Alcohol and the Clubhouse: GoodSport's Healthy Clubs in Practice

Wed, Jun 12, 2024, 5:30 AM
by RugbyWA Media

RugbyWA is dedicated to driving a fiercely inclusive community, with rugby as a game for all.  

Alcohol is a major cause of preventable injury, accidents, disease, and death in Western Australia. Harms from alcohol not only impact the individual, but families, friends, and the wider community. 

With changes made to the way we view alcohol and its place within club culture, together we can create a positively connected community, which respects all lifestyles and creates a thriving, supportive environment for all. 

With the guidance of the GoodSports program, rugby union clubs throughout Western Australia have successfully implemented policies and initiatives which prioritise health and wellbeing, emphasise the importance of youth engagement within the club, and encourage inclusive environments for all.  

There are currently eight RugbyWA affiliated clubs with Gold Accreditation through GoodSports – meaning not only do the clubs apply with legal requirements, but they are actively engaging in ways to promote healthy habits, responsible alcohol consumption, and inclusivity within the clubhouse. 


At Ellenbrook Rugby Union Club, the decision to not have a bar has fostered greater community engagement, and prioritised  junior players, ensuring health and wellbeing as a priority. 

“As a GoodSports Gold Accredited club, Ellenbrook Rugby Union Club has focused on fostering a healthy, safe, and inclusive environment despite not having a bar or clubrooms and not serving alcohol at our facilities,” Club Secretary, Kylie Shepherd, said. 

“We've introduced healthy food options at our gatherings and prioritise mental health awareness through our newest committee position of Youth Support Officer. To maintain these standards, we regularly train our volunteers and actively seek feedback from our members.” 

The shift in standards has benefitted the club, Shepherd shared, fostering a more inclusive culture. 

“With the changes implemented through the GoodSports Gold Accreditation, the culture within Ellenbrook Rugby Union Club has shifted towards a more inclusive and health-conscious environment. There is significantly less pressure to consume alcohol, as our alcohol-free events have normalized choosing non-alcoholic beverages.” 

“This shift has fostered a more supportive atmosphere where members feel comfortable making healthier choices without social pressure, contributing to a more family-friendly and welcoming club culture.” 

“The changes implemented as part of the GoodSports Gold Accreditation have significantly benefitted Ellenbrook Rugby Union by enhancing member health and safety, fostering an inclusive and respectful culture, and improving financial stability through increased eligibility for funding and sponsorships.” 

"These improvements have led to higher member satisfaction and retention, a stronger community reputation, and a thriving environment for youth development and participation, ensuring the club's long-term success and sustainability.” 

Despite implementing these changes to the culture and operations of the club, Ellenbrook says they haven’t suffered. 

“Despite not having a bar or traditional clubrooms at our facilities, the economic impact of the changes implemented has been minimal and largely positive.” 

“The focus on creating a healthy, inclusive environment has actually strengthened our community ties and increased member participation, leading to greater support and engagement from local sponsors and stakeholders.” 

“By promoting responsible behaviors and offering appealing, health-conscious alternatives, the club has maintained and even enhanced its financial stability and member satisfaction without relying on alcohol sales.” 

With positive changes possible within the club space, Ellenbrook hopes their actions, which prioritise the health and safety of their juniors, inspire other clubs. 

“We do this for the kids!” Shepherd said. “Ensuring the well-being of all members is a primary responsibility.” 

“By adhering to health and safety standards, the club creates a safe environment where players and their families can enjoy the sport without concerns about their health or safety.” 

“As a Gold Accredited club, Ellenbrook Rugby Union Club sets a benchmark for other clubs to follow. Leading by example, the club can inspire others to adopt similar standards, contributing to the overall betterment of the sports community.” 


In 2021, changes made at ARKS saw the club come runner up in the National Good Sports 2021 Junior Club of the Year Award and the Good Sports 2021 WA State Club of the Year Award. However, with a change in administration, the club is making it a priority to continue the good work. 

“When the changes were implemented in 2021, we recognised that as a club with big junior numbers, it was important to set a standard regarding alcohol and health choices across the board,” Junior President, Stacey Knott shared. 

“As a club, we want to promote and maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol and create a safe environment for everyone at ARKS.” 

“We feel it’s been beneficial to creating the strong family culture that we now have at the club, where we have a lot of kids running around, with junior families coming down to support the seniors.” 

It has been beneficial for the club, Knott said, with a healthier culture and juniors seeing examples of good relationships with alcohol. Knott said it’s more common, too, to see members choosing zero alcohol options or to have nights without drinking. 

The club hasn’t financially suffered from the change, either. 

“We ensure that we still provide a service to those not partaking, so they can have a zero-alcohol drink. We also still have the bar open during appropriate times such as after senior training once a week instead of both nights, and do events that don’t centre around alcohol.” 

The club aims to be a healthy and welcoming place for all, to become part of a community that provides support both on and off the field.  


Similarly embracing the community element of rugby, Wests Scarborough’s ‘One Club’ philosophy has seen the club moving away from alcohol sponsorships on any club apparel for the first time in their 2024 season.  

Despite previously holding partnerships with local brewing companies, the club’s aim was to promote inclusivity throughout their club space, moving away from operating in silos and embracing every member of the club as one community. 

“This meant that the jersey an U6 player wears, is the same as a Fortescue Premier Grade player,” Under 15s coach and commercial advisor, Huw Lock, shared.  “Therefore, we must be mindful of partnering with brands that represent the values of the entire club and not just a small section of the senior club.” 

There has been no commercial loss to this transition, Lock shared, with the club still working with a local supplier for their clubhouse space. However, the change in promotion of alcohol reflects a healthier culture within the club, encouraging better relationships with alcohol from juniors through to seniors. 

With every player wearing the same uniform, the club embraces the idea of rugby for all, with all members representing their club with pride. 


GoodSports encourages better health and culture within the club space. To see if you are meeting GoodSports’ accreditations, please visit the GoodSports portal. 

RugbyWA has recently launched in's Champions of Rugby competition, to recognise and reward clubs for their outstanding contributions in the creation of positive, inclusive environments by promoting responsible alcohol consumption and alcohol-free initiatives. By championing these environments, clubs are creating spaces which are safe and fiercely inclusive for all, ultimately enhancing player and member wellbeing. The winning club will receive a $5000 prize to be used for approved projects or goods that support inclusion, wellbeing and health.  To learn more, please visit

For support on updating your club’s initiatives, please contact Rugby Australia Club Development Manager, Monique Smith (