Club Support: Sport Integrity & Managing Complaints

Sport Integrity & Managing Complaints

Bowls Australia has recently replaced several policies addressing behaviours of members and how issues are managed, with updated and in some cases, new policies. To develop these ‘best practice’ policies, they have worked closely with Sport Integrity Australia and signed up to the National Sports Integrity Framework. They have also worked with National Sports Tribunal to develop a suite of policies to assist the sport (at all levels) to deal with grievances, breaches of policy and complaint handling.

But what does this mean for you as an Association or club Board/committee member or general club member?

Well first, it is important to understand the difference between issues addressed by the Sports Integrity Policies, grievances, breaches of policy and complaint handling.

What is Sport Integrity?

Sport is an Australian way of life. It brings people together, regardless of any differences in language, ability, culture and beliefs, and provides physical, social and economic benefits. For these reasons, it’s critical that we all keep bowls safe and fair, for everyone who participates.

Integrity in sport means that athletes, supporters and fans can participate and celebrate sport, confident in the knowledge that they are part of a safe, fair and inclusive environment.

Bowls Australia and Bowls SA takes integrity seriously.

All our members and participants have an obligation to protect and maintain the integrity of the sport, as well as the health and wellbeing of people who participate.

Threats to sports integrity include things like illicit drug use, doping, competition-manipulation and behaviours that impact people’s positive experience of sport, such as discrimination or abuse.

Our integrity rules

The following policies are now in place for all levels of the sport of Bowls:

Note: these Bowls Australia policies became into effect on 15 June 2022 and the Bowls SA Board ratified them on 6 June 2022.  These policies should be read in conjunction with the Bowls Australia National Integrity Framework document.

Sport Tribunal Policies

The National Sports Tribunal (NST) hears and resolves national-level sporting disputes in Australia. They have worked with Bowls Australia to develop a number of policies to assist the sport and help those who deliver it. The policies set expected behaviours and map out how to deal with disputes which are not covered, or do not meet the threshold, of the National Integrity Framework.

Our behaviour and managing complaint rules

The following policies are now in place for all levels of the sport of Bowls:

Note: these Bowls Australia policies became into effect on 1 July 2022 and the Bowls SA Board ratified them on 4 July 2022

What has changed? How will they impact me?

Prior to these policies coming into effect, Clubs, Associations and States and Territory Associations like Bowls SA, used a Complaint Handling or Member Protection policy to manage complaints. Often these complaints were more matters of personal grievances, rather than ‘true’ member protection issues, and therefore the process of addressing the grievance or complaint was not ideal.

These policies make it clear as to what policy applies, when the required threshold is met or not. The processes mapped out to manage the issue is also clear and stepped out.

With regard to the Sports Integrity Policies, the significant change is all integrity- related complaints for our sport will be processed independently by Sport Integrity Australia under the Complaint, Disputes and Discipline Policy.

Reporting an Issue

Reporting Integrity Issue

Everyone from athletes, parents, support personnel, administrators and supporters, plays a role in protecting the integrity of our sport.  In 2022, Bowls Australia signed up to the National Integrity Framework and an independent complaint handling process. This means that from 15 June 2022, concerns or complaints about alleged integrity breaches can be reported directly to Sport Integrity Australia by filling out the web form on the Sport Integrity Australia website.

The sport will continue to handle all non-National Integrity Framework-related matters.

Breaches of Integrity Policies

All alleged breaches in relation to our National Integrity Framework and associated integrity policies will be managed under the Bowls Australia National Integrity Framework Disputes and Discipline Policy.

This policy sets out the process for resolving complaints arising from a breach of an eligible policy.

  • Complaints in relation to breaches under the National Integrity Framework will be managed independently by Sport Integrity Australia.

Lodging a Complaint

Below are some simple tips to remember when considering lodging a complaint with Sport Integrity Australia.

  • Anyone can make a complaint.
  • Complaints help us take action against people who aren’t upholding the integrity standards of our sport. By speaking up – you are protecting all other people around you.
  • Only complaints relating to alleged breaches of prohibited conduct under the National Integrity Framework can be submitted to Sport Integrity Australia.
  • Complaints can only be actioned by Sport Integrity Australia if the person who allegedly committed the behaviour is bound by our sport
    • (i.e. they must have agreed to be bound by the policy via membership or agreement).
  • Complaints can only be actioned by Sport Integrity Australia if the alleged conduct occurred after 15 June 2022.
  • Complaints relating to selections, governance, personal grievances, whistleblower or code of conduct are not covered under the National Integrity Framework.

