Any sports club, large or small, faces the prospect of a troublesome member, or members, threatening the reputation and standing of the club in the community, or interfering with other members’ quite enjoyment.

Some examples of such behaviour include defamatory public remarks in relation to another member or the club in general, obnoxious behaviour or a failure to uphold financial obligations as a member.

In such cases, the club, usually being an incorporated association, can take disciplinary action against the member for breaches relating to their status as a member of the association.

A number of clubs will have adopted the Model Rules listed in Schedule 1 of the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012 (Vic) (Model Rules). Regardless, clubs should have provisions in their rules which will dictate the procedure that must be followed if a member has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the club.

Here are handy tips that clubs and committees should keep in mind if disciplining a member:

  1. The club itself has the ability to discipline its members for particular disruptions. However, the police should be called if there is any concern of violence or other criminal activity.
     
  2. A club does not have to take disciplinary action to address a troublesome member. Discussions can be had with the member personally, or formal mediation could be undertaken to remedy the situation.
     
  3. In the event that disciplinary action is required, it is imperative that a club follows its rules to ensure that a member receives fair and just treatment.
     
  4. Following the club’s rules also protects the club from adverse action that could potentially arise from the disciplinary proceedings. For example, a member facing disciplinary action can challenge a decision if they feel as though the correct process was not followed and the club has shown bias against them during the proceedings.
     
  5. Under the Model Rules, the committee must appoint a disciplinary subcommittee to hear the matter and determine what action, if any, to take against a member. A club’s rules may not contain this obligation to appoint a subcommittee, however this is the general requirement.
     
  6. The disciplinary subcommittee appointed by the club for disciplinary proceedings can be committee members, members of the club or anyone else. However, anyone appointed for the proceedings must not be biased against, or in favour of, the particular member.
     
  7. Upon completion of the proceedings, the disciplinary subcommittee has the option of:

    o      taking no further action against the member;
    o      reprimanding the member;
    o      suspending the membership rights for a specified period; or
    o      expelling the member from the club.

  8. To remove a committee member from office, an association may, by ‘special resolution’ in a general meeting of members, remove a member of the committee before the end of their term. An eligible member can fill the vacant position, provided it is done in accordance with the rules of the association, at the meeting. It is noted that a committee member removed from office still remains a member of the club.

Overall, a club has different options available to it to deal with a member that is behaving contrary to the club’s rules and purposes. The important message to remember is that any action the club takes, whether it be formal proceedings or informal discussions, must be in accordance with the club’s rules, and it must afford the particular member, despite their behaviour, procedural fairness to protect the club from any further adverse action.

For advice in relation to disciplinary proceedings for clubs or further information regarding Sports Law, please contact:

Ashleigh Wall
Special Counsel
T03 5226 8559
E awall@harwoodandrews.com.au

or

Jesse Drever
Lawyer
T03 5225 5226
E jdrever@harwoodandrews.com.au