Five Key Things To Watch Out For In Canadian Amateur Sport In 2024: #1 A Focus On Good Governance In Sport.

Capitis Consulting - Paul Varian MBA, C.Dir picture
Paul Varian MBA, C.Dir

Yes, here I go again. Droning on about governance in sport.

Firstly, no, I’m not going to suggest in any way that this area of sport is exciting or anything to do with why we get involved in the industry in the first place. But that doesn’t make it unimportant. And I’m here to say it’s going to get a whole lot more important in 2024 and beyond.

Usually when I talk to people in sport about governance, they nod politely but don’t genuinely listen or do anything substantive about it. But I’m sensing things will start to change in 2024. And that’s not due to any governance-driven epiphanies sport people had on New Years Eve, or the industry suddenly ‘getting it’. It’s largely due to what the Government of Canada is doing and will continue to do in 2024.

Recent years have seen Canadian sport plagued by multiple instances of harrassment, negligence and abuse in the industry at all levels, from amateur youth to adult professional. And in response, the Government of Canada has partnered with key national sport agencies (notably the Coaches Association of Canada) to develop proper policies around safety in sport, that have been backed up with funding and accountability mechanisms.

But 2022 and 2023 have seen a thickening of the plot and a deepening of the swamp as revelations in Canada’s two largest national sport organizations (Hockey Canada and Canada Soccer) have unearthed alleged mis-management and poor governance that have (at least in the case of Hockey Canada) stretched as far as pay-offs to victims of sexual abuse.

This has expanded the conversation around safe sport to be one of prudent governance, system accountability and organizational competence.

Which of the many allegations are true in some respects doesn’t matter. In the court of public opinion, Canadian sport is in bad shape and managed by bad actors to the detriment of the players and athletes, young or old.

So expect the Government of Canada to move its focus on purely safety in sport to what it may be deciding is the main cause of the issue in the first place – poor system management and oversight at a leadership and governing level.

And it’s already started.

In late 2023, the Government of Canada’s Minister for Sport & Physical Activity Carla Qualtrough announced the creation of an independent Future of Sport in Canada Commission. This Commission will review the Canadian sport system and make recommendations on safety in the Canadian sport system, but also the system itself in areas including policy, funding structures, governance, reporting, accountability, conflicts of interest, systems alignment, culture and legal considerations.

I know Minister Qualtrough from before her political career, when I worked with her in Vancouver in the build up to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games and I can tell you she is a leader of the utmost integrity, determination and dependability. If she says something is going to be done, it will be. So expect this Commission to be no idle political statement. The Commission will be struck, will do its work, and will have teeth.

And as a sport organization, you should be ready for it.

When the Commission will complete its work and issue its recommendations is unclear. But when it does, expect sweeping criticism of governance standards across the whole sport system, because the unfortunate truth is that the sport system doesn’t take this area seriously and examples of bad governance won’t be hard for the Commission to find.

So be ready for recommendations that tell government and sport governing bodies take a more active and non-negotiable role in governance across all levels of sport, including at community club level, rather than leaving it sport organizations to manage at their discretion.

What the Government of Canada ultimately chooses to adopt and, crucially, the degree to which provincial/territorial governments get onboard will remain to be seen. But it will be politically impossible for government to not act at all on the findings of a Commission that they themselves struck. So expect action and associated change in some form. And be ready for it!

If you aren’t actively driving good governance in your sport organization, do it now. If you don’t have the budget to establish proper induction and onboarding programs for your new Directors, and ongoing training and development particularly with regard to Directors’ fiduciary responsibilities, find it. If that means cutting some other program expenditures to do it, so be it.

Governance is about to become as important as your tax returns. So do yourself a favour in 2024 and get ahead of it.

Looking for easy plug-and-play governance training for your sport organization’s Board, staff or volunteers? Check out Capitis Learning’s e-tutorial on the Fundamentals Of Sport Governance and other e-tutorials to help you run your sport organization smoothly and professionally. Yours to view as many times as you like, wherever you want, whenever you want during your week-long rental. Check them out right now at


Paul Varian is the President of Capitis Consulting Inc., a boutique management consultancy focused on adding value in and around the amateur sport Boardroom, author of Amazon #1 Best Selling Soccer Management Book ‘Don’t Blame The Soccer Parents’, and host of amateur soccer management podcast The Regista Room. Subscribe at and follow Paul on Twitter at @paulvarian or on LinkedIn at Paul Varian.