To report a breach of an integrity policy, submit directly to Sport Integrity Australia via:

  • For all other complaints (depending on what level of the sport the complaint relates to), report directly to the relevant Complaint Manager.


Reporting a Personal Grievance

Where a personal grievance exists and cannot be resolved by the parties involved, the matter may then be referred to the management of the Relevant Organisation (as defined by the policy) of the level at which the dispute occurred.

  • For example, if the subject of the disagreement relates to interactions at local club level and the parties to the disagreement are unable to resolve it amongst themselves, it may then be referred to the management of that club.
  • The steps outlined in the policy should be followed to manage a personal grievance.
  • A number of Bowls SA staff are registered Member Protection Information Officer (MPIO) if any advice or support is needed

Reporting a Breach in Policy

Where there is a breach in the Code of Conduct or any other policy at Club, Association, State or National level, the process mapped out in the Bowls Australia NST Conduct and Disciplinary Policy should be followed.

Lodging a Complaint

A person or organisation may submit a complaint by completing the ‘Complaint Form’ located at Schedule 1 of the policy and submitting it to the ‘Relevant Organisation’, as soon as reasonably possible following the Alleged Breach.

For any complaint being submitted to Bowls SA, the complaint form MUST be submitted by the web form: Bowls SA Complaint Form

Managing a Complaint 

The policy maps out the process of how the complaint may be managed, options include:

  • Initial Threshold Questions
  • Investigation
  • Disciplinary Action
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Options
  • Hearings
  • Appeals

Notifying Bowls SA

For outcomes where Bowls SA needs to be notified (clause 8.2), Clubs and Associations are asked to use the following web form: Record of Alleged Breach Form

Dealing with another type of issue

Where an issue needs to be managed but it does not fit under any of the Sports Integrity policies, is not a personal grievance or a breach in policy, the Review and Appeals Policy has been created to manage these issues.

Examples of these types of issues may include:

  • Dispute with neighbouring properties as to when the lights are turned on and off
  • Access to club facilities or use of the car park
  • Flying flags
  • Use of the photocopier. 

The sorts of things that, if they are not dealt with might escalate to a grievance or even a breach of the Member Protection Policy.  This policy is really a ‘catch’ for all matters that don’t fall under any other policy (according to the NST).  The process in this policy pretty much replicates the NST Conduct and Disciplinary policy process. 

Historical Complaints

It should be noted, any complaint or issue raised which occurred prior to any of these policies coming into effect, must be managed under the previous Bowls SA Policies. These policies are linked for reference only:

Policy Information

All of these policies are available on the Bowls SA website.

The following information is provided as a summary of the relevant policies.

Grievance Policy

This Policy has been adopted alongside the NIF to establish a formal process for people and organisations engaging with the sport of Bowls to resolve interpersonal conflicts and disputes that arise in the context of their involvement in Bowls, but do not involve a breach of an Integrity Policy in the NIF or other BA policy.

Member Protection Policy

Bowls Australia is committed to ensuring that everyone involved with Bowls is treated with respect and dignity and is protected from abuse, bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct, unlawful discrimination, victimisation, and vilification.

This Policy seeks to ensure that everyone involved in our sport is aware of their rights and responsibilities. This Policy sets out the standards of behaviour expected of those involved in our sport and the behaviours that are not acceptable (‘Prohibited Conduct’).


Safeguarding Children

Participation in sport should be safe for all. We are committed to ensuring that people in sport, including children, are treated with respect, dignity and are protected from bullying, discrimination, harassment or abuse.

Child Safeguarding and Member Protection highlight the important legal and governance responsibilities in relation to child safety and member protection.

South Australian Requirements

There are additional Safeguarding Children requirements for South Australia because of South Australian Government Legislation. For this reason, there is an amendment to the Bowls Australia Safeguarding Children Policy.

