Header image of two women talking

As a club administrator it can be confusing to know what to do when problems arise. Most people know that a sports tribunal or hearing committee deals with on field complaints, but are less sure about what to do about off field behaviour (e.g., sexual harassment) or unfair administrative decisions (e.g. unfair rules).

Increasingly national and state sporting and recreation organisations are developing Member Protection and other policies and procedures to help guide their member clubs in dealing with these complaints.

It is important that clubs respond to all complaints, follow their organisation's policies and seek clarification from their state or national sporting or recreation organisation (or an external authority) if they are unsure about what to do.

If the state or national organisation manages a complaint the role of the club is to co-operate in any investigation, manage the situation until the outcome of the complaint is decided and implement any disciplinary action if required.

This section provides general information to assist club administrators understand:

Complaint handling principles

As a club administrator it’s important that your handling of complaints is fair, just and transparent (i.e. you follow clear processes and procedures).

You should apply the following principles:

  • Treat complaints seriously
  • Act promptly
  • Treat people fairly and listen to both sides of the story
  • Stay neutral
  • Keep parties to the complaint informed
  • Try to Maintain confidentiality if possible
  • Protect against victimisation
  • Keep accurate records
  • Make decisions based only on information gathered not personal views
  • Disciplinary action should be relative to the breach

Complaint options and steps

An organisation’s Member Protection Policy describes options and procedures for dealing with complaints.

Where possible, less serious complaints should be resolved informally at the level they occur (e.g. club). An example of a less serious complaint is a coach showing favouritism towards their own child in team selection. However, the circumstances of some complaints may require more formal processes, such as a player missing out on team selection because of race or religious beliefs. Referral to an external agency may be required for very serious issues like suspicion of harm against a child.

There are occasions when a club would benefit from the support of their regional or state sporting organisation to deal with a complaint, for example if a fair process can't be guaranteed because the person being complained about is also responsible for dealing with complaints at the club. Whether such support is available or necessary depends on your sport's constitution and policies.

Escalating a complaint

Escalating a complaint to an external agency is a good option when your organisation's policies or constitution directs that this type of complaint be dealt with at the state or national level, and:

  • There is a possible conflict of interest (or close relationship) between the people on the management committee and any of the parties to the complaint
  • It is beyond the skills of the committee and specific expertise or experience may be required to manage the complaint
  • The complaint has not been able to be resolved at the club level
  • The issue is more serious than first thought

Understand that the person complaining can contact an external authority (e.g. an anti-discrimination agency) at any stage in a complaint process.

This section provides information on steps to deal with complaints about:

Dealing with a complaint case study

Below you’ll find a video case study of a complaint handling scenario. Follow the sequence of videos and download the key learning points.

Complaint handling videos

Dealing with an initial enquiry

Download PDF

First meeting with the respondent

Download PDF

First meeting with the complainant

Download PDF

Gathering more information

Download PDF

Making recommendations

Download PDF

Mediation meeting

Download PDF

Providing feedback

Download PDF