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Sport Governance Principles

Principle 1: The spirit of the game

values-driven culture and behaviours


An organisation’s culture and behaviours should be underpinned by values which are demonstrated by the board and embedded in its decisions and actions.

  • There is a set of shared and agreed values that encourages collaborative relationships with all stakeholders.
  • There is a culture of values-driven behaviour that leads to better decisions being made at all levels of the organisation.
  • The organisation is better able to attract and retain skilled people because of its culture.
  • It is easier to assess and address whether an individual’s behaviour is in line with the organisation's values and culture.
  • There is decreased likelihood of misconduct.
Questions to ask
  • As the leaders of our organisation, do we have known, shared and agreed values which underpin our culture?
  • How do our decisions and actions contribute to the attainment of our purpose and reflect our values and agreed behaviours?
  • How do we lead our sport in values-based behaviour?
  • Do our values contribute to good governance by promoting trust, confidence and collaboration?
  • Do I reflect on my own behaviour, the impact I have on others and the way decisions are made?
  • How do we call out behaviour which goes against our values?

Behaviours, culture and values

People bring the policies and structures of governance to life. While policies and structures are an important part of governance, they are only meaningful if they are implemented, enacted and enforced by people within the organisation. As such, governance occurs through the behaviours and actions of individuals. For example, this could be a director reminding their peers at the start of a meeting to declare their conflicts of interest.

Individual behaviours are partly driven by culture; culture being an organisation’s shared values and beliefs. Values are intangible guides to how an individual is expected to behave. A shared set of values, and the resulting culture, outlines what behaviours are and are not acceptable. Describing and measuring an organisation’s culture can be difficult because of its abstract nature. Culture is not the ticking of boxes; it is lived and breathed and influences all aspects of an organisation.

Governance and the role of the board

Governance is impacted by culture. For example, a culture which fosters constructive communication between directors leads to more considered decision-making. Conversely, a passive or reactive culture may mean directors do not consider all decisions with the same level of rigour, leading to ill-informed and ill-considered decisions.

The relationship between behaviours, culture and governance is not simply one way. Governance, while influenced by culture, also shapes culture. As the leaders of an organisation, a board and its directors can influence culture and behaviours by defining and modelling organisational values. This occurs in the way the board works with the CEO, represents the organisation and makes decisions. Additionally, clearly articulated values provide an objective and shared reference point for discussing, assessing and challenging culture and behaviours.

What should our values be?

There is no right answer, but they should reflect current or changing societal expectations. Values should be, and are, specific to each organisation. However, values should be developed in collaboration with members and with the future in mind.

Example behaviours and actions

  • Assess options against organisational values as part of the decision-making process
  • Regularly review the values to ensure they are current and relevant
  • Recognise examples of value-driven behaviour within the organisation
  • Ensure the induction process for directors includes a discussion of values and expected behaviours
  • Reflect on how behaviours and actions exhibit the values
  • During meetings, ask whether proposed decisions are in line with and demonstrate organisational values
  • Challenge fellow directors, staff and volunteers for acting in contradiction with the values
  • Publishes and refers to its values in major documents (i.e., strategic plan, annual report)
  • Undertakes and acts on cultural assessments
  • Calls out and acts when individuals behave in a way that contradicts the values
  • Ensures the induction and performance management process for staff and volunteers includes meeting values and expected behaviours
  • Acts in a way that exemplifies the values
  • Provides the board with honest assessments of organisational culture from both internal and external stakeholders


A set of good practice suggestions, which should underpin the Board’s considerations in applying this principle.

Develop a set of values and behaviours in consultation with all stakeholders.
Publish, state and refer to values as a part of 'business as usual'.
Document and discuss values and behaviours as part of an induction process.
Ensure a values criterion is part of the board’s assessment of decisions.
Annually evaluate the directors, chair and CEO on their modelling of the organisation’s values.
Conduct a periodic culture survey of the organisation, with results published, actions documented and progress communicated.

Resources and tools to help

We recommend all current and aspiring board and committee members enrol in the free online course, The Spirit of the Game – Organisational Culture.

You can also find related resources and tools on the National Governance Resource Library.

For guidance, or to discuss how your organisation may best implement good practice in this area, please contact your state or territory agency for sport and recreation.

NSOs can email queries to and a governance adviser will contact you. All other sporting organisations are encouraged to contact their state or territory agency for sport and recreation for more information.

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