Climate change risk to sports increasing

Climate change is creating legal risks for sporting organisations and directors, a new report has shown.

Sports, Climate Change and Legal Liability, produced by the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) and sports climate advocacy group Front Runners, looks at key liabilities and responses available to sporting organisations across five key areas:

  • player and spectator welfare;
  • physical infrastructure;
  • contract risk;
  • director’s duties; and 
  • reputational risk (from a lack of action, or sponsorship by coal, gas and oil companies).

“Most sporting bodies around Australia are exposing themselves to significant legal and financial risks by failing to grapple with the impacts that climate change is having on players, spectators, officials, and infrastructure,”  EDO CEO David Morris said.

“At a time when the real-world impacts of climate change are being reported every day, these legal risks should be front and centre considerations from the field of play to the boardroom. Sports bodies must act quickly to address the risks that are mounting as climate change advances.”

The report details the effects of recent extreme weather on sport, including bushfire smoke disrupting cricket matches and hospitalising players during the Black Summer fires; extreme heat harming players and spectators during Australian Open tournaments and shortening cycling’s Tour Down Under; and floods damaging sports grounds and stadiums.

Brisbane sport lawyer Ben Ihle KC said climate change posed an ever-apparent and increasing risk to sports.


“The bases of liability are easy to appreciate. They are founded on well-established statutory, contractual, and common law principles of legal responsibility,” he said.

“Sporting organisations and infrastructure operators who fail to acknowledge and address those legal risks are leaving themselves open to suits brought by athletes, spectators, and even commercial partners.”

The report also maps the current engagement with climate risk of 314 major sporting organisations around the country, including NRL, AFL, Cricket Australia, Water Polo Australia, Surfing Australia and Golf Australia. Read the report here.

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