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3.9 Legal issues

Legal issues within clubs are wide and varied.  As the sport sector has become more professional, the law surrounding sport seems to have become more complex and challenging for those involved.

You should be aware of some of the more common legal issues and if necessary, seek expert legal advice, to minimise the potential conflicts associated with running your club.

Your club has an obligation to provide an environment that ensures the safety and wellbeing of every member, free from harassment and discrimination.

3.9.1    Intellectual property

Intellectual property is a source of commercial value for sporting clubs and organisations and covers the range of intangible assets covered by copyright, trademarks, patents and rights. Assets can include:

  • A sports name – such as Surf Life Saving Australia
  • Sports teams – such as Sydney Swans
  • Events - such as the Australian Open

Their logos, colours and emblems hold commercial value and are essential components of branding and merchandising programs. 

In order to develop, protect and exploit your club’s assets, it’s important to understand the basic concepts of intellectual property. Intellectual property rights exist in:

1. Trademarks

Trademarks can be a word, phrase, letter, number, sound, smell, shape, logo or picture used to distinguish your goods or services from others. Clubs and associations can register trademarks in:

  • Event or club names
  • Logos
  • Mascots
  • Shapes, images and other distinctive elements.

A registered trademark grants exclusive rights to use, licence or sell the goods and services for which it is registered within Australia.

2. Copyright

Copyright exists in an original literary work and happens automatically when the work is created. Unless it’s been commissioned, the creator owns the copyright until they assign or license their rights to another individual or company. Copyright can be used to protect:

  • Recorded visual images or commentaries – sports events
  • Photographs - events, teams, athletes
  • Rule books, reports and other materials used to administer and promote the sport
  • Fixtures
  • Programs
  • Published results
  • Computer programs.

A copyright notice doesn’t need to be on something before it’s protected by copyright, but it does serve to notify people that the work may be protected and identifies the person claiming the rights. 

Owners of copyright can put the notice on their work themselves. The notice usually consists of the symbol © followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year of first publication. For example: © Office of Sport, 2019.

3.  Copyright infringement
When a person infringes copyright by using a work without the licence or authority to do so. For example, your club publishes a photo in the newsletter without seeking permission from the owner or copyright holder.

4. Designs
Registration of a design protects the visual appearance of the product, not how it works. To be registrable, a design must be new or original. Examples include merchandise, bicycles, football boots or cricket bats.

More information

Your state or national body is a good first port of call for advice and assistance.


As with any resource, this does not replace obtaining legal advice on each sport specific requirement and it is recommended you do so. 

The information provided in this resource is for your information only.  The authors and the NSW Office of Sport accept no responsibility for the accuracy of the information or your reliance upon it.