Sport and the law is a complex area for clubs and associations.
This guideline focuses on the legislation that exists to ensure the
safety, health and welfare of young people who participate in junior
It does not cover the legislation applying to the administration of junior sport (e.g. tax law, corporations law, stamp duty).
It must not be relied on as legal advice.
There are free online courses for people involved in club sport through the Play by the Rules website.
A person involved in a sporting activity can be:
Importantly – the law related to the welfare of juniors emphasises
the serious obligations for anybody taking responsibility for providing
them with activities and/or care.
To meet your duty of care to young people in sport you need to:
This protects your club, its volunteers and its participants.
When anyone in a sports organisation breaches duty of care, there may be repercussions for the principals of the organisation.
Club officials can be vicariously liable for offences committed by
anyone in the organisation including volunteers. To reduce the risk of
negligence by sport providers, managers should regularly monitor their
staff and programs.
‘Reasonably’ refers to the fact that there are practical limits to
the time, human and financial resources to be spent on reducing risks.
Australian Standard AS/ISO 19600 sets out the essential elements of an effective compliance program.
In Australia, federal, State and territory discrimination laws apply
to sport, although the extent of coverage varies nationally. Harassment
(for example sexual or racial harassment) is also unlawful. These laws
aim to ensure that we can all participate in the public life of the
community, free from certain forms of discrimination and harassment.
Discrimination means making choices about how we treat other people.
Those choices can be made using real and relevant information, or they
can be based on prejudice, stereotypes and bias.
Discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than
another person based on one of the grounds for discrimination.
Team selection provides a good example of fair, unfair and unlawful practices in sport.
To find out more about discrimination and the law based on
disability, sex, race and sexuality read the following facts sheets
found at the Play by the Rules website.
Direct discrimination occurs where people are:
Indirect discrimination is where a practice impacts on one individual more than another because of a personal characteristic.
Discrimination is prohibited in regard to work, education, provision of services and registered clubs.
Exemptions exist for discrimination in sport. These allow for the:
The exemptions apply only to the junior participants. None of the
discrimination exemptions apply to people who wish to be coaches,
officials or sport administrators.
Discrimination against a young person with a disability in a sporting activity is not unlawful if:
Harassment takes many forms; some are unlawful, some are not.
However, all harassment is undesirable and will most certainly breach
organisational polices and codes of conduct. Consequently it must be
prevented and managed.
Harassment is any type of behaviour that:
Behaviour such as unwanted sexual comments or abuse, unwanted sexual
suggestions, offensive gestures and unwanted sexual contact can be
interpreted as sexual harassment.
It is important to remember that not everyone views behaviour in the
same way. In assessing whether certain behaviour constitutes harassment,
the intention of the alleged harasser is not considered. Instead the
focus is on the impact on the person harassed and whether or not the
behaviour could reasonably have been expected to harass. It is crucial,
therefore, that all members of sporting organisations be sensitive to
how their behaviour is being received by others.
Examples of behaviours that could be sexual harassment:
It is best to develop written policy on discrimination and sexual harassment. Member Protection Information Officers (MPIO) at State Sporting Associations can provide guidance to clubs.
The club should establish a small working party that consults with the SSA through the MPIO and utilises the Play by the Rules website when working through their responsibilities.
Work will involve:
Legal acts dealing with child protection contain obligations on people dealing with children. Child protection requires:
The Western Australian legislations requiring this reporting is the
Children and Community Services Act 2004 and Working with Children
(Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004. The Working with Children Check is a compulsory screening strategy for people in Western Australia and the
Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands who engage in certain paid or
unpaid work with children, described as child-related work under
the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004
Child abuse can be when someone does something harmful, or does not
provide for or protect, a child or young person. Child abuse can cause
long-lasting emotional, physical and behavioural damage.
Sport is a particularly vulnerable area for potential child abuse because it:
Children and young people with a disability are particularly vulnerable
to abuse. This may be due to difficulties in communicating, behavioural
issues or physical limitations. They often require different
staff-to-participant ratios and greater levels of assistance.
Let’s clarify a few things:
“a club, association or movement (including of a cultural,
recreational or sporting nature and whether incorporated or not) with a
significant membership or involvement of children, but not including an
informal arrangement entered into for private or domestic purposes”.
The issue of drugs is governed primarily by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority Act 2006. The
legislation governs the use of drugs in sport. This combined with the
Australian Sports Commission Anti-Doping Policy provide sports with
clear directions for competitors under 18 years of age.
Although not necessarily performance enhancing, the use of
supplements by those participating in sport has grown considerably in
recent years. These supplements have proven at times to contain
Evidence suggests that if an athlete is following a well-balanced and
nutritious diet and undertaking a well-planned training and competitive
regime, the use of supplements is not necessary Care must be taken
before athletes start using any supplements and if appropriate it should
be done under medical supervision.
Every state and territory has legislation governing occupational or
workplace health and safety (OHS). It applies to workers, volunteers,
students or club members.
Generally speaking, legislation stipulates:
Where nothing is specified, you must choose an appropriate way to ensure the OHS of people under your responsibility.
Under common law, a duty of care is also imposed on organisations to
see that all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent injury.
You must implement a risk management procedure so you are aware of,
and can attend to, any problems related to the hazards and risk involved
in the club’s operations.
Please see booklet 13 of this series – Risky business for a closer look at risk management and its application.
OHS legislation for clubs involves mainly:
Contact your local OHS agency for information on these issues.
The Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 governs the collection and use of personal information where a person’s identity is:
The legislation provides strict guidelines (known as the National
Privacy Principles) about the collection, use and disclosure of such
There is a heavy fine for non-compliance.
To provide a fun, safe and rewarding sports experience for young people, sporting organisations need to:
Further information can be found, amongst others, at the following websites:
Do not submit enquiries with this form.