A Sporting Chance at Dispute Resolution by John Campbell from Mediation Matters
In recent articles, we have examined some actual case studies where people or organisations turned to mediation for the solution. These were cases in which John Campbell of Mediation Matters was the mediator and in which the demonstrated benefits of mediation were obvious.
However, this article will examine other case studies more publicly reported. It will demonstrate that even in high profile disputes, mediation is a readily accepted method for resolving disputes.
Sport brings to society a great many benefits – from the health benefits of participation, to the entertainment benefit of watching games live or on television. Many sports have become ‘big business’ in Australia and elsewhere in the World. With that aspect though, comes as an unfortunate consequence sometimes, dispute.
Last year (2013) saw three(3) very high profile disputes referred to mediation. In the USA, there has been a raft of lawsuits seeking compensation fir damage said to have been caused to players who suffer concussion playing football. Actions have been taken against such sporting bodies as the NFL (National Football League) and the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association).
In August, a CBS sports.com reporter (Ryan Wilson) reported that the NFL and several former players had reached a settlement in their “concussion lawsuit”.
He reported that this happened following the appointment of a former United States District Court Judge as mediator. The lawsuit was a consolidated action of more than 4,500 retired football players against the NFL. Following the settlement reached through mediation, Judge Phillips said: “Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement…I am deeply grateful to Judge Brody for appointing me as mediator and offering me the opportunity to work on such an important and interesting matter”.
Having seen the benefits of mediation in the ‘concussion lawsuit’ brought by thousands of former players against the NFL, the parties in a similar lawsuit decided to go to mediation. In this case, former players were suing the NCAA (a not-for-profit association of over 1200 institutions, organisations and individuals that organise the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada).
The parties agreed to appoint the same mediator who mediated the NFL case (Judge Phillips). In so agreeing, the NCAA Chief Legal Officer said that “While the NCAA continues to believe these allegations are inappropriately made against the NCAA, we are willing to consider reasonable mediation options…”
The turmoil at Board level within the Brisbane Lions AFL Club was heavily reported in Australian media during September and October 2013. The Board was challenged by a powerful rival ticket, including as it did, AFL legend Leigh Matthews. The AFL identified the potentially devastating effects dispute can have on a club, so it invited the Brisbane Lions Board and the challengers to the Board, to a mediation at AFL Headquarters. In accepting the invitation, the Brisbane Lions acknowledged that it was in the best interests of the Club and its members, that the dispute be resolved as quickly as possible and saw mediation as a way this might be achieved.
It may not be surprising that the Boardagreed to mediation. In 2010, there was a dispute between the Fitzroy Football Club and the Brisbane Lions in relation to the new logo unveiled by the Brisbane Lions in 2009. The Fiztroy Football Club commenced a legal action in the Victorian Supreme Court, arguing that the new logo was not in accordance with the merger agreement that had been reached between the two clubs in the mid 1990’s. The parties in that dispute, attended a mediation at which time the dispute was resolved.
Sporting bodies in various Australian states encourage mediation of disputes arising from sport. In Victoria, ‘VicSport’ has a ‘Dispute Resolution Guide for Sport and Active Recreation Clubs’ that promotes and encourages participation in mediation where those involved in sporting clubs find themselves in dispute. Similarly, in South Australia, a specialist body (SSDC) was established to provide confidential and impartial mediation and dispute resolution services to the South Australian sporting community.
Individual sporting codes often have mediation built into their policies and procedures. Hockey Australia for example, in its Member Protection Policy and Procedures Template (January 2012) deals extensively with the use of mediation as a means to resolve disputes that may arise.
Give Yourself a Sporting Chance
Where mediation has been applied successfully in so many high profile disputes arising from sport, it is not hard to see that it can be applied in other types of dispute for similar success. Where the ‘big business’ of sport turns to mediation to resolve disputes, then so too should small business and individuals. As discussed in a previous article, it might in fact be more important for small business and individuals to engage in mediation, as they are often less equipped in terms of resources, to engage in expensive and protracted mediation.
So give yourself a sporting chance of resolving any dispute you might be in, by considering the early referral of your dispute to mediation. Affinity Alliance recognises this and has secured the services of John Campbell of Mediation Matters, to help give you that ‘sporting chance’ when faced with dispute.