A video of two eight-year-old boys participating in a cage-based grappling contest in front of 200 cheering adults has been brought to the attention of the Lancashire police, who will now investigate the matter.
The cagefighting bouts took place recently at the Lancashire Labour Club in a cage also used by adults. Neither of the boys involved in the video were wearing headgear and at one stage one appears to start crying and medical professionals enter the ring.
Organisers of the event said they worked closely with police and that the boys were not in danger. Club manager Michelle Anderson said the boys "loved it".
Nick Hartley, the father of one of the boys, Kian, said there was no way his son was at any risk of harm.
"It's not one bit dangerous. It's a controlled sport. He likes to do it. He's never forced to do it; he wants to do it, so leave him to do it."
Kian told Sky News he had enjoyed the bout and said it didn't hurt him.
But the British Medical Association (BMA) described the footage shot at the
Greenlands Labour Club in Preston on 10 September as "disturbing".
A BMA spokesman said: "Boxing and cage fighting are sometimes defended on the grounds that children learn to work through their aggression with discipline and control. The BMA believes there are many other sports… which require discipline but do not pose the same threat of brain injury."
Child psychologist, Emma Citron, told the Mirror the situation was the “the modern-day equivalent of bear baiting”.
“The violence could cause long-term psychological damage," she said. "And it
can only encourage anti-social behaviour.”
Peter McCabe, chief
executive of Headway – the brain injury association, said: “We’re
hugely concerned. The organisers are putting the children’s health at
risk. Encouraging them to take part in cage fighting is dangerous and
Local vicar Timothy Lipscomb, said: “It’s not the way
we want children to be brought up. It should not be a public spectacle
to see them bashing the living daylights out of each other.”
Steven Nightingale, who organised the fight, was adamant it
was an 'extremely good event' and defended the bout.
"Competitions start from the age of five, it is definitely a big
up-and-coming sport," he said.
"It is all based around martial arts. The kids are not getting hit or anything
at all when they are under age.
"We do not let them strike – punch and kick – until the age of 14 or 15."