Player safety, fairness, and the integrity and composition of sport are all vital factors to consider in the creation and implementation of effective sport policies and procedures. Clear policies as part of a club’s governance framework provide a club, association or sport generally with guidelines to decision-making, and are an important step to mitigating potential risks that may arise.

With summer recently coming to a close, we had another eventful few months of sport – from Australia reclaiming the Ashes, to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, to Adelaide taking out the BBL Final, and Melbourne recently defeating Adelaide in the NBL Finals.

Perhaps the biggest moment in sport over the summer though, prior to the recent news out of South Africa, was Roger Federer’s historic 20th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. After a tough first four sets of the Final against Croatian Marin Čilić, Federer’s greatness shone through in the fifth set, and saw him take out the match 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3 3-6 6-1.

This year’s Open wasn’t without controversy. A two-day heatwave during the middle of the tournament saw matches played in temperatures as high as 40.2C (104F). However, these oppressive conditions were not deemed extreme enough to see the implementation of the Extreme Heat Policy, which would have seen matches on open courts postponed and the roof closed on stadiums where possible.

The extreme heat policy uses the “Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT), which combines air temperature and humidity”. If the WBGT reading reaches 32.5, with the temperature above 40C, the heat policy is triggered. Some players have labelled this threshold as too high. 

In response to this criticism, tournament director Craig Tiley stated that the conditions of play are established prior to the event”, and policies can’t be changed halfway through the tournament.

All sports need to have decisive, safe and fair policies and procedures that protect the interests of players and fans alike. Policies in a sporting context are designed to guide the actions of individuals and entities involved with the particular club, association or sport generally. These cover areas such as doping, financial matters, junior involvement in sport, and health and safety. 

Player safety is currently a clear area of concern across a number of sports, as evidenced by the International Cricket Council implementing a concussion policy in October 2017 that allows the substitution of players with a concussion. International codes like the NFL also implement the use of concussion policies in an attempt to mitigate risk and protect players.

Another key policy consideration in sport recently has been the equality across male and female competitions. Rugby Australia recently signed a collective bargaining agreement which included provision for “pay parity between women’s and men’s sevens and Super Rugby starters”, as well as a Pregnancy Policy aimed to provide support and job security for female players. The AFL has also had to address this consideration in policy development and implementation with transgender footballer Hannah Mouncey in the AFLW 2018 Draft. The AFL Player’s Association was critical of the decision to rule Mouncey ineligible for the Draft, with General Manager of Player Relations Brett Murphy stating that there “should have been clear guidelines available for transgender players wishing to enter the AFLW.” Key stakeholders have advocated for the development of guidelines that can govern future cases.

For advice or further information regarding policy development or other areas of Sports Law, please contact:

Paul Gray
Principal Lawyer
T  03 5225 5231
E  pgray@ha.legal

or

Jesse Drever
Lawyer
T  03 5225 5226
E  jdrever@ha.legal

This article has been prepared with assistance from Graduate Lawyer, Alex Gulli