How to manage sports rage effectively.
Section 1: Prepare your club to manage sports rage effectively
You can’t prevent sports rage without doing your homework first. Your club’s management can put in place some critical policies, processes and personnel aimed at stopping sports rage in the club. It’s worth reviewing the club’s constitution and rules.
If you don’t have a constitution, go to see our constitution resource, which explains in detail how to set one up. Preventing sports rage requires more than a policy change. Here are some simple steps to help your club eliminate incidents of sports rage:
Develop codes of conduct
Codes of conduct outline an agreed standard of behaviour for everyone including administrators, coaches, officials, players and parents. For help creating your own codes of conduct, call your national sport organisation (NSO) or regional sports trust (RST) about specific codes that you may be able to adopt. You can also create your own using our tip cards.
Establish disciplinary procedures
The club constitution should contain a procedure for the discipline of members who breach codes of conduct. When setting up disciplinary procedures, it's advisable you seek legal advice and speak to your NSO or RST.
Establish an incident process
Once you have codes of conduct and disciplinary procedures in place, you will be able to map out a clear process for dealing with sports rage incidents. Establish what the response is - step by step - and who is responsible for each step. Here's an example of a sports rage incident process:
Report it to the ground official or club committee member.
Ground official or club committee member or referees/umpire if on-field
Approach sports rager and issue a warning for breach of code. Based on the situation, decide on the next step:
Disciplinary hearing resulting in outcomes like counselling, suspension or expulsion.
While members are bound by your rules, other people such as spectators, officials and parents of visiting teams are not. You can enforce your club rules with ‘conditions of entry’ or by asking parents to sign registration forms or codes of conduct.
Appoint ground officials
Appoint ground officials for every game day to deal with incidents as they occur. They should be trained and confident to deal with difficult situations. It’s also a good idea to provide a job description and information on their role.
Train officials and other club members
If you want to eliminate sports rage ensure everyone in your club values fair play. To do this you can:
- hold a special and regular session on fair play for club members and officials
- make fair play training part of any accreditation processes you have.
Section 2: Getting the message across
Once you’ve done the groundwork, it’s time to promote your club’s position on sports rage to members and to educate people about fair play and being a good sport. To create a positive sporting environment and manage sports rage you will need to promote:
- club policies and procedures
- club processes for dealing with incidents
- fair play and good sporting behaviour.
Here are some tips on how to do this.
Use ground officials
Communicate throughout the club who ground officials are and what they do. It's a good idea to arrange for them to wear something distinctive on game day.
Use education brochures
Distribute sports rage education brochures at registration or orientation day. They will help people understand what sports rage is and how they can play a part in preventing it.
Communicate through articles
Publish articles and tips in your newsletter and/or website. Focus on topics such as codes of conduct, the ground official, fair play and what to do if sports rage occurs.
Think about arranging pre-season meetings between key groups, such as parents and coaches, to discuss club policies, fair play and expectations.
Provide role models
Arrange for role models to come and talk at the club. This can have a huge impact on members, especially young people.
Use ground announcements
Play announcements on game/event days that remind people to be sports rage free.
Promote positive messages
Communicate simple fair play messages via:
- animated banners on your club website.
Try a slogan competition
Run a fun competition asking club members to come up with catchy fair play slogans. Award a prize for the best effort.
Hold a fair play day
Arrange a fair play day each season to reinforce positive messages. You could hand out information brochures, stickers, invite sport celebrities to talk, hang banners at your venue, and make playground announcements.
Implement a good sport award
Adopt a good sport award to recognise positive behaviour by teams and individuals. Decide on winners via a nomination system. Use a certificate or prize to reward your good sports.
Section 3: Sports rage and the law
It is important for all club committee members to have a basic understanding of the law in relation to sports rage. Sports clubs and associations have a responsibility to address behaviour that offends community standards, as well as those standards set by the association itself. Here, the various aspects of New Zealand law are briefly outlined as it applies to incidents of sports rage.
Acts of Parliament
One example of community standards is the Human Rights Act 1993 which prohibits (subject to limited exceptions) discrimination on the basis of gender, age, colour, ethnic or national origin, race, sexual orientation, religion or disability. Some sports have specific rules prohibiting the abuse or taunting of individuals in line with the Human Rights Act. In New Zealand such vilification (abuse) of individuals is unlawful.
Contract law and negligence
A club or association may be liable if, through the conduct of individuals at its games or activities, it breaks its own rules or breaches its duty of care over members, participants, officials, spectators and visitors.
A fundamental requirement of law is that an organisation must abide by its own rules. Members can enforce such rules as a contract between them and the organisation. If, as a result of your actions, someone suffers physical or mental harm or property damage, then they may look for compensation.
In New Zealand, the Accident Compensation scheme prevents people from suing for personal injury caused by negligence. In rare circumstances, a person may be awarded exemplary damages where the courts wish to punish behaviour that has shown an outrageous and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.
There are also possibilities of claims for mental injury or nervous shock. Be aware, however, that the Accident Compensation laws do not prevent the organisation from being sued for loss of or damage to property.
Failing to observe any of the above requirements can result in penalties for individuals and sporting associations, not to mention the reputation damage that may result from unwelcome publicity.
If the behaviour of individuals or groups at your sporting event or activity is sufficiently serious it may result in criminal charges. People involved in grass roots sport are not immune from criminal law just because their behaviour occurs at a sporting event.
Both on-field and off-field conduct by players, officials and spectators can result in criminal convictions. Criminal assault is the most common form of unlawful behaviour, which might occur at a sporting event. It can arise:
- Through behaviour that causes the victim to feel threatened by the actions of another. Words by themselves do not amount to an assault. There must be some act or gesture accompanying the words which indicate an intention to assault or which a reasonable person would understand as indicating such an intention; or
- By behaviour which results in the actual infliction of unlawful force on the body of another.
An assault may or may not involve actual physical contact. An unruly spectator who spits at or threatens a referee, a player, or the other team's supporters could be convicted of common assault if it can be established that the offender intended to cause harm or was reckless. In an on-field example from Australia, a female soccer player was convicted of common assault and fined $250 for spitting at a referee during a women's soccer match.
The player also received a life suspension from the Soccer Association. More serious assaults include those involving actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.
A rugby player was convicted of a criminal assault for deliberating punching and breaking an opposition player's jaw. The player ran some distance to punch the player and the facts showed that it was more than just a heat-of-the-moment fight.