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Sideline Behaviour Roundtable

The objective of the Roundtable is to better understand the issue of sideline behaviour from a cross-section of sports, including its prevalence, impact, strategies currently being used and consideration of collective solutions to address the matter.

The Sideline Behaviour roundtable is a collaboration between the Department of Tourism and Sport and QSport.

October roundtable

On Friday 20 October 2023, DTS in collaboration with QSport, hosted a second roundtable on Sideline Behaviour in Sport. Senior representatives from AFL Queensland, Basketball Queensland, Football Queensland, Netball Queensland, Queensland Rugby League and Queensland Rugby Union were in attendance. The objective of the second roundtable was to discuss the actions taken to date and future work.

Since the last roundtable, DTS has undertaken a survey of State Level Organisations (SLOs), a review of academic literature, a jurisdictional scan and consultation with relevant stakeholders. The outcome of this work was a set of recommended actions on each proposed collective solution raised during the first roundtable.

During the second roundtable, representatives provided an update on activity in this space since the group last met, including commentary on the intensification or easing in frequency and/or severity of incidents and the impact of new penalty systems, initiatives or messaging that each sport has introduced.

Penalty and warning card systems, dedicated respect rounds and campaigns have shown to be important levers to reducing the number of incidents reported, with some sports noting incidents can increase during the finals period. Reports from around the table showed that a commitment to improving the experience for officials through education and training (focus on junior officials), parental engagement and a positive cultural shift in clubs are key in shifting the dial and seeing improvement in this space.

Key outcomes

Discussions from this roundtable were collated to identify the proposed solutions Government and industry would like to move forward with collaboratively in the short to medium term including:

  • QSport will stand up a Community of Practice (CoP), which will see industry organisation’s share examples of current practice, learnings, resources and policies. The frequency and structure of the CoP will be considered carefully to ensure there is open and honest communication from attendees with a focus on proactive engagement and the opportunity to apply learnings between CoP meetings.

  • As aproud partner of Play By The Rules (PBTR), DTS commits to continued promotion of resources produced by PBTR more broadly, as well as those specifically focused on addressing poor sideline behaviour.

    DTS is committed to ongoing dialogue with Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) to gain deeper insights into the direction of the National Integrity Framework in relation to the ongoing issues of sideline behaviour and abuse towards junior officials. This will ensure DTS is in a position to share these insights with industry.

  • DTS is investigating the need for a targeted marketing campaign and its potential scope. This includes canvassing existing messaging and frequency to identify both what is working, and the gaps in existing mechanisms, and exploring the development of consistent messaging and united imagery for deployment across the industry. Attendees of the Roundtable expressed a desire for broader messaging to be promoted, noting sport-specific terminology could be confusing e.g. referees vs umpires vs officials.

    There was a general agreement amongst roundtable attendees that the CoP will be the appropriate platform to unpack previously raised and future solutions to addressing poor sideline behaviour in sport. These solutions include, but are not limited to:

    • The sharing of data across industry on serious and repeat offenders or poor sideline behaviour.
    • The coordination of an independent group of legal professionals to support clubs/associations with complaints.

    This mechanism will not only enhance the depth of understanding surrounding potential solutions but will also ensure evidence-based and practical solutions can be identified and implemented by the industry.

    DTS, QSport and industry are committed to working together to ensure that participants and spectators can engage in a positive and respectful manner, fostering a healthier and more inclusive sporting environment for all.

June roundtable

On Tuesday 27 June 2023, DTS 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.

Key outcomes

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

    • DTS 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/DTS 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 DTS’ 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 DTS’ 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.

    DTS, 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. DTS are also committed to continuing to work collaboratively with industry to create a more positive and respectful sporting environment.



Last updated: 09 Feb 2024