Safety in sport

Many sports and recreational activities have inherent risks and dangers.  It is inevitable that injuries amongst participants will occur.  Negligence can lead to participants, officials, or the association being held liable (responsible) for conduct that causes harm to another person.  


Participants are generally taken to have voluntarily accepted the risks inherent in a particular sport.  This includes the risk of injury that might arise from minor or expected breaches of the playing rules; however participants are expected to behave reasonably.  If the person's behaviour falls below the standard required, the person may be said to be negligent.  

Coaches and referees

Coaches and referees owe a duty of care to participants in sports activities.  They are expected to do what a reasonably competent coach or referee would do in that position including providing reasonable supervision and ensuring that participants are properly instructed in the rules of the activity and safety requirements.  


Spectators and bystanders are also exposed to risks at sporting events.  Spectators and bystanders could be injured in a variety of ways such as by stray balls, racing cars leaving the track and crashing into the spectator area, faulty equipment, grandstands collapsing and unruly behaviour.

A sports association, officials and participants have a duty to take reasonable care not to injure or cause injury to spectators or bystanders. A sporting association may be held liable for injuries to spectators if they failed to take reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable risks.  

Effect of the Civil Liability Act 2002

In Western Australia, the Civil Liability Act 2002 (CLA) limits liability for injury resulting from recreational activities.  A person is not liable for harm occurring as a result of an inherent risk, such as something that cannot be avoided by exercising reasonable care and skill. 

If a risk is obvious, there is no duty to warn a person of the obvious risk.  For example boxers can expect to get punched. However, a person will not avoid liability if the injured person had specifically asked for advice about the risks.

Insurance and waivers

Sporting groups can obtain insurance specifically designed to cover sports injuries, liabilities and events. Participants, members and officials should be informed of the nature and extent of the insurance cover and participants should be advised to have their own health cover.

It is not uncommon for sporting associations to require members to sign a waiver that indemnifies the association and its officials from liability.  Waivers have limited value and in the case of children, parents may not sign away children's rights against negligent acts.    

Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries - Sport and Recreation

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries - Sport and Recreation has a useful website that provides information about managing sport and recreation clubs.

Postal address: PO Box 8349 Perth Business Centre WA 6849
Telephone: (08) 9492 9700