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Sideline Behaviour Roundtable

On Tuesday 27 June 2023, the Department of Tourism, Innovation and Sport (DTIS) in collaboration with the QSport hosted a Roundtable on Sideline Behaviour in Sport. The widespread occurrence of poor sideline behaviour has created a challenging environment for coaches, officials and players, hindering their ability to perform, enjoy the game and uphold the values of fair play.

The objective of the Roundtable was to better understand the issue of sideline behaviour from a cross-section of sports, including its prevalence, impact and strategies currently being used and consideration of collective solutions to address the matter. Participants included senior representatives from AFL Queensland, Basketball Queensland, Football Queensland, Netball Queensland, Queensland Rugby League and Queensland Rugby Union.

The Roundtable discussed the key issues around sideline behaviour for their team sport and current approaches to addressing/managing the issues.

Summary of issues

  • Some sports have become overly competitive from a younger age, creating hostile environments for children and young people to participate. Overarching issues with the ‘performance mindset’ from the adults and prioritising winning over participation/positive experiences for young athletes.
  • Officials’ shortfall, with some clubs/sports struggling to keep growth of officials up to match participation growth.
  • Some participating sports in the Roundtable reported that Match Official abuse is the leading cause of officials leaving the game and a major barrier for attracting new officials to join the game.
  • Increase in prevalence and monitoring of the digital environment; bullying and harassment away from the field of play/online, growth of video captures on phones and livestreaming.
  • Underlying societal issues around poor behaviour which are broader than sport but has a direct impact.

Current approaches

  • Implementation of policies across affiliates e.g. the White Card Policy or Three Strike Policy including Codes of Conduct.
  • Education and awareness sessions for coaches, administrators and parents prior to major championships.
  • Identifiable attire for new or young officials as well as coaches and ground official (e.g. league safe officers).
  • Delivery of officiating development courses to increase the standard of officiating across sports.
  • Behaviour Change campaigns and positive messaging e.g. Protect Our Game initiative or Positive Environment Program.
  • Concerted efforts to cultivate a culture where everyone actively contributes to the positive growth and development of sports.

Discussion from the Roundtable were collated, encompassing potential next steps. The following opportunities were discussed for further consideration:

  • DTIS to engage further with Sport Integrity Australia on where sideline abuse against junior officials sits within their child safeguarding and harassment and discrimination remit.
  • Consideration to establish a Community of Practice. The Community of Practice would see industry organisation’s share best practice in this space, learnings, resources and policies. Opportunity to highlight and case study successful initiatives to combat this issue, especially to provide support to less resourced sports.
  • Continue to promote the existing resources developed by Play By The Rules to increase awareness and exposure.
  • Develop a coordinated values-based campaign that unites community sport. The campaign would highlight the values of sport e.g. fun, inclusion, respect, fairness, equality, team building etc).
  • Promotion of messaging around expectations in sport, particularly around performance mindset. The aim is to shift the focus from external pressures and unrealistic expectations on children and young people (particularly from parents/guardians) to personal growth, well-being, and the enjoyment of the sport.
  • Coordination of an independent group of legal professionals and sports governance experts to support clubs/associations with complaints – collaboration with SLOs, QSport/DTIS and Qld Law Society (for example independent members to consider incidents of poor sideline behaviour being escalated to a tribunal).
  • Facilitate a broader conversation with the key stakeholders (for example Department of Education) around the impact of the under 12 representative pathway with most sports participating in the Roundtable preferring the performance pathway to commence later. Similarly, consideration of raising the age eligibility for DTIS’ Emerging Athlete Pathways program.
  • Development of a Queensland Government policy and/or code of conduct around sideline behaviour in junior sport. Investigate the opportunity to link with DTIS’ funding programs.
  • Sharing of data across industry on serious and repeat offenders enabled through templated privacy wording to facilitate the sharing of data across organisations. This includes investigating options for software and technology platforms to receive and manage complaints, and ease of reporting.

DTIS, QSport and the sports that participated in the roundtable are committed to investigating this issue further and explore potential solutions, including those already raised, to enable a collective response to improve the culture of behaviour in sport. DTIS are also committed to continuing to work collaboratively with industry to create a more positive and respectful sporting environment.

Last updated: 21 Jul 2023