Sportslawyer November 2019 Newsletter

December 4, 2019

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Parents play an important role in junior sporting clubs, from watching their child train and compete, through to off-field involvement through sporting administration and volunteering activities. Sporting contests can, however, become heated, leading to behaviour by parents which unfortunately falls below acceptable standards. Parents play an important role in educating their children on the values of fair play and respect in sport. Establishing clear expectations as to spectator behaviour can help to minimise unsavoury incidents of behaviour by parents at sporting events. Should unruly behaviour occur, sporting clubs should be ready to deal with such incidents appropriately, including suspension where necessary.

Every sporting and recreational club should therefore have a club policy which encourages standards of appropriate behaviour in order to enable a safe, welcoming and inclusive sporting environment for all who participate or spectate, along with the appropriate disciplinary action in order to appropriately punish such conduct.

What is the responsibility?

Sporting clubs in Australia have a legal responsibility to address behaviour that is against the law or that offends community standards. Sporting clubs should ensure that all child athletes, officials, parents, spectators and administrators are provided with a safe environment for the participation and enjoyment of their sporting pursuits.

In Victoria, clubs are required to adhere to and enforce the Fair Play Code in order to receive government funding from Sport and Recreation Victoria. The Fair Play Code builds on the Victorian Government’s 2010 Victorian Code of Conduct for Community Sport, which encourages standards of appropriate behaviour to enable a safe, welcoming and inclusive sporting environment. While the Fair Play Code provides expectations as to on-field conduct, it also provides expectations with respect to off-field conduct, including the conduct of spectators.

How can a club maintain a safe environment for participation of sport and recreational activities?

Clubs can maintain a safe environment through the implementation of a Code of Conduct, which can assist in providing clear expectations to parents who attend sporting fixtures.

A Code of Conduct will provide parents, as well as officials and child athletes, with the appropriate standard of behaviour expected during their involvement in their child’s sporting activities. A Code of Conduct establishes expectations and places obligations on all involved to take responsibility of their own conduct.

How can a club keep good behaviour front of mind?

Clubs should provide parents, as well as spectators, officials and athletes with a copy of the Code of Conduct, to make expectations and penalties of non-compliance clear to all who are required to abide by the code. Some tips on promoting the Code of Conduct to spectators include:

  • Promoting it at new season information nights, on social media and at training and match days;
  • Requiring parents to sign the Code of Conduct, when enrolling their child as part of their child signing up to the activity or sport;
  • Clearly and visibly displaying terms of the Code of Conduct at the entry to sporting grounds and arenas;
  • Reinforcing the Code of Conduct to parents and spectators by reminding parents through social media posts, in club communications and on the club website where applicable of the Code of Conduct and its contents;
  • Advising spectators of how they can promptly report any concerns of breaches of the Code of Conduct; and
  • Reminding parents to generate a positive atmosphere for child athletes, officials and other spectators by showing respect and a positive attitude towards all spectators and participants, including officials.

Parents should be reminded that if there has been a breach of Code of Conduct by another person in the club, that they must take action to promptly ensure safety for all involved. Parents should be reminded to promptly report any concerns, and to follow any applicable club policies and procedures relating to reporting breaches of the Code of Conduct.

Parents should be reminded that the club may take disciplinary action in accordance with all applicable club policies and where necessary, may refer matters to the police for investigation.

What happens if there is non-compliance with the Code of Conduct?

If there is non–compliance with the Code of Conduct, those acting in contravention may face disciplinary action in accordance with the Code of Conduct, the club’s Member Protection Policy and the association’s tribunal, and/or face police charges where necessary. Even if a parent has not signed up to a Code of Conduct, they can be banned from a sporting venue that the league or competition holds rights of access to.

Parents ought to be aware that sporting bodies sometimes have disciplinary regimes in place which penalise the parent’s child for the conduct of their parent, in order to ensure that the behaviour of parents remains in check. In some team sports, if a parent behaving poorly is able to be identified as being affiliated to a particular club, then the club can be penalised for the parent’s poor behaviour through either a fine or loss of premiership points. Parents should therefore be aware that their poor conduct may lead to adverse disciplinary action being taken against their child or their team.

How can SportsLawyer help your club?

With over 10 years of experience, SportsLawyer is excellently positioned to assist you with drafting or reviewing your Code of Conduct. Let us help you today to draft a Code of Conduct and assist you with its implementation to safeguard your Club and ensure you are meeting your legal obligations.

Contact Paul Horvath or Ned Puddy at, or give us a call on (03) 9642 0435.