Resources: Blog

Why clubs need to regulate fan and member behaviour at sporting events


Have a seat and take a stand

Racial abuse from fans and/or members certainly falls foul of discrimination laws and can lead to significant questions being asked of clubs and organisations about what steps they took or could have reasonably taken to prevent players from being subject to such behaviour.

One of Workplace Law’s lawyers recently attended a sporting event at one of the largest sporting arenas in New South Wales, and had the unfortunate experience of having to listen to nearby spectators make inappropriate (and racially charged) comments about the players on the field. This issue was raised with the hosting club and the venue subsequent to the game, however, as the perpetrators couldn’t be identified, the response was that the matter could not be taken any further.

For all of the debate and discussion in recent times about a club’s obligations (as an employer) to manage player behaviour both on and off the field, it should not be forgotten that the conduct and behaviour of fans and members also has ramifications for players and clubs both in terms of safety and reputational damage. In this sense, clubs should ensure that they take a proactive approach to encouraging attendance and involvement that is a positive reflection of the values of the club and discourage conduct and behaviour that brings the club or the sport into disrepute or vilifies another person (player, fan or official).

Racial abuse from fans and/or members certainly falls foul of discrimination laws (as discussed in our previous blog, Boo” or “Boo-urns) and can lead to significant questions being asked of clubs and organisations about what steps they took or could have reasonably taken to prevent players from being subject to such behaviour. Further to this, it increases the risk of clubs and organisations suffering significant commercial damage to their brand that has the potential to inhibit the success of the sport.

As recently as April this year, the Union of European Football Associations ordered Montenegro to play one match in an empty stadium after England players were racially abused during a European Championships qualifier. This is not the first time a club has been ordered to play games behind closed doors because of racial abuse from spectators and it may not be the last.

More locally, the Australian Football League and its 18 clubs recently issued a public apology to Adam Goodes, a former player who was subject to racial abuse from fans and was given indefinite leave during his career to cope with the distress. That apology included an acknowledgement that they did not do enough to support him by calling out the poor behaviour of fans at the time.

Finally, the fines and point-suspensions imposed on the A-League’s Western Sydney Wanderers as a result of the conduct of a section of its supporters in setting off flares and during games and their involvement in violent conduct with supporters from other teams, is a prime example of how unacceptable behaviour can have a significantly adverse impact on a club or organisation.

Lessons for employers

Whilst clubs and sporting organisations cannot be expected to control the behaviour of every single individual that attends a game, there is plenty that can be done so that they can confidently say they have taken every reasonable step to ensure the safety of their players, including:

• setting a Code of Conduct for fan and member behaviour which requires each individual to comply with the values and expectations of the club and sets out the consequences of breaching the Code;

• ensure that any Code of Conduct and relevant policies are displayed clearly for all fans and members to see, and that each person is reminded of these at every attendance;

• ensure there are appropriate mechanisms in place for members of the public to report anti-social or unacceptable behaviour, that these are well communicated and that incidents are responded to promptly and genuinely;

• when reports of unacceptable behaviour are received, take prompt steps to investigate and remind fans, members, players and stakeholders that such behaviour is not tolerated; and

• not being afraid to take strong action against members and fans including ending memberships and lifetime bans.

Information provided in this blog is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Workplace Law does not accept liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance on the content of this blog, or from links on this website to any external website. Where applicable, liability is limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

Similar articles

FWC upholds dismissal of an employee who repeatedly and deliberately accessed customer’s confidential information without authorisation

Celebrity search

During the course of their employment, employees may have access to confidential information which belongs to their employer. This information may be in the form of personal information provided by customers and is therefore sensitive in nature.


Court finds rescinded job offer was not age discrimination

The rooster and the sunrise

Discrimination in the workplace is unlawful under a number of Australian laws, including state and federal anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Age Discrimination Act 2004 (Cth)) as well as the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).


Sexual harassment and work health and safety

New guidance material released by Safe Work Australia

Australia has long had in place state and federal anti-discrimination legislation which recognises sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination and makes sexual harassment in the workplace unlawful.


FWC finds sexually explicit Facebook post warranted dismissal, despite the employer’s ‘rather unusual’ workplace culture

Not so ‘funny’ meme

The workplace culture of an organisation should reflect the values that the business upholds and expects of its employees. It is becoming increasingly challenging for employers and employees to understand where a line is drawn between a relaxed and open workplace culture and a workplace culture that tolerates inappropriate behaviour.


Casual employee unfairly dismissed for Facebook recommendation

Halt before you post

Social media and employee’s conduct online has without doubt added a layer to the employer and employee relationship. While employees may think that their online activities done outside of work hours may be private, their conduct online may become relevant to their employment, for example, where it may disparage their employer, other employees or clients.


Vaccinations and the workplace

Shots fired

One of the most topical questions for employers during the COVID-19 pandemic has been whether they need to introduce policies that mandate vaccinations and, if so, what can be done to enforce them in the workplace.


Let's talk

please contact our directors to discuss how ouR expertise can help your business.

We're here to help

Contact Us
Let Workplace Law become your partner in Workplace Relations.

Signup to receive the latest industry updates with commentary from the Workplace Law team direct to you inbox.