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Everyone Wants to Win: Mediation in Sports Disputes

Kluwer Meditation Blog.

June 8 began the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship. The final round of the 14th European Championship for national football teams (commonly referred to as ‘Euro 2012’) is being hosted by Poland and Ukraine between 8 June and 1 July 2012. As the world’s third largest sports event, the UEFA Championship has been equipped with the efficient ADR platform for resolving disputes.

Sport is now big business. The huge sums of money that are nowadays at stake in sport at the elite level. The sports industry is estimated to account for between 3 and 6 per cent of total world trade (William McAuliffe, Antonio Rigozzi, Sports Arbitration, Thus it comes as no surprise that it is also a major source of legal disputes.

“[T]he unique investment of competitive egos, emotions, expectations, and money in international sports almost guarantees a dividend of highly charged disputes…..[and] [t]he structure for resolving them is complex” (James A.R. Nafziger, Forward [in:], Ian Blackshaw, Sport, Mediation and Arbitration, T.M.C. Asser Press 2009).

Why is mediation well-suited for sports? Perhaps because there is no one winner, and no looser? ‘Sport’ is by definition a form of competitive activity. Great athletes and coaches hate to loose. In successful mediation everyone can be a winner.

According to Simon Gardiner (Sports Law, Routledge 2006, p. 251), another main advantage of using mediation to settle sports disputes is that the process preserves personal and business relationships. “The sports world is a small one – everyone seems to know somebody – and relationships, and indeed, reputations, are therefore more important and worth preserving”. Mediation allows “legal disputes to be resolved within the family of sport”.

Sports disputes may undoubtedly have negative effect on fans and team morale. Mediation is praised for its potential to promote the ‘spirit of understanding and fair play’.

The largest institution providing professional ADR services for sports disputes is the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The CAS was created in 1984 and is placed under the administrative authority of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), in Lausanne.

‘Mediation’ is defined in art. 1 of ‘the CAS Mediation Rules’ as: “a non binding and informal procedure, based on a mediation agreement in which each party undertakes to attempt in good faith to negotiate with the other party, and with the assistance of a CAS mediator, with a view to settling a sports – related dispute”. CAS’ mediation has all generally accepted characteristics of mediation. It may be provided for the resolution of all kinds of sports disputes, except for “disputes related to disciplinary matters as well as doping issues”.

For the world largest sports events, including the EURO 2012, the Court of Arbitration for Sport Ad Hoc Division is established. It proceeds in line with the special Arbitration Rules for the UEFA Euro 2012 Final Round. A similar procedure will be created for the Olympic Games in London. What is particularly special about the CAS Ad Hoc Division, it the timing of the procedure. Each dispute should be resolved within 48 hours of the lodging of the application. While arbitration remains the main method resolving sports disputes, mediation is also seen as in important part of the CAS system.


Rafal Morek

Dr. Rafal Morek is an associate in the firm’s Warsaw office. He has extensive experience representing clients in commercial disputes before both state courts and arbitral tribunals. He also has vast experience in representing clients in the financial sector, in respect of contracts and real properties.  Prior to joining K&L… MORE >

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