All South Australian Clubs must be aware of the following:

  • That the amendment exists
  • That all clubs are cover by the Bowls SA Compliance Statement and therefore must adhere to the policy, processes and recommendations of Bowls SA
  • It is a legislative requirement that particular people at your club must have a current Department of Human Services Working with Children Check (WWCC) – free for volunteers.
    • Police Checks are no longer suitable for this clearance
    • People at your club who will need one include:
      • All Board/committee members
      • Bowls Australia qualified Coaches
      • Club appointed coaches
      • Team manager who directly supervise anyone under the age of 18
      • Others depending on the operations at your club
    • It is the club’s responsibility to maintain a database of those who currently has a current WWCC and that Bowlslink should be used to do this.
  • More information regarding the requirements for those in South Australia can be found on the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing website:



Anti-doping rules apply to all participants of our sport from elite down to grassroots. All members must be aware of, and have a basic understanding of, their obligations in regard to anti-doping. The Sport Integrity Australia website has a range of information and resources to assist, including:

Improper Use of Drugs and Medicine

The improper use of drugs and medicine in sport, including the use of supplements and the provision by unqualified and unauthorised people are a risk to the health of athlete and the integrity of sport.

To counter these risks, Bowls Australia with the support of Sport Integrity Australia have put in place an Improper Use of Drugs and Medicine Policy which ensures:

  • Medical practitioners working in our sport are accredited and qualified to fulfil their duties
  • Medicines are used in appropriate ways
  • Safe use of supplements which comply with the World Anti-Doping Code
  • Illegal drug use is prohibited in our sport


Competition Manipulation and Sports Wagering

Manipulating sports competitions, commonly known as ‘match-fixing’ is when someone alters a sporting competition to remove the unpredictable nature of the competition to obtain an undue advantage, or benefit. 

People are motivated to manipulate competitions for a variety of reasons such as to get a better draw in a round-robin tournament (often referred to as tanking) or to avoid relegation to a lower competition. Another reason people manipulate competitions is to profit through betting markets by underperforming intentionally.

In Australia, the manipulation of sporting competitions can also result in a criminal conviction and up to ten years in jail. Participants of a sport involved in manipulating competitions will also likely face a long ban from sport. More information can be found on the Sport Integrity Australia website


Support, Education & Resources

When it comes to sport integrity and behaviour, it is critical that our athletes and support personnel are aware of their rights and responsibilities. There are a range of tools and resources available to help keep participants informed.

Implementing these policies at your club

It is recommended that all clubs adopted these ‘best practice policies’ in accordance with their rules/constitutions as they are required to do so.

Template wording has been provided to help clubs do this.


National Policy v Club Constitution

If a club’s constitution complaint handling process is out of step with these policies, it is recommended that clubs review their constitution and adopt the policies.

If a club chooses not to adopt the policies and decides to follow the process outlined in its constitution, this may limit the support that Bowls SA and Bowls Australia can provide. 

It should be noted, that clubs should not be handling complaints that are potentially within the scope of the NIF in the first instance.


Model Club Constitution

  • Bowls SA is currently reviewing the Model Club Constitution and will factor these best practice policies into the template constitution.
  • This template will be released once the review has been completed, which is anticipated in time for club AGMs in 2023.

Tips for managing an issue

For clubs who have to deal with a complaint, the following tips have been provided.

1.      Understanding Conflict of Interest

Understanding your “conflict of interest” or the “perceived conflict of interest” before you start to manage a complaint can help reduce the likelihood of the complaint escalating even more so. To understand more about “conflict of interest” click here.

2.      Understanding Natural Justice

Two words that are used extensively and often misused in disciplinary matters, are the words “natural justice”. (What is Natural Justice?, Play by the Rules website, 19 July 2022). It incorporates the following principles:

  • both the Complainant and the Respondent must know the full details of what is being said against them and have the opportunity to respond;
  • all relevant submissions must be considered;
  • no person may judge their own case;
  • the decision maker/s must be unbiased, fair and just;
  • the penalties imposed must be fair.

For more information about ‘natural justice’, please review the information provided on the Play by the Rules website.

3.      Documentation is Key

As soon as an issue starts to develop, it is vital that clubs document all relevant actions and communication relating to the issue. Key points to document include but is not limited to:

  • Relevant interactions – in person or via phone
  • Emails or other correspondence
  • Meetings – both formal and informal
  • Key information such as:
    • Date
    • Who attended
    • Overview of conversation or matters discussed
    • Follow up actions
    • Any supporting information

It is also important to keep a database of incidents, complaints and outcomes. This database should include:

  • The Alleged Breach;
  • The Complainant;
  • The Respondent;
  • The Process;
  • The Outcome;
  • Any Sanctions and/or Provisional Action imposed.

