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Mediation in Sports Disputes

Why Mediation is Well-Suited for Sports

Certain unique characteristics of mediation provide remedies for many of the problems plaguing players and management in today’s market. Mediation offers a speedy, cost effective means of resolving any type of dispute. Its confidential nature would promote open communication between the parties, which would preserve, if not enhance, their working relationships.
Mediation typically has a success rate which along make it a worthwhile endeavor. The American Arbitration Association, for example, boasts greater the 80% settlement rates for all cases that participate in its mediation program. Considering the millions of dollars at stake if settlements are not reached quickly, common sense dictates a closer look at what many have already found to be the alternative dispute resolution mechanism of choice.

Preservation of Working Relationships

Although working relationships are important in all businesses, bitter negotiations in sports disputes involving the performance of an individual player, such as basketball, can lead to unique problems. This is especially true when the general manager conducting the negotiations also has a role as a coach. Team ownership has a definite interest in the player maintaining his confidence and not hearing comments during negotiations about his weaknesses which are intended solely to deflate the agent’s perceived value of his client.

During the mediation process, an experienced mediator can make sure that these goals are implemented through the use of “private caucuses. ” A private caucus occurs when “the mediator talks with each party and its lawyer confidentially, away from the other participants. ” Usually, these private caucuses will go back and forth until the separated parties can reach an agreement, or “shuttle diplomacy. ” For example, this would permit the mediator to soften the general manager’s tone in criticizing the player, and prevent the player hearing such negative commentary directly. Even where joint mediations sessions become emotional, a skilled mediator can monitor the exchanges, maintain civility in the negotiation process, and promote a better working relationship once the agreement is reached.


The history of sports disputes and their negative effect on fans and team morale vividly demonstrates the need to adopt a speedy and cost effective resolution technique, such as mediation. Mediation is the perfect remedy for sports disputes because it provides a forum for open communication, which is currently missing in many sports negotiations. It gives both parties a sense of confidentiality, which can be used to strengthen their working relationship. The neutral environment that accompanies mediation has proven to be very helpful in resolving disputes, as well. In short, the ease and flexibility of the mediation process, the unique qualities of trained mediators and the high success rate of mediation in the past proves that mediation is the perfect answer for resolving various disputes in sports. The adoption of this technique would be financially and emotionally rewarding to everyone involved.


Travis Bell

Travis Bell is the Founder and CEO of The Seven Bridges Group. The Seven Bridges Group represents professional football, basketball, and baseball athletes thru its sports division, Seven Bridges Sports Management and actors, actresses and musicians thru yet a second division, Seven Bridges Entertainment or SBE.   MORE >

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