When accepting a governance role in an organisation, there is a hierarchy of constraints that you must submit to.

By constraints, we mean limits to your decision making authority.

In order of precedence, these are:

  • The laws of the land
  • The policies and procedures of enabling organisations, and
  • The policies and procedures of your entity.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Laws are the body of rules that society imposes upon itself, through government and, in some countries (like Australia, the US and UK), the courts.

Laws ensure:

  • the protection of basic human rights (such as a right to life or freedom of expression);
  • that the ownership and use of property is gained by socially acceptable standards and follows a system of rules (such as no stealing and you can’t drill for oil on your own property without requisite permits);
  • that citizens live together harmoniously and to socially acceptable standards; and
  • that people have access to a process that settles disputes that may arise.

If a particular law is not followed, those responsible for breaking them can be prosecuted in court.

If you speed or drink drive there is a penalty to be paid (monetary or points based) and if you continue to infringe then a jail term may be deemed necessary.

Therefore, whatever your organisation puts in place in terms of governance it in no way supersedes the law of the land.

Not. Ever.

So… if you have a formal or even informal policy that encourages excessive drinking following a game, then your organisation may be liable in law, even though this is a cherished club tradition.

This legal liability may extend beyond those participating, to individual board or committee members, and the club itself.

The law of the land is always primary, and the consequences for stepping outside these bounds will follow you outside your club and your sport.

Now the law is not ignorant to the value of sport. It allows limited exemptions to things such as the laws of assault in order for contact sports to continue. After all, what you do as consenting participants on the basketball court or in the water polo pool would never be sanctioned among strangers!

Nevertheless, you should always be mindful and respectful of laws of the land, especially when travelling to new regions and cultures.