What We're Watching in 2013

Last year we celebrated our 20th Anniversary of service in the Canadian sport industry and we are looking forward to big things in the coming year! We wrote about what we were watching in 2012 and we again wanted to outline some of the trends, issues, and developments that we’ll be watching this year.

Dina: In November, I published my handbook Values-in-Action: Igniting Passion and Purpose in Sport Organizations (available through our website) and to date we have sold over 300 copies. I am very curious and excited to see how organizations begin using this new resource to help them develop, understand, and actively live their values at all levels. I am hoping that my book can be an agent of change and that we’ll soon see more evidence of values-driven sport organizations – perhaps with some major changes starting as early as this year! It might be as simple as asking yourself … “what is one way we can intentionally live our organization’s values this year?” DBL@sportlaw.ca

Steve:  Occasionally a sport organization will contact me in a panic! The organization has suddenly been approached by a lawyer (representing an athlete, coach, employee, or other stakeholder) who alleges that the organization has treated their client unfairly. I am certainly happy to help guide these organizations through those challenging situations. But often the challenges occur because one of the organization’s documents – like a Policy or Employee Agreement – was oddly written, unspecific, vague, or otherwise open to interpretation. I would encourage sport organizations to contact us during the drafting of those documents. No document is rock-solid or bulletproof – but hopefully prudent drafting and clear writing can help decrease the number of panicked organizations this year.  SJI@sportlaw.ca

Rachel:  Tick tock! There are just 18 months remaining for federally-incorporated organizations (all NSOs and nearly all MSOs) to transition to compliance with the new NFP Act. For most organizations this timeline is becoming critical, as it leaves very little time to call members' meeting to make the necessary governance changes. To compound the problem, most NSOs will have to do their transition in two steps, and will require two meetings.  Consulting with the membership is a very important step and should not be overlooked. As well, a number of other challenges are emerging and are requiring some creative solutions. You need to have a plan, and you need a back-up plan. If your organization has not started with the transition, or if you are not sure how best to move forward, please contact us and we will help sort everything out. RMC@sportlaw.ca

Hilary: This year I am watching the organic development of the term “disparaging comments”. Boilerplate language relating to “disparaging comments” or otherwise disrespectful criticism is often built into an organization’s Code of Conduct for participants or stakeholders. But who decides when a comment is disparaging and when is not? What is the test? Last year we saw a Greek triple-jumper expelled from the Olympic Games because of her disparaging and racist tweet. European soccer players making negative comments about officials are being suspended. This is a growing trend as social media becomes more ubiquitous. How is the term "disparaging" to be interpreted? Are political comments off-side? What about comments directed at the sport organization or its sponsors? Or, is the term just too vague? I am watching how this trend unfolds and how, or if, subsequent punishments are enforceable. HAF@sportlaw.ca

Kevin: I am lauding the organizations that have started to develop comprehensive Social Media Policies. It is thrilling to see that sport organizations are realizing that a ‘social media policy’ is more than just a single document to be posted alongside the organization’s other governing documents. A Social Media Policy involves an education component (in the form of expertly-developed guidelines) and a tie-in component with the organization’s existing athlete or coach conduct documents. Is an athlete on twitter swearing about controversial events while representing themselves as a member of your national team?  If so, do you want to do anything about it? Can you?  I’m happy to talk through the power and peril of social media with any sport organization seeking a review of their current policies or the development of something new. KRL@sportlaw.ca

LeeAnn: I am hearing from a lot of provincial and local sport organizations in Ontario who are curious about the upcoming Ontario NFP Act (also called the ONCA). It is very exciting that organizations want to be ‘ahead of the game’ for this legislation that is expected to come into effect in the spring of this year. The new legislation is a great opportunity for Ontario sport organizations to get their constitutions, bylaws, and policies in order and begin a refreshing change process. More and more sport leaders are thinking about good governance and how their organizations can serve their members and be more efficient and effective. LLC@sportlaw.ca

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