Risk Management

Risk management is the process taken to reduce potential legal liability of a club or organisation. It aims to address and reduce the likelihood of potential problems before they occur. Effective risk management is proactive rather than reactive which results in creating a safer environment for all those involved in your club or organisation.

Sport and recreation activities by nature include a broad spectrum of inherent risks, some potential risks that may impact on your club or organisation could include:

  • Unsafe equipment, facilities or playing surface
  • Inappropriate or inadequate insurances
  • Lack of first aid officers or medical emergency plan
  • Participants are not required to sign release forms or a waiver
  • The club is not incorporated

A well developed risk management plan or set of procedures that is effectively implemented will assists a club or organisation through:

  • Improved safety for participants
  • Reduced injuries and accidents
  • Ensuring compliance with legal obligations
  • Better outcomes for the club or organisation
  • Increased image and reputation within community
  • More effective management of events, programs and activities
  • Greater awareness and understanding for officials and volunteers

All influential positions within your club or organisation (committee members, officials, coaches, and volunteers) should be consulted and involved in each step of the risk management process. Each member has specific knowledge and understanding of different aspects of the day-to-day running of the club or organisation which must be incorporated to ensure a comprehensive risk management plan is developed. For a checklist that will help you create a risk management plan, see below. 

Your club or organisation’s officials also have a duty of care to take reasonable actions to ensure that all participants avoid injury or accident during the related sport or activity. This includes keeping up-to-date with rule changes and any other relevant amendments, particularly those involving safety. Officials have a duty of care to:

  • Protect participants
  • Ensure that the sport or activity is conducted safely
  • Enforce the rules
  • Warn participants of dangers
  • Control and supervise the competition.

 Risk management tips for officials

  • Always inspect and clear the playing field or arena of visible dangers.  Consider reducing the size of the playing field if necessary (e.g. if broken glass was found in the “in goal” area of a football ground it is difficult to know that all the glass has been picked up so consider shortening the field);
  • Cancel the contest or event if there is inclement or dangerous weather (e.g. extreme heat or thunder storms where lightning is likely);
  • Inspect and control use of both competition and protective equipment;
  • Enforce the rules of the sport and control the conduct of participants (a warning to “tone down” behaviour before things get out of hand can be effective);
  • Be able to provide basic first aid if required and to deal appropriately with potential and actual injuries;
  • Keep an officiating diary and record any incidents that occur during a competition;
  • Seek regular evaluation of your performance and make sure you know about changes to the rules;
  • Undertake a course on “conflict management”;
  • Ensure you have a “balance” in your life and give yourself sufficient time away from officiating to avoid “burn out”;
  • Have insurance to cover both if a claim is made against you and also to cover medical expenses or lost income if you are injured.

No risk management plan or procedure, regardless of the time and effort that went into it, will have any influence on improving safety unless it is implemented effectively ‘on the ground’. When developing a risk management plan you must ensure it is easy to understand, user friendly and accessible to all; this will assist in the day-to-day implementation of the plan.


Risk Management plan checklist

  1. Appoint a risk manager - responsible for the risk management process.
  2. Identify key positions who will be involved in managing risk (committee, officials, coaches, event manager, financial officer, etc).
  3. Determine the club’s risk management context.
  4. Identify risks – what can happen, why and how?
  5. Analyse risks.
  6. Evaluate risks.
  7. Design a risk elimination and reduction plan.
  8. Implement the plan.
  9. Develop and implement a clear communication strategy on risk management.
  10. Communicate the strategies to all appropriate levels of the club.
  11. Ensure the board addresses risk management periodically as a meeting agenda item.
  12. Monitor and review strategies at least annually and report to the board through the risk manager.
  13. Ensure the board has adopted and implemented a risk management policy.

 The following are useful websites that may assist you in developing a risk management plan:

Managing Risks - Play by the Rules
Risk Management - Australian Sports Commission