The P.E.I. government is defending its decision to call police on a major kickboxing tournament on the weekend.

Fighters had travelled to P.E.I. for the sixth annual Island Inferno.

The province decided the event was unsanctioned late last week and then contacted Charlottetown Police. Two hours before Island Inferno was to start, officers informed organizers they would arrest anyone who took part. 

That left 24 amateur athletes stuck in Charlottetown. Many complained about the wasted time and money spent training for the event and travelling to the Island.

The province says until this past summer the federal Criminal Code wasn't clear on the legality of kickboxing events, so the province let past Island Infernos go ahead.

But the laws governing prize fighting were updated this year to include most combat sports.

John Morrison, sport and recreation director for the province, said that meant the end of Island Inferno as it was held in the past.

“What it says now is that in order for these events to occur at a provincial level, they must be sanctioned through an act of legislation at a provincial level,” he said Monday.

That hasn't happened on P.E.I.

New rules could be months away

Morrison said the province didn't know about the kickboxing event until last Monday, when an application for event funding came across his desk.

“Once we started into the investigation, we realized this wasn't an event we could be involved with,” he said. "We had an obligation to inform authorities that this event is happening but it's not a sanctioned event by the province."

Morrison said the province couldn't have granted permission even if organizers had gone to the province months ago.

The province would first need to create an athletic board to govern combative sports like kickboxing, or give governing power to other organizations. Those things would have to be done through legislation.

Some other provinces have already gone through that process.

P.E.I. says it will start the discussion now, but any new legislation could be months away.