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Leadership, Culture and Integrity

It is widely accepted that the directors on the board of a State Sporting Organisation (SSO) or State Sporting Organisation for people with disabilities (SSOD) together with their respective executive team (if any) are the leaders of that organisation.  Those persons are responsible for setting the culture of the SSO through their leadership style and through adopting and promoting a position of integrity for the SSO.

Each board should ensure and actively promote ethical behaviour and decision-making within its organisation.  Good corporate governance ultimately requires people with integrity and leadership to ensure that the reputation of an organisation is managed, protected and enhanced. 

A culture of integrity and ethical behaviour is characterised by: 

  • an effective code of conduct 
  • quality decision-making processes 
  • people of the highest integrity and ethical standards
  • an intent to put the organisation ahead of individual gains. 

The SSO and its board have a major obligation to protect and maintain the integrity of its sport as well as the health and wellbeing of its stakeholders.

The SSO and its board should commit to the highest standards of conduct and ethical behaviour in all of its activities, and to promoting and supporting a culture of honest and ethical behaviour both on-field and off-field, corporate compliance and good corporate governance.

Integrity in sport encompasses all of the elements needed to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport and to uphold the principles of fairness, respect, responsibility and safety.  The main policy elements for this include Anti-Doping, Match Fixing and Member Protection, as well as reporting conduct that may prejudice the SSO or Sport or bring either or both of them into disrepute. 

The SSO board must enforce its rules and the rules of the sport fairly but in the best interests of the Sport and its stakeholders. 

Integrity in sport – the big picture

Boards must act always act with the utmost integrity, where fair, honest, respectful and safe values are entrenched in your leadership and actions. 

Importantly, boards are responsible for leading and inspiring the exact same values throughout their sport. 

Like a board that lacks integrity, a sport lacking integrity – that is, is not fair, honest, respectful or safe in some way -  is a risk to members, community, reputation and the overall value of sport. 

Read more on integrity in sport.

“A sport that displays integrity can often be recognised as honest and genuine in its dealings, championing good sportsmanship, providing safe, fair and inclusive environments for all involved. A sport that generally displays integrity has a level of community confidence, trust and support behind them. The impact of this on their business cannot be underestimated.”

Australian Sports Commission website

Integrity in sport

Boards have a responsibility to maintain integrity in their sport. This includes identifying and proactively managing integrity risks. This can include threats to:

  • Fair and honest sport performance – for example, doping, supplement use, match fixing and corruption
  • Positive sporting experiences – for example, issues relating to member protection matters (e.g.. bullying, harassment, discrimination), child protection, illicit drugs and player welfare.

“A key approach to proactively protecting your sport from integrity threats is to encourage strong ethical values from participants and develop sound organisational cultures that encourage transparency, honesty and consistency.”  

Sports Integrity ebook, National Integrity of Sport Unit.

Integrity management

Building and protecting integrity in sport requires:

  • Leading by example
  • Positive culture, values and ethics 
  • Risk management 
  • Understanding of legislative requirements
  • Good systems, including policies, codes of conduct, rules and procedures
  • Ongoing education, training and communication
  • Ongoing review and monitoring.

Boards can use the Australian Sports Commissions Integrity Guidelines for directors and leaders of sporting organisations to assess the integrity situation in your sport.

“All board members and senior management of a sporting organisation have a responsibility to inform themselves and oversee the integrity framework of their organisation. This includes: ensuring they follow best practise, promote a culture of integrity and comply with legislative and regulatory requirements.”

Integrity Guidelines for directors and leaders of sporting organisations, Australian Sports Commission

It is important to fully understand what is already in place within your sport – existing integrity related policy, practises and initiatives – at a national and/or international level.

Integrity frameworks

Sporting organisations are encouraged to have an integrity framework in place to deal with integrity threats. The components of an effective framework could include policy and education initiatives in areas including:

  • Anti-doping 
  • Illicit drugs 
  • Anti match fixing 
  • Sports science and medicine 
  • Member protection.

Examples of Integrity Frameworks by Australian sporting organisations include Basketball Australia, Football Federation Australia and Netball Australia

Integrity education and training

Boards should stay well informed of integrity matters, committing to:

  • Personally undertake ongoing education and training
  • Promote education and training throughout your sport.

There are a wide range of resources to support this, listed below. It is also important to network with and connect with key sport integrity related agencies. 

Further resources and training

National Integrity of Sport Unit Sports Integrity eBook – Helping you Know and Manage the Risks 
Play by the Rules

Free online courses

Ethical decision making tool

Conduct and behaviour resources

Online training

  • Harassment and Bullying
  • Complaints management
  • Member Protection Information Officer training
Australian Sports Commission

Integrity Guidelines for leaders and directors of sporting organisations

Integrity in Sport resources, templates and guidance


Anti-Match Fixing National Sport Integrity Unit 
Child safety

Play by the Rules Child Protection online training

Child Safe Sport - Australian Sports Commission

Office of the Children’s Guardian (NSW)

Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse

Office of Sport

Illicit drugs National Integrity of Sport Unit
Member Protection Australian Sports Commission