Poor, offensive or dangerous behaviour is unacceptable at any time of the year, but the risk of it occurring increases dramatically at season-end when passions are at their highest and partying is often on the agenda. When a player or supporter’s enthusiasm for the game is also influenced by drugs or alcohol, the consequences can be very serious and all parties could be called into account for the actions of one team or club member.
So how do we get the balance right? How do we keep the celebrations fun, but still safe and legal?
Where does your club stand?
For starters, club administrators should examine their club’s position on alcohol and drugs and review how they affect the organisation’s culture. You could start by asking the following questions:
- Is your club’s approach to alcohol risking members’ safety and enjoyment of sport and social activities?
- Is it affecting the club’s reputation or compromising business and sponsorship opportunities?
- How does it affect junior members and their views about alcohol and drugs, now and in the future?
- Is your club fostering a link between sport and alcohol (i.e. does it encourage a ‘drinking culture’?)
Following this, develop supporting strategies to position your club where it wants to be. These may include:
- Organising alcohol-free social events for young people and families.
- Establishing a peer mentoring and counselling program to encourage responsible alcohol use.
- Discouraging end of season celebrations that could involve excessive consumption of alcohol or any drug use.
- Participating in programs like Good Sports, which provide free resources, education and dedicated face-to-face support to sporting clubs that want to develop a positive and responsible approach to alcohol.
- Forging links with local schools, health centres, community and support groups to conduct joint awareness and education programs, to enable your club to access additional support for club members affected by alcohol or drug issues.
It is important to know that clubs and associations may be held responsible for the behaviour of their staff and club members (this is called ‘vicarious liability’) unless:
- it can be shown that reasonable steps were taken to prevent the behaviour from happening in the first place;
- there are appropriate policies and procedures in place for dealing with the behaviour if it occurs.
Therefore, it is vital that relevant policy documents are in place and educated to members to support your club’s position and strategies. These may include:
- alcohol and drug management policies that clearly outline your club’s position on alcohol and drug use
- Code of behaviour and member protection policies which ensure that all members are aware of their responsibilities and the penalties associated with unacceptable behaviour.
Make sure all your members have access to the relevant policy documents and use social networking, the club website, newsletters, coaching sessions and team meetings to re-iterate important points as the finals approach.
The Play by the Rules Club Toolkit includes easy-to-use templates for sporting clubs, including an Alcohol Policy, Code of Behaviour and a Member Protection Policy. Simply add your logo and distribute to members or use them as a starting point to develop your club’s policies.
Play by the Rules is a national initiative which provides information, resources and free online training for clubs and sporting organisations to ensure everyone involved in sport can do so in enjoyable, safe environments, free from discrimination or harassment. It is supported by Federal, State and Territory Governments.