Managing Poor Behaviour & Bullying

The majority of people attending matches participate in a respectful manner, creating an enjoyable and safe environment. Unfortunately sometimes a minority don’t demonstrate responsible and acceptable behaviour. Football NSW works closely with its clubs and associations to keep football safe, fair and enjoyable for everyone.


Bullying is repeated deliberate behaviour by one or more people towards someone where there is an intention to cause distress, fear or harm and creates a power imbalance between those doing the bullying and those being bullied.  The following links and resources are provided to help understand bullying, manage and respond to bullying, where to get help for anyone being bullied and how to support someone experiencing bullying.

Cyber Bullying & E-Safety

To report online bullying:  Report Cyber Bullying to the e-Safety Centre

Poor Behaviour

Inappropriate behaviour in football is unacceptable, and clubs and associations are responsible for taking appropriate action to manage the behaviour of their players, team officials and spectators when in breach of the Coaches Code of Conduct or relevant rules, regulations and policies.

Players, coaches and team officials are responsible for compliance with the Codes of Conduct, Laws of the Game, and the rules, regulations and policies of the club, association, FNSW and FA.  Breaches can result in being charged with offences under these and being called to appear before the relevant disciplinary tribunal.

Penalties are at the discretion of the tribunal, but can include match suspension, time suspension and life suspension from football.

Complaints about Coaches

Clubs are responsible for managing complaints and taking any necessary disciplinary action in relation to their team officials, club officials, employees and volunteers.

When managing a complaint, a club could consider the following options depending on the behaviour:

  • Speaking with the coach about their behaviour
  • Monitoring the coach to observe the reported behaviour
  • Mentoring the coach on how to improve his/her behaviour
  • Mediation between the aggrieved parties
  • Requiring the coach to complete relevant Play By The Rules or Sport Integrity Australia on-line training
  • Requiring the coach to complete an accredited coaching course or other form of further education
  • Issue of a written warning to the coach about their behaviour
  • Taking disciplinary action
  • Applying a sanction
  • Suspending the coach from their duties for a period of time, or
  • a combination of the above, or
  • Dismissing the coach

Any action taken is at the discretion of the club or association or relevant tribunal.  The complainant DOES NOT determine how their complaint is managed or what (if any) action, sanction, suspension or dismissal is applied.

Where a coach or other team official identifies that a misunderstanding may have occurred or that their behaviour was not acceptable, it can be beneficial to acknowledge this and offer a sincere apology as this can often help in many circumstances, and may even result in clarifying the matter with a good outcome and resolution for all involved.

Common Issues

Photography & Videoing in Football

In Australia, generally speaking, there is no law restricting photography of people (including children) in public spaces as long as the images are not:

  • indecent
  • being used for voyeurism or made for the purpose of observing and visually recording a person’s genital or anal region
  • protected by a court order (eg. child custody or witness protection)
  • defamatory
  • being for commercial purposes (person’s likeness is used to endorse or entice people to buy a product)

Further information:

Insufficient Game Time

Insufficient game time is not a member protection issue. It is a decision for the coach of a team to determine how much game time players receive. Some clubs have policies relating to amateur football game time and this can be clarified by contacting your club to find out if they have a game time policy.

Football is a team sport and time on the bench is part of playing football and being in a football team. The strategies used by coaches are many and varied in their efforts to try and provide players with fair game time.  Equal game time is not always possible particularly where the games are closely contested and where player fitness, endurance, ability and team cohesion are factors in player selection, rotation and positioning.  Any concerns relating to game time should be raised with the coach or club.

Non-selection in team

Non-selection is not a member protection issue. The selection of players for a team is a decision for selectors. Players are generally selected based on various factors including skill, stamina, fitness, strength, positive attitude, team cohesion, commitment and a willingness and ability to listen, learn and improve.  A good behaviour record and compliance with the Codes of conduct, Laws of the Game and relevant policies, both on and off the field are also important.

Our team is not winning

A study on children’s sport found that the top 3 reasons children play amateur sport were to make friends, to have fun and to play the game.

Winning is not always a priority for children and just playing with their friends, having fun and kicking the ball is often what they base their good experience on. Parents should support their children and encourage good sportsmanship no matter their priorities or outcome of the game – win, lose or draw, the experience should always be a positive one.

Sport is great for children’s fitness and well-being and is often the only outlet for children away from the pressures of school, social and family issues, and life in general, so it is important that children are allowed the freedom to enjoy their football, make friends and have a good experience.

My child is not being played in the position they prefer

The position that a child plays in or is allocated to is a decision for the coach of the team. Although a child may play in a certain position when they join the club or trial for a club, there is no guarantee that this is the position the child will play in at the club. While clubs and coaches like to try and keep everyone happy, it is not always possible to play children where they want or prefer to play at any level and in developing children it is common for coaches to play children in a variety of different positions.

Failure to release a player from a contract or de-register a player

These are not member protection issues and are matters for resolution between the club and the player or parents involved.

Refund Requests

This is not a member protection issue and is a matter between the player (or player’s parents if U18) and the club.

Before requesting a refund it is important to check the club refund policy, player contract or player information or contact the club Secretary for information.

Note: Some fee components may be non-refundable such as capitation fees, insurance and Government subsidies (vouchers).

Making Sport Safer with Jacketed Ground Officials

In most competitions it is a requirement for clubs to appoint ground officials for every game day and for each team (both home and away) to prevent and deal with any incidents that may arise involving poor behaviour. The title of the ground official will vary depending on each club and association and may often be referred to as Ground Official, Ground Marshal or Jacketed Official.

Clubs and Associations can best prepare their ground officials by:

  • Providing ground officials with information about their role
  • Ensuring ground officials stand out on game day by providing them with a high visibility vest or jacket.
  • Providing training – ground officials need the skills and confidence to deal with difficult situations. Have your ground official complete the Play by the Rules Child Protection, Harassment and Complaint Handling training.
  • Establishing a reporting system – put in place an incident reporting system for ground officials to use.
  • Ground marshal’s should be familiar with steps to help resolve conflict and deal with issues quickly and appropriately.


Respect Referees

Match officials are critical to the sport of football and without them there would be no game. Players, team officials parents and spectators should treat them with respect and recognize that they too are often learning, and just like players, can only improve with more training and experience.



Below are some useful resources for Associations and Clubs that can be used to educate and send important messaging via your websites, on social media and at grounds.

Education is the first step to maintaining a consistent approach towards poor sideline behaviour. ‘Let Kids Be Kids’ is a national sport program designed to help clubs and associations tackle the issue of poor sideline behaviour.