The world of modern sports now extends beyond the white lines on the field. Today, a vast array of incidents and misdemeanours involving sporting clubs, their players, officials, coaches and spectators attracts significant coverage. Sport, at all levels, is an integral part of communities and remains high in the spectrum of public interest. In this article, Gene Schirripa, Graduate Lawyer with Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers, explains why sporting clubs registered under their sport’s national governing body need to have a fully updated and comprehensive member protection policy (MPP) in place.
While on-field offences are dealt with under a sport’s disciplinary tribunal procedures and rules, what about behaviour off the field? MPPs enable sports and associated organisations to deal with off-field occurrences that can’t be dealt with under the on-field procedures.

Do I need an MPP?

National sporting organisations (NSOs) recognised by Sport Australia (SA) must have an MPP. These policies set out the rights and protections for everyone who participates in sport. The aim of the MPP is to eliminate discrimination, harassment, child abuse and other inappropriate behaviours. They also set out the responsibilities of each and every participant. NSOs invariably require that their members (usually bodies corporate) and other associated body corporate members have an MPP. Body corporate members include clubs, junior associations and umpires associations.
As a result, MPPs are wide reaching and impact all participants of the game. This includes administrators and club officials, coaches, referees, parents and spectators.
This means that all office holders and employees and other key people, such as coaches, must be familiar with their MPPs and know exactly how to react and what to do when an incident covered by the MPP occurs. Indeed, their responsibilities under the MPP often extend far beyond simply being familiar with their MPP.

What do MPPs cover?

MPPs deal with a range of issues that are relevant to the daily operation of a sporting organisation. These include things like child protection, taking images of children, anti-discrimination, intimate relationships, pregnancy, gender identity, responsible consumption of alcohol, smoke-free environments, cyber bullying and social networking.

What constitutes a breach?

Any one of a broad range of acts may be a breach of an MPP. This depends on the wording of the MPP of the NSO, the state or territory governing body, or the club or association. The acts covered by the MPP can include, for example, breach of a code of behaviour, discrimination, vilification, bullying or harassment, inappropriate intimate relationships, verbal or physical assault, and bringing a sport or sporting organisation into disrepute.

How can Snedden Hall & Gallop Lawyers help you?

We have provided many sporting organisations with advice, investigations and other services under their MPPs. We can advise you about your responsibilities and prepare you for life with an MPP so that it is an asset to your organisation. If your need is urgent, we can provide you with immediate, expert advice. We will work with you to draft or update your MPP in accordance with your requirements. If you need help developing an MPP, or want to learn more about your obligations as a state or territory governing body, a club or other associated body, contact the Snedden Hall & Gallop Sports Law team today on 02 6285 8000 or by email here.