Alternative Dispute Resolution

Mediation in Sports Disputes

By Manvee

Introduction

Sports is a massive business, and where there is business there are disputes for sure. And for resolving those disputes we have several dispute resolution methods available. One of the most important and efficient dispute resolution mechanisms is Alternative Dispute Resolution which is also abbreviated as ADR. Alternative Dispute Resolution comprises Arbitration, Mediation & Negotiation. Alternative Dispute Resolution is basically an Outer Court Settlement between the parties. One of the most important mechanisms for resolving disputes is Mediation. The reason behind this is Mediation is Cost-Efficient and Less Time Consuming than Arbitration. We are aware of the facts that Athletes or Sports Persons have a short career of 10-15 years, so for small disputes such as contractual disputes, disciplinary disputes, Disputes between associations and players, etc. they cannot waste their precious time in litigation or even arbitration which is a bit time-consuming. So, in today’s era, most professional sportsperson or organizations prefer mediation over litigation or arbitration in order to save their time, money, and energy. Another reason why athletes or sports organizations prefer mediation over any other method of ADR is because of the privacy and confidentiality of the ongoing dispute. We are aware of the fact that in litigation the case doesn’t remain confidential anymore which also impacts the career of the athlete or sports organization involved in the dispute.

Mediation

If we are talking about mediation in sports disputes then first of all we need to know about What is Mediation what is the procedure of mediation.

Mediation is a voluntary, binding process where there is an impartial mediator who facilitates the parties to the disputes to reach a settlement. Basically, the job of a mediator is to create a conducive environment in which the parties to a dispute can resolve all their disputes and arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement.

Another question that arises is who can be a mediator, can it be a lawyer or a judge or any person? The answer to this question lies here that any person who undergoes 40 hours of rigorous training as the Mediation & Conciliation Project Committee of the Supreme Court has stipulated can be a mediator. Moreover, the person also needs to have a minimum of 10 mediations that successfully resulted in a settlement, and in total 20 mediations to be eligible as an accredited qualified mediator.

The advantages of mediation are as follows:

  • The parties make and own the decisions in the decision-making process.
  • The disputing parties are assisted by an independent mediator.
  • The parties have control of the whole mediation process.
  • As compared to litigation mediation is confidential in nature.
  • Mediation is cheaper as compared to litigation.
  • Mediation also provides opportunities for the parties to maintain and preserve their ongoing relationships.

Although there are several benefits of mediation the mediator needs to ensure that the mediation process is peaceful, productive, and in favour of the parties.

Sports Disputes

Where there is a sporting event going on then several parties are involved in it be it organizers, sponsors, players, or associations. When we say sports are being commercialized to gain capital then there is a scope of disputes too. Disputes could arise in several way-like disciplinary disputes, contractual disputes, Intellectual Property Disputes, etc. And in order to resolve these disputes, a dispute mechanism is required. Litigation is one of the traditional ways of resolving disputes but it requires a lot of time & energy moreover it is costly and there is no such confidentiality in litigation. The Professional Career of Athletes are only of 10-12 years on an average and if they get into some disputes and for resolving that if they opt for Litigation then 5-7 years of their career, they might lose in the resolution of their disputes only which can affect their professional career badly.

Let us understand the sports dispute mechanism via some illustrations. In India, we have several leagues and tournaments going on every year be it in the field of Cricket, Badminton, Kabaddi, Athletics, Football, or any other sport. Let us suppose that In Indian Premier League there arises a dispute between 2 players where both of them fought on-field and beaten each other amidst the game then here there can be 2 consequences of that either both of them can file a case against each other in the court of law or they can opt for alternative dispute resolution mechanism. If they file the case in court then it will cost them their time which is the most crucial thing in any players career litigation it can go to 4-5 long years whereas if they opt for Mediation they can resolve their disputes easily and in a confidential manner this will also help them to maintain their professional relationship for a long term.

Another example could be supposing that in Indian Super League, an auction of players is going on there arises a dispute in player-transfer-agreement between the team and the player here the player have the choice of moving to court or else opt for an outer court settlement. In order to save time, the player should opt for ADR be in Arbitration or Mediation.

Role of Mediation in Sports Disputes

Till now we have looked after how disputes in Sports arises and how Alternative dispute Mechanisms can speed up the resolution process in a cost-effective manner as compared to litigation. Now let’s look at How Mediation plays a big role in Dispute Resolution mechanisms in Sports.

Firstly, if any dispute occurs it comes with legal implications. Moreover, Mediation occurs in the shadow of law and if the mediator to that particular dispute thinks that the dispute won’t be settled by mediation then litigation comes into play. Although the mediator doesn’t give legal advice but is required to be aware of the broader options related to the same.

Secondly, if the mediator has prior knowledge of that particular sport for which he is resolving the dispute of the parties then it becomes easier for the mediator to mediate. Another important aspect is that this increased the credibility of the mediator and also helps to establish a relationship with the parties. Lets us assume that there arises a disciplinary dispute in Kabaddi the parties to the dispute are the captain of the leading team and the team management, so in this case, if the mediator has prior knowledge of regulations of Kabaddi then it will give him/her an upper hand in resolving the dispute smoothly and peacefully.

Third and Last, the parties to a dispute can agree on the said solution whatever they reached by the way of mediation. This could be done by sending a notice to the relevant person associated with the dispute or by the way of a press release where it has to be specified that the dispute has been resolved by mediation and parties came to a confidential settlement.

One of the best examples of Sports Dispute Resolution by Mediation is Lockout of National Hockey League 2012-13 where there arose a labor dispute between National Hockey League and The National Hockey League Player’s Association which started on 15th September 2012 and ended on 6th January 2013.  After 16 continuous hours of approx. negotiation the parties reached to a tentative deal of new collective bargaining agreement in order to end the lockout.

So, we can say that with the passage of time and advancement in the scenario of sports mediation is gaining popularity worldwide and is becoming the most preferred dispute resolution mechanism for resolving disputes in the sports sector.

Conclusion

If there arise any disputes in sports it not only leaves a negative impact on the players and management but also on the supporters of athletes who are a part of that dispute. This leads to a decrease in the morale of the fans and athletes too. So, it’s high time that there should be a speedy and cost-effective dispute resolution mechanism for resolving these sports disputes, mediation is one of them. The reason behind this is that mediation provides confidentiality to the parties, provides an opportunity for open communication to the disputed parties, and negotiates and resolves the dispute which also helps them to strengthen their professional working relationship. Another important aspect is mediation is less time-consuming and it is cost-efficient as compared to litigation or arbitration. Mediation has a high success rate of dispute resolution with quality mediators as we saw in the NHL 2012-13 lockout case has proved to be helpful to a lot of sporting organizations and athletes moreover it is financially and emotionally rewarding, so it needs to be adopted in the Sports Industry as a dispute resolution mechanism.

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