Five Key Things To Watch Out For In Canadian Amateur Sport In 2024: #3 Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) – Moving To The ‘How’.

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

II don’t think I’ve written as many sport strategic plans as I did in 2022 and 2023. As sport organizations emerged from the pandemic, they looked at their pre-pandemic strategic plans and said with a chuckle ‘yeah right!’ as they ripped them up and threw them in the circular filing cabinet. Everyone felt the need to resent and realign to the new post-pandemic sport paradigm post, which meant loads and loads of new strategic plans.

In the many strategic plans I assisted Canadian sports organizations with, I don’t think there was one that didn’t have the topic of EDI front-and-centre or close to. Everyone seems fully aware that EDI is a genuine issue and one that can no longer be paid lip service to. George Floyd was the tipping point and not a moment too soon. That EDI is now being genuinely taken seriously as a priority for not just sport, but society in general, is a great thing.

But here’s the catch. How do you do it?

You see, everyone agrees EDI is absolutely the right thing to do. But there is no agreement on how to implement it. And there is a dearth of expertise on the matter. I’m told some of these so-called diversity consultants are either sociology policy wonks or people who are deemed experts for no other reason than that they happen to be from racialized groups. Indeed, one BIPOC diversity consultant I spoke to warned me against some ‘diversity consultants’ they’d met who they claimed were nothing more than people of racialized backgrounds seeking vengeance against white men.

Furthermore, ‘solving’ EDI doesn’t fit the play book of amateur sport, where we build a program to achieve something, achieve it, and move on to the next challenge.

No, EDI is a deeply complex sociological phenomenon that transcends sports and is a function of quite fundamental human interaction and behavior over generations. It can’t be just suddenly ‘fixed’ and any plan to do so certainly can’t be implemented overnight.

But loads of Canadian sport organizations have committed to it (pretty much all the ones I’ve worked with recently). And I suspect many want to 'program' it and get on with running sport tournaments.

So there are challenges with getting qualified help in putting in place the 'how' on EDI, as well as just coming to terms with the enormity of what it is.

In moving to the 'how', sport organizations will realize that inclusion doesn’t mean just opening the door for people to walk through and calling yourself open and inclusive. Because no-one will walk through that door if they don’t see anyone like them when they peer through it.

Inclusion is about showing people that they are included, so they choose to walk through the door, without being told to. That takes time and is effectively a cultural change exercise, not some quick-fix, silver bullet program.

So if you are serious about EDI, as I expect you are, start thinking about the ‘how’ through a long-term, change management lens. It’ll remain an issue for 2024 and beyond. In fact, like all major cultural change, it’s probably a generation-long campaign. (Take seatbelts, for example. My father-in-law still refuses to wear one but I can’t find anyone of Gen Y age or younger who doesn’t see it anything other than normal.)

But dealing with it by waving a hand and saying ‘we’re all for it!’ won’t cut it much longer. Walking the walk on EDI is coming. The past couple of years have been about seriously committing to it. But this year? Expect the rhetoric to start changing to how to do, and being as serious in that as you were about the initial commitment.

So be proactive and start working out your ‘how’, no matter how long term that is.


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.