the whole time he was President not Vice President, we never saw one financial report to where the money was going, he over charged everyone who ever went to the IFMA games, just one small example is he tried to charge everyone $150 for there tracksuits, told them that was the cost because they were being made in Aus, when I know they were coming from china, because he was dumb enough to tell me after they didn’t arrive in time, it was very embarrassing having to go shopping before the opening ceramony to buy T-shirt with anything Australian on it for opening ceramony, then when I got back to Australia he tried to charge the WA people for a tracksuit they didn’t even receive, what a nerve, not to mention the jacked up prices for flights and accommodation if you went through him, fancy getting charged $2500 to go represent your country, what a joke, it use to upset him that I would organise the WA part of the team as well as pay my own way ( I was the national coach)for less than half what he tried to charge, he is the reason why Australia doesn’t send there best anymore, and that is just a small part of it, so before you go backing that dick you better check your facts, just ask any Austarlian who has been to the IFMA world championships, and anytime you challenged him he would just give you a mouthful of his Lawyer crap until you switch off, enough was enough and I was the one to start the ball rolling by bringing all the crap he has done to Australia, but hey if you don’t beleive me ask any Australian that was in the OMF, even what you have here on this site about what he has to say is bullshit going nowhere

    • Actually he addressed that point as well. I’ll put the response up tomorrow. But any other salient points you feel you may have please mention.

  3. A quick response in my position as the IFMA Sport Director; I have spoken to Mr. Fox with regards to this interview and he has said there is no need for him to respond as Mr. Cockburn is no longer a member of the IFMA muaythai family.

    A couple of points that in my opinion needed addressing:

    1. Mr. Cockburn indeed had a fair hearing. It was a process that took over 6 months with the outcome being a unanimous decision to expel him by the IFMA executive board. Language problems? This is nonsense. Those whose English was not there first language all had translators present. I would think Mr. Cockburn would give more credit to his then-fellow executive board members than to come to a meeting and sit there not knowing what was going on!

    2. Regarding the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), again Mr. Cockburn is distorting the facts. IFMA indeed agreed to engage arbitrators, but disagreed on having to bear the cost. It was up to Mr. Cockburn to pay for the proceeding he sought, which he did not do, and therefore CAS threw out the case.

    As the IFMA Sport Director, I had always felt that it was a shame that for a country that has such strong fighters, during the time Mr. Cockburn was in office as President of MA (then OMF), that only boxers who were financially able to go to the IFMA world championships would come.
    The responsibility of the federation’s President is to bring the best of the best to represent Australia at an event such as the IFMA World Championships, not who had the biggest bank account.
    It seems disappointing that Mr. Cockburn was unable to organise any fundraising events in order to fund the best athletes to come to the worlds. Surely, this cannot be a difficult endeavour in a country that loves its muaythai and that is so developed relative to some of our other developing national federations.

    I noticed that Mr. Cockburn boasts his success for the 2009 Arafura Games.
    I must point out that Mr. Cockburn put muaythai’s participation in the games in jeopardy by demanding money from Mr. Fox’s personal bank account and by cancelling all hotel reservations for international athletes leaving them stranded without room or board. It was then that the IFMA international office together with some executive members of the Australian Federation took over management of the event and saved the games for muaythai.

    The IFMA International office, on its own dime then flew the President, General Secretary, Sport Director and Thai Technical delegate on a low cost carrier to the event to intervene in the running of the event to ensure that all would come off smoothly. This was after we rushed to work from Bangkok-side to secure new accommodations in Darwin for all the visiting teams whom Mr. Cockburn had cancelled hotel bookings for.
    Upon arrival to Darwin, Mr. Cockburn, who was President of the OMF at that time, was nowhere to be seen, which was surprising to me, as it is normal protocol for an NF President to greet the IF President upon arrival to his country.
    Our President had to then rent his own car and we made our own way to our hotel. As disappointing as all this was, the important thing for IFMA was that an event like this is as memorable an experience for the visitors as it is for the home country, and I can safely say that that after IFMA’s intervention, the event came off beautifully! We’re looking forward to the next Arafura Games in May this year which is already being organised by an efficient and functioning new Australian Federation.
    I understand Mr. Cockburn is a lawyer and will most certainly come back with a long defence, but for me as the IFMA Sport Director I feel I have said my piece and will no longer engage in any further banter. I will also not comment on any other allegations, as this is now a matter for our legal department.

  4. This is on behalf of Iranian Muaythai Federation/Association and we are very angry about the interview of Mr. Cockburn. Mr. Fox is one of most respected friends of our muaythai in the world. In our country he have made so much good for sport of muaythai in iran and also program of Peace & Sport. When Mr. Cockburn speak of the muslim ladies, he speak about our national iran team.

    In 2006 with help of esteemed president Dr. tapsuwan and mr. fox general secretary, I.R. Iran government have give permission to allow for first time female team travel outside iran.

    Yes, at competition in Korea was some problem about head scarf wearing by our ladies be cause it’s against IFMA competition rules for about the safety. We have long talk with President Dr. Tapsuwan, mr. fox and mr. Cockburn also was in that talk. What a nonsense that mr. fox went behind anyone’s back!! It’s also a big nonsense that mr. fox would take people to WMF. IFMA is the only body in the world that any government talk to. Mr fox is most loyal person to IFMA and muaythai.

    The misunderstanding in Korea was came from our side and after the long talk we got the permission by technical delegate and we came home with medals, and then because of this, our government give full endorsement for the female muaythai! This we must give thanks to mr. fox and his help.

    We strongly protest against mr. Cockburn statement and Iran muaythai will always be very thankful for IFMA. Mr Cockburn, as a former muaythai brother, please stop to tell lies and destroy all work you at one time was part of.

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