It is important that records must be maintained in a secure and confidential place.


The following templates have been created to help clubs to document issues

4.      Unsure, Seek Advice

If there is an issue of concern occurring at your club and you are not sure how to address it, clubs are encouraged to reach out for support. Both Bowls SA staff and the South Australian-based Regional Bowls Managers are here to help. Speak up before it is too late.

Bowls SA Staff
  • A number of the Bowls SA staff are qualified Member Protection Information Officers who are there to discuss problems at your club/association, particularly if someone is considering making a formal complaint.
  • Where an issue is complex and sits outside the scope of these policies, Bowls SA can seek legal support through its own solicitor or Bowls Australia legal team.
Bowls Australia Regional Bowls Managers
  • Regional Bowls Managers (RBMs) work closely with Bowls SA to support clubs with the issues surrounding each club in their area.

5.      Undertake training in how to deal with complaints

Play by the Rules provides information, resources, tools and free online training to administrators, coaches, officials, players, parents and spectators to assist them in preventing and dealing with discrimination, harassment, inclusion and integrity issues in sport.

Bowls SA recommends that all Club Board/Committee members undertake the free complaint handling course in conjunction with Play by the Rules and Sport Integrity Australia.

Setting Penalties – What is suitable?

Setting a penalty for a breach can be tricky. What one person believes is suitable and fair, may not be the case for another. This can occur for a number of reasons including the fact that most volunteers do not have to deal with these matters often and have little access to precedent.

For this reason, Bowls SA has developed Disciplinary Guidelines. These guidelines have been developed:

  • To create some consistency on what a suitable penalty for particular breaches
  • In line with:
    • The new national Sports Tribunal Policies 
    • Other national guidelines in the bowls community
  • It notes the different policies and legislation at play

The Guidelines are accessible via the Policy page of the Bowls SA website.

Additional Support

Integrity eLearning

Sport Integrity Australia eLearning offers a number of online courses relating to sport integrity, including child safeguarding, doping, match-fixing, illicit drugs and ethical decision-making courses.  There is also a new course specifically about the National Integrity Framework.

Bowls SA recommends that all Club Boards/Committee members undertake these free courses, especially those to do with the National Integrity Framework, Child Safeguarding and ethical decision-making

Specific anti-doping courses are also available for coaches, support persons, medical practitioners and parents. Bowls SA athletes, coaches, support persons, medical practitioners and parents who are required to complete this education can submit their ‘eLearning certificate’ here [create formidable form and link]

Sport Integrity app

The Sport Integrity app is a one-stop shop for all sport integrity needs, downloaded by more than 50,000 Australian athletes and support staff.

The app allows users to check whether their medications are banned in sport, find low risk supplements to reduce their change of testing positive accidentally, and check whether they need a Therapeutic Use Exemption. The app also provides direction on how to raise concerns about things like doping, match-fixing, harassment or illicit drug use. It features further information on eLearning modules, whereabouts and testing information and gives users the opportunity to provide feedback to Sport Integrity Australia.

The app is free and can be downloaded from the Apple and Android app stores.

Prohibited List of substances and methods

The Prohibited List outlines the substances and methods that are prohibited in sport. It is updated annually by the World Anti-Doping Agency. Remember that individual products or brands are not named on the Prohibited List. Athletes should check the status of all medications before they use them on GlobalDRO.

Checking your substances

Global DRO allows users to check whether the most commonly prescribed and over-the-counter medicines in Australia are permitted or prohibited in sport.

If an athlete requires use of a prohibited substance to treat a medical condition, the athlete needs to be aware of the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) requirements. For more information on a Therapeutic Use Exemption visit Sport Integrity Australia’s website.

Stay up to date on social media

Keep up to date with all that is happening in sport integrity by following Sport Integrity Australia on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or listen to On Side, the official podcast of Sport Integrity Australia.

Additional points to consider adding are:

Ian tells me a “complaint” is defined as where a person finds something is unsatisfactory or unacceptable: ie a breach of any policy or code of conduct.

Ian says a “dispute” is defined as the hearing of the complaint – generally between 2 parties the complainant and the respondent.


More Info

Please contact the Bowls SA Office on 8234 7544 or
or speak with your RBM if you require any further information.