Five Key Things To Watch Out For In Canadian Amateur Sport In 2024: #4 Artificial Intelligence. – A Threat Or A Friend?

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

Amateur sport has generally been a bit of a laggard when it comes to adoption of new technologies. A suspicion of it screwing up, combined with a fear of the capital investment involved means our industry is way behind on areas like technology-driven workflow, digital marketing, CRM and data management.

So what to make of artificial intelligence?

I hope you are realizing that artificial intelligence, or ‘AI’ as it is already being called, is not something for the future. It is already here. And it will make its presence felt even more in 2024.

I suspect (and hope) throughout this year that amateur sport will spend time at conferences and such trying to work out if this technology is a threat or a friend to the industry.

On the one hand, it may open up all kinds of opportunities in coaching, athlete development and simulation-based training. Think about tactical training in any sport. Imagine what AI could do to provide simulated competition that can provide the training add-on that most competition is designed for. Imagine the cost savings in simulated, AI-developed competition, instead of hosting and travelling to competitions miles away!

On the other hand, is there a risk AI could threaten the future of coaches, officials and the human touch which makes sport what it is? The clear threat AI holds is that it could be yet another technology that distances people from each other, after Covid-19 hyperdrived everyday use of technology in spaces that were traditionally dominated by direct human interaction. Suddenly, talking to each other through screens more than in person went from weird to normal. Within just a year or so.

This lays the foundation for AI to move very quickly into society in general, and who are we to think sport won't be naturally swept up in that?

We need to watch out here. Our kids today can’t introduce themselves to strangers, hold a casual conversation, ask a passer-by directions, or go on what we used to call a ‘date’. All of that is ‘weird’ to today’s youth because we’ve put technology in the way of it all.

Is that progress?

If we don't get ahead of it, there is a real risk that AI becomes just another barrier preventing sport from doing its best work, and driving its most important outcomes – the development of people, particularly our youth. So we have to take it seriously.

Some smart, forward-thinking sports clubs have started to embrace technologies like e-sports that are affecting their organizations, whether they like it or not. (Check out the episode of my podcast The Regista Room on Innovation to hear case studies this). But I'm fearful that most sports organizations are turning a blind eye and waving their hand at these technologies as being ‘not real sport’ and AI will just be added to the list.

They may be right. AI fundamentally can't be 'real sport'. But don’t think that’ll stop people going there with it, especially the kids. Ignoring change, or attempting to invalidate AI, simply won't stop it anymore than it did the internet or any other technology that have appeared on the horizon over the annals of time.

So don’t make that mistake with this latest human innovation that is AI.

I’m not saying AI fits into amateur sport like that last piece of a jigsaw puzzle. I have no idea how and where it will impact our industry. I’m not even fully sure how it works (no, I haven’t used chatGTP yet).

But I have no doubt it ultimately will impact the sports industry. And that those who proactively get ahead of it will have the best results.


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 receive weekly tips on running your amateur sport organization for free, and access to Paul Varian's articles and sport management e-tutorials.