Game ON: What proposed updates to Ontario’s Sport Recognition Policy could mean for your Organization

One of the legacies of Toronto hosting the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games has been a renewed focus on sport in Ontario and the creation of Game ON: The Ontario Government’s Sport Plan.

Game ON represents the first major coordinated sport action plan in Ontario. Sport organizations in Ontario – especially Provincial Sport Organizations (PSOs) – will need to be aware of their role in the delivery of the sport action plan and their new responsibilities to the government.

As part of Game ON, the Ontario government is preparing to update its Sport Recognition Policy and has been consulting with PSOs and Multi-Sport Organizations (MSOs) to learn about their current policies and procedures. Here are some highlights of the proposed updates to the Sport Recognition Policy and how the SLSG can help:

Governance

  • A Board of Directors who are elected by Members

We know that the Bylaws of some PSOs allow the Board to appoint some Directors rather than elect the entire Board. We also know that the upcoming Ontario Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (ONCA) permits some Directors to be appointed. However, regardless of what is permitted in the ONCA, the government would prefer that all Directors be elected and none be appointed. Changes in board structures and nominations processes may be required for all PSOs.

  • A Board-approved Strategic Plan for a minimum of three years with operational plans for each year

Traditional strategic planning in the for-profit sector typically focuses on strengths, weaknesses, and goals – but the non-profit sector is different. We recommend a more collaborative approach that is based on strengths, values, and assets. Challenges become reframed as opportunities.

We have guided organizations through strategic planning processes and we can assist with everything involved – from member consultation to setting strategic direction. We can also help set benchmarks that can be reviewed annually and measured at the end of each three-year cycle.

Mandatory Policies

Game ON gives organizations in Ontario an opportunity to review their policies as well. The government is proposing mandatory policies that must be approved by the organization’s Board of Directors and posted on the organization’s website. We have written about our recommendations for what policies a sport organization should have and we are pleased that the government’s recommendations align with our advice.

Here are the government’s proposed mandatory policies:

  • Code of Conduct (for Directors, Coaches, Officials, and Athletes)
  • Discipline
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Harassment
  • Screening
  • Concussion Management and Return to Play
  • Membership
  • Privacy
  • Inclusion
  • Accessibility
  • Selection to Provincial Team

Some PSOs may have a certain policy but may not post it publicly on their website. In these cases, the PSO might as well not even have the policy – how are Members supposed to know it exists or what it says?

Policies should not be in your bylaws. In our experience, we have noticed that more than one PSO has a discipline processes or dispute resolution procedures embedded in its bylaws. Policies and bylaws will need to be separated. We have written about separating bylaws and policies in this blogpost.

Policies must also be procedurally fair. For example, a dispute resolution policy that simply permits the organization’s President to make a ruling on a dispute is not a procedurally fair process.

We would recommend combining some of the policies on the government’s proposed mandatory policy list. For example, experience and best practice has shown that a stand-alone Harassment Policy is not effective. More usefully, ‘harassment’ should be included in the organization’s Code of Conduct, and the Discipline Policy should have mechanisms to handle all types of violations of the Code – including instances of abuse and harassment. At the federal level, Sport Canada has recently dropped the requirement that National Sport Organizations (NSOs) must have a stand-alone harassment policy.

Recommended Policies

In addition to mandatory policies, the government is proposing encouraging organizations to have the following policies:

  • Confidentiality
  • Social Networking
  • Anti-Doping
  • Code of Conduct for Parents

We agree that organizations should have a Confidentiality Policy, and we have called for organizations to develop a Social Media Policy (in a 2012 blogpost) and demonstrated its usefulness (in a 2014 blogpost). We would encourage organizations to have a statement on anti-doping contained within their Code of Conduct, and also extend that Code to include the behaviour of parents.

These recommended policies are but a few of the many that we recommend for organizations. Organizations should also consider adding an Appeal Policy, Transgender Inclusiveness, Conflict of Interest, and Human Resources, among others.

Timelines and Reporting

Discussions are currently ongoing as to how organizations can demonstrate compliance with the revised Sport Recognition Policy. It could be possible that PSOs will be required to submit their policies to the government and/or show the government that policies are posted publicly.

The government expects that the revised Sport Recognition Policy will launch in June 2016 and PSOs will need to apply for recognition by the end of August 2016. This means that PSOs will have only two months to get their policy house in order.

The SLSG has assisted hundreds of organizations with their policy development and we would be pleased to help your organization navigate the government’s new requirements for sport recognition. Please feel free to contact us.

Steve Indig – SJI@sportlaw.ca
Kevin Lawrie – KRL@sportlaw.ca

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