The Sport Law & Strategy Group turns 20 years old this month. I still find this somewhat shocking. In 1992 Hilary Findlay and I had no idea that this little organization (which started life as the Alberta Institute of Sport and Law, became the Centre for Sport and Law, and is now the Sport Law & Strategy Group) would persist, grow and even thrive. Today we are six professionals in three cities providing a broad range of consulting services to local, provincial and national sport organizations throughout Canada.
My colleagues asked me to write a few words about this milestone, and to reflect on some of the highlights of the last 20 years as I saw them. These are some of our achievements that I feel are noteworthy:
- Being a ‘virtual organization’ right from the very beginning, even though the term had not been invented in 1992, e-mail hardly existed, and social media was more than a decade away! The Sport Law & Strategy Group has never had a storefront or an office, which I think is a good thing as it keeps our overhead low and makes us accessible and affordable to everyone.
- Publishing our 10-volume series of sport and law handbooks. This started in 1993 and continued to 2000. These were surprising runaway bestsellers and we have now re-launched our publishing program with Dina Bell-Laroche’s new book, Values-in-Action: Igniting Passion and Purpose in Sport Organizations. Look for more publications to follow in the coming years.
- Being there to help at the formative stages of the creation of AthletesCAN (then the Canadian Athletes Association) in 1992. In fact, our willingness to try new things and to be innovative in our efforts to make the law more understandable may be a big reason why we are still here 20 years on.
- Managing all Canadian doping hearings from 1995 to 2004, and authoring the anti-doping policy and regulations that were in effect in Canada from 2000 to 2004. It was a privilege to contribute to Canada’s leadership role in the global anti-doping movement during this time.
- Designing and operating Canada’s first national arbitration program for amateur sport: this ran from 1996 to 2001. Hilary Findlay was also part of the effort that created the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (SDRCC) in 2002. That program has celebrated its 10th anniversary and Canada counts itself among a handful of countries in the world having an accessible, affordable and professionally-managed national arbitration and mediation service for sport organizations and their members.
- Welcoming Steve Indig to the group in 2003 and Dina Bell-Laroche in 2008. Shortly after, Kevin Lawrie and LeeAnn Cupidio came on board. We also worked for many years with David Lech, now in-house counsel at the CCES. I should note that we are practicing what we preach to sport clients – importance of succession! – as our ages span almost 30 years. I predict the Sport Law & Strategy Group will be around for some years to come, even if I will have grown old.
- Researching and writing Full Team Ahead: The Benefits of Team Sport to Canadian Sport in 2009. This publication sparked the allocation of a further $6 million federal dollars annually into high performance budgets of team sport organizations.
- With True Sport, designing and delivering the Risk Management Program, now entering its sixth year. Through this effort, Dina Bell-Laroche and I have led over 25 NSOs through a comprehensive risk assessment and have begun to compile a Canada-wide risk registry for sport.
- Writing a real book in 2008. Legal Issues in Sport: Tools and Techniques for the Sport Manager was published by Emond Montgomery Publications on our 15th anniversary and is used by sport leaders and post-secondary students everywhere.
- Inspiring our colleague Dina Bell-Laroche to return to school for a master’s degree, which she completed in 2010. At the time she was juggling school, work, and family and commuting to the Niagara region, she probably would not have thanked us for this.
- And lastly, our website (www.sportlaw.ca). This document you are reading is the 260th article we have written and published on this web site. We have become a free online library stuffed full of useful, readable, understandable and practical resources to help sport leaders, whether paid or volunteer, perform better.
Our anniversary celebration includes a heartfelt acknowledgement of the many people and organizations in the Canadian sport community who have invited us through their doors to make presentations, solve problems, manage conflicts and facilitate change and improvement. Thank you for being part of our journey.