Nine provinces call for resignation of Football Canada president Jim Mullin following proposed change to leadership structure

Photo courtesy: Jim Mullin

Nine members of Football Canada are calling for the immediate resignation of president Jim Mullin in the wake of a proposal to change the organization’s existing leadership model, per sources.

In an email obtained by 3DownNation on Wednesday, presidents from nine provincial sports organizations gave Mullin 24 hours to step down from his role, citing “deep concerns regarding the current leadership.” Alberta was the only province which did not sign the document.

According to the signatories, “recent events as well as a pattern of behavior have led us to lose confidence in Mr. Mullin’s ability to effectively lead our organization in the future.”

On Monday, Football Canada board members were informed that the organization would undergo a leadership transition in preparation for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, which will be the first to include flag football. Two new executive positions, an executive director and business operations manager, will replace the role of president under the new model.

Mullin was not seeking either posted position and was expected to resign from the role of president after aiding in the transition and the appointment of a board chairperson, aligning Football Canada with the Canadian Sport Governance Code. The hiring of the new executives was to be undertaken by an independent specialist recruiting agency using a universal rubric for candidate evaluations, before being presented to the Board for final approval in mid-April.

In their letter to the Board of Directors, the dissenting provinces asked that no decisions be made regarding staffing until the situation is resolved. They also requested “a better understanding of the financial situation.”

Mullin indicated to 3DownNation that he does not currently plan to offer his resignation before the transition, providing the following statement.

“It has always been my objective and goal at Football Canada to ensure the best level of professional staff are ready to service the membership. Our national search for new leadership is focused on experience, diversity and professional conduct.”

A long-time sports broadcaster, Mullin has served as Football Canada president since June 2019, helping to guide the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic and securing the largest sponsorship in the organization’s history from the NFL. He was re-elected for a second term in 2022 and also serves as general secretary for the International Federation of American Football (IFAF), both of which are volunteer positions.

Should Mullin not resign within the allotted time frame, the dissenting provinces have called for a special general meeting on April 10, 2024, which will culminate in a vote on Mullin’s presidency. According to Football Canada bylaws, an elected director can be removed from his position by a majority vote, so long as they are provided with notice and a chance to be heard.

The news comes after Football Canada’s interim director of sport, Joey Swarbrick, issued his resignation late last week. In an email to membership obtained separately by 3DownNation, the former coordinator of football operations for the Ottawa Redblacks cited “concerns with the organization’s inability to communicate a leadership structure and long-term leadership plan” as his reason for stepping down.

Swarbrick took over the role in September 2023 after Shannon Donovan was let go following 12 years with the organization. In his resignation, he expressed dissatisfaction with the handling of contract negotiations for a full-time position, writing that “transparency and trust formerly present has quickly evaporated.”

The turmoil comes as Canada gets set to host the 2024 IFAF World Junior Championships in Edmonton this June, an event which was spearheaded by Mullin. Two teams, coached by Warren Craney and Ronald Hilaire, will represent the host nation, as Canada looks to capture its record third consecutive gold medal.

Signatories of the letter include Lisa Harlow of Football New Brunswick, Steve Letner of Football PEI, Francois Bougie of Football Quebec, Rob Suffron of Football Nova Scotia, Mike Humenny of Football Saskatchewan, Ryan Bliznikas of Football Manitoba, Brian Hillier of Football Newfoundland, Kevin Parks of Football BC, and Don Hamilton of Football Ontario. It can be read in its entirety below.

“We, the members of Football Canada, are writing to express our deep concerns regarding the current leadership of our organization under the guidance of President/Director Jim Mullin. Recent events as well as a pattern of behavior have led us to lose confidence in Mr. Mullin’s ability to effectively lead our organization in the future.

In accordance with the Football Canada Bylaws, particularly section 4.15 on the Suspension, Resignation, and Removal of Directors, we are formally requesting that Mr. Mullin resign from his position as President/Director of Football Canada in writing, effective immediately within 24 hours of receiving this email. We ask that the Board of Directors approve this resignation upon receipt in writing from Mr. Mullin and notify the membership accordingly.

Suspension, Resignation and Removal of Directors 4.15 Resignation – A Director may resign from the Board at any time by presenting his or her notice of resignation to the Board of Directors. This resignation will become effective the date on which the request is approved by the Board. If a Director is subject to a disciplinary investigation or action of the Association, that Director will nonetheless be subject to any sanctions or consequences resulting from the disciplinary investigation or action.

4.16 Vacate Office – The office of any Director will be vacated automatically if the Director: a) Resigns; b) Is found by a court to be incapable by a court under federal law; c) Becomes bankrupt, or is declared insolvent; or d) Dies

It is our hope to avoid invoking Section 3.2 of the Bylaws, which pertains to calling a Special General Meeting. We believe that Mr. Mullin’s resignation would be the most appropriate course of action to maintain the dignity of the situation and to prevent any negative repercussions on his reputation or other positions held in other organizations.

3.2 Special General Meeting – A Special General Meeting of the Members may be called at any time by the President, the Board of Directors by way of Ordinary Resolution, or upon the written requisition of members who hold five percent (5%) of the votes of the Association. Agenda of special meetings will be limited to the subject matter for which the meeting was duly called.

Should Mr. Mullin fail to resign within the specified timeframe, we as ordinary members of
Football Canada will request the calling of a Special General Meeting on April 10, 2024, at
8:00pm EST which is 21 days from the date of this letter. The agenda for this meeting will be a request for a vote under section 4.17 of the Football Canada bylaws.

Per Bylaw 4.17 on Removal, an elected Director may be removed by a majority vote of the
voting Members at an Annual General Meeting or Special Meeting, provided the Director has been given notice and the opportunity to be heard at such a meeting. If the Director is removed and holds a position as an Officer, the Director will automatically and simultaneously be removed from their position as an Officer.

We kindly request that no actions be taken regarding the email received this morning regarding staffing until this matter is resolved and a better understanding of the financial situation is achieved. We trust that the Board of Directors will handle this matter with the utmost professionalism and in the best interest of the organization.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. We eagerly await your prompt response.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.