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Facebook fight club KO'd

Operated in U of M squash court; 80 gym members suspended

The University of Manitoba has busted up a Facebook-based fight club operating in a third-floor squash court in the Frank Kennedy Centre.

During its investigation, the university suspended gym memberships for more than 80 people who had signed up for a related Facebook site.

At least one consensual fist fight took place between two young men, and it seems likely there were other consensual fights, possibly involving spectators.

"There was an incident in late November, early December," U of M communications manager Leah Janzen said Monday.

A gym member alerted staff at the Frank Kennedy Centre by email that "they had seen someone emerge from the squash court on the third floor, with a bloody nose."

The member attached a link to a Facebook site that has since disappeared, but not before U of M staff were able to get a list of the group's members, Janzen said.

"There was identifying information that something had gone on, on that squash court," Janzen said. "We do know that there was an altercation in that squash court."

The altercation appears to have been consensual and did not involve people meeting to settle a grudge, she said. The information on the Facebook site suggested altercations happened more than once.

Janzen said U of M staff found 87 members of the Facebook site, all of whom immediately had their gym memberships suspended. "Everyone right off the bat was suspended from the facility."

Investigators concluded 82 people who signed up on Facebook were not involved, leaving five people who lost their gym memberships for a month. They're now reinstated.

"It's by and large U of M students," as well as four part-time university staff, Janzen said. "It was primarily male."

Janzen said that investigators do not yet know if admission was charged to the fights, or if there was any gambling on the outcome. Wording on the Facebook site suggested there were spectators inside the squash court.

So far, no one has suffered academic suspensions or sanctions other than loss of gym membership. But, Janzen emphasized, the U of M wants to know what happened in its squash court and who was responsible. "We are still investigating. We are considering disciplinary action," Janzen said.

A popular 1999 movie, Fight Club, starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, depicted young professional men who met at night to engage in bare-knuckle fist fights.

Janzen said that the squash courts do not have public viewing areas. There is only a small window set in the door to each court.

The U of M is now checking the squash courts regularly, she said.

"This is unacceptable behaviour. Our concern is for the safety and security of everyone," Janzen said.

Last year, Brandon City Police raised concerns over reports of a group calling itself Brandon Beat Down, which organized fights involving high school students and other young men on the outskirts of the city.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2010 A3


Updated on Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 10:47 AM CST:

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