Just like any other workplace, conflict is common in the sports industry.
Of course, this really shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider the sheer amount of money involved and the types of driven and competitive individuals that sportspeople often are.
Whether it be regarding financial agreements, personal relationships or even discrimination, unchecked disputes can lead to the exact same outcomes as any other conflict, regardless of whether it’s on a pitch or in an office.
These include hostility in the workplace, anxiety and, most threateningly in sport, decreased productivity. If the latter manifests itself as a poor swing on the 18th hole or a conceded penalty in the 90th minute, the personal and financial repercussions could be huge.
And, when you consider that the UK sports industry alone is estimated to be worth over £20 billion1, you can see why it is important that these disputes get resolved correctly and efficiently for the sake of productivity alone.
Mediation is now emerging as a key tool in doing that.
For example, we have the recent rumours of wantaway footballer Riyad Mahrez attending mediation sessions with his club Leicester City, as well as the recent controversy of Dulwich Hamlet FC being kicked out of their own stadium.
Even more high-profile cases include quarterback and anti-racism activist Colin Kaepernick vs the NFL, or the NHL labour lockout in the 2012/2013 season. Spare a thought for the mediator in that case, who reportedly spent 13 straight hours shuttling between players’ representatives and league officials!2
And, obviously, these are only situations that have seen the light of day and made it to major news platforms.
In fact, there are now even specialist mediation providers that only deal in sports dispute cases, citing superior knowledge of the industry as a tool towards achieving an agreeable outcome. The
business is evidently there, no matter how high or low-profile the disputants are.
So, what makes mediation successful in these settings?
In sport, perhaps more so than other jobs, advantages include:
• WIN/WIN OUTCOMES
Sportspeople are often some of the most competitive and headstrong people out there. Great players and coaches live to win and, sometimes, losing does not even enter in to their mindset. When it comes to conflict between two like-minded people of this nature, it can often lead to stumbling blocks where neither are prepared to budge. Mediation aims to be a win-win method of resolution, working towards an outcome that both parties can be completely satisfied with.
• PRESERVES RELATIONSHIP
With many sports coming in the form of team-based games, teamwork and working relationships are crucial. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the relationship and bond of those involved remains intact. Mediation excels at this as it re-opens communications and promotes understanding, even if there wasn’t any to begin with.
• ENCOURAGE SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING AND FAIRNESS
We often hear about the “spirit of the game” in sports – promoting good sportsmanship, equality and fairness. These traits are encouraged in mediation, where two parties work together to bring about a resolution that is fair and satisfactory for everyone involved. The emphasis and impetus are placed on the parties, so that they are the ones who control and put the solution into action.
• PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL
With reputation being such a huge part of fame and sport, mediation is often chosen for the fact that it is completely confidential. Unless the participants choose otherwise, it is only the mediator that is privy to any outcomes or what is said in the meetings. As you can imagine, with sports gossip constantly being leaked out to the tabloids, this is much more beneficial.
Of course, it goes without saying that these benefits are not exclusive to just sports conflicts. These are, in fact, becoming universally-recognised advantages of mediation. As a result, they can be applied to many different types of mediation cases, be it family, tenancy or workplace-related cases.
So, whilst we might continue to hear more about this method of resolution being used with our favourite sports teams and superstars, it is also indicative of a wider and much more general trend.
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1”Discover the Potential of Sport: A £20 Billion Industry”, The Telegraph, 2015.
2”How a US Federal Employee Saved Hockey One Year Ago”, American Inno, 2014.