Exclusive: Cultaholic Wrestling Speaks To Mark Fletcher MP, Co-Chair Of The All-Party Parliamentary Group On Wrestling

Following the launch of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Professional Wrestling in Great Britain...

Yesterday, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Wrestling launched a Parliamentary Inquiry into Professional Wrestling in Great Britain. The inquiry will be led by Mark Fletcher MP (Conservative) and Alex Davies-Jones MP (Labour), the Co-Chairs of the APPG on Wrestling, and a report is expected to be published in early 2021.

The inquiry is looking for written submissions of no more than 2,000 words from interested parties before November 27, 2020. Submissions can be submitted by email to [email protected]. You can also follow the group's progress on Twitter @appgwrestling. Find out more about the inquiry here.

Following the launch of the inquiry, Tom Campbell had a chance to catch up with Mark Fletcher MP on the Cultaholic Wrestling News Podcast to talk about the APPG on Wrestling and what they are hoping to accomplish in the coming months. Check out the interview below: 

Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Tom: First of all Mark, I read a statement from you today where you talk about wrestling from bingo halls, backroom brawls. How big a wrestling fan are you yourself, Mark?

Mark Fletcher MP: Absolutely huge to be honest. I watch an awful lot of wrestling. It is my sort of escape from my daily life. And so I watch a lot of New Japan, I'm trying to find time for the G1 at the moment. I watch AEW every week and I'm a bit of a lapsed WWE fan but I still keep in touch with it. And then, obviously, I go to a fair few British wrestling events as well, particularly PROGRESS.

Tom: Who's your favourite wrestler? We have to ask the question while you're here.

Mark Fletcher MP: I'm not going to give a British wrestler, but Tomohiro Ishii is my favourite. Every time he steps in the ring I'm just enthralled. I think he's marvellous.

Tom: Can you reveal who's a closeted wrestling fan within Parliament? 

Mark Fletcher MP: There's a sort of coming out thing going on in Parliament as we discover more and more closeted wrestling fans. I think the list will grow but I think you will see that our membership will possibly grow as we continue. It's starting to feel like we're gathering momentum on that front.

Tom: We're here today because your worlds have sort of collided as your co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling. What led to this officially becoming a thing?

Mark Fletcher MP: So, it's sort of in two parts actually. I was looking to do something back in January-February because, as I said, I'm a big wrestling fan and I thought that the industry, particularly in Britain, could do with a bit of support on the parliamentary side. And then I put the idea on hold when COVID hit because we were incredibly busy. Then the Speaking Out movement happened and unbeknownst to me my co-chair, Alex Davies-Jones, was also a massive wrestling fan and had come up with the same idea for the same organisation very much to help with the Speaking Out side. So, when we found each other we decided to unite and tackle everything head-on together.

Tom: What are you hoping to accomplish from the Parliamentary Inquiry into pro wrestling? Could we see maybe oversight from the UK Government or is this very much wait and see?

Mark Fletcher MP: There's no predetermined outcome and I think that's really important to know. It's open to absolutely anybody from fans, to performers, to promoters, to those running wrestling schools. There is no hierarchy on this, everyone can have their say. There are details available on the questions we are asking but you can send in a 2,000-word submission with your ideas, your thoughts, your views on where the industry should go. Where we end up with the report will very much be determined by the ideas and suggestions that we hear. 

But in terms of where we want to end up, British wrestling fans are probably the most passionate in the world. In my opinion, we undoubtedly have some of the very best performers in the world and we want to make sure that the future of British wrestling is bright and our job is to support us to get there.

Tom: Does the group see wrestling as a strong method to promote Britain in the world post-Brexit?

Mark Fletcher MP: Of course, wrestling has a huge global fanbase and if I watch New Japan, I'm watching some of Britain's best wrestlers, be it Zack Sabre Jr. or Will Ospreay. If you go to AEW, if you go to WWE, you see British wrestlers out there and they're flying the flag for our country and that's amazing. And never underestimate the value of a soft power and the great relationship that Britain has with many countries around the world. So I think the two absolutely sit hand in hand. 

There are a number of brilliant foreign performers who come to Britain as well. It's a two-way relationship and I think that's very healthy.

Tom: What sort of relations does the All-Party Group have with British wrestling promotions? I've seen photos of your members with Pro-Wrestling EVE Champion Rhia O'Reilly and Cara Noir from PROGRESS. Are there other companies you'll be working with?  

Mark Fletcher MP: Absolutely, there is no hierarchy. We will talk to absolutely everybody. Alex (Davies-Jones) and I have done a series of meetings throughout the last few months to talk to various people, be them fans, promoters, performers. And it's a case of we want to speak to and hear from everybody. It's absolutely open. Our job is not to pick sides, it is to make sure all of the industry rises together.

Tom: My colleague actually asked me to ask this, is regarding the Close the Loophole campaign. Will this be something that the group will be looking at supporting as well? 

Mark Fletcher MP: I think, again, that will be determined by the submissions we receive. Alex and I, we both have our views on everything as will the other Members of Parliament who are involved. But the purpose of an All-Party Parliamentary Group is not to just push our agendas. It's to support the industry as a whole and if that is something that comes up time and again in submissions and if it's something that people want to see then we will absolutely support it. That is our job.

You can find out more about the Close the Loophole campaign here

Tom: There'll be a lot of people listening to this today who would've been through the wringer with British wrestling throughout the summer. We've all read awful stories of things that have happened and brave people who have stepped forward to tell their story from the Speaking Out movement. With the formation of this group, what sort of message of hope can you put out there to people who may be concerned about going back into the wrestling world post-COVID?

Mark Fletcher MP: I think there are two really important points there. First of all, I read all of those stories. I saw what happened and I think it was a shameful moment but it was also a moment in which an awful lot of people came together and said this cannot happen again. And we hope this organisation will help to provide a focal point and a source in which we can help to solve that problem. 

But I think the second thing which you mentioned as well which is really important is the situation post-COVID. I think British wrestling as we came into this was in a situation in which we were rebuilding to a certain extent, and I think we need to make sure that coming out of the other side of this pandemic British wrestling has strong growth, that we are in a place where our industry once again leads the world. And I think all of those things are interlinked into the future of British wrestling and making sure that we are on top of our game and that is exactly what this inquiry is trying to do.

Listen to Tom's full interview with Mark Fletcher MP here


 

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Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

Cultaholic's resident newshound.