Mediation in Sports Disputes — The Future?

The Settlement Table
4 min readNov 6, 2021

Niranjan Kumar, 4th Year BA LLB (Hons.), School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be University)

Neeraj Chopra is now a name known in every Indian Household. But have you ever thought about how and where a Sports Celebrity like him can resolve their legal disputes? When Neeraj’s favorite dish can make the news, one can only imagine the media furor that would occur when he would be involved in any legal dispute. Sports and the Law are two different disciplines that are becoming increasingly intertwined; recently, L and L Partners, a top law firm in India, announced Pro Bono services for all our Olympic medalists, which is just one example of the same.

Today, when it comes to Sports Disputes, ADR is already at the forefront with arbitration in sport-specific tribunals such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport or FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber being commonly used to resolve disputes. However, while arbitration is typically a more efficient and confidential way of resolving disputes than court proceedings, it can still be time-consuming and costly. This is especially essential in sports, where parties usually want rapid and cost-effective resolution of conflicts, and this is where mediation comes in as the solution.

Mediation like arbitration is another form of Alternative Dispute Resolution. The following are the main characteristics of mediation as a form of settlement:

· It’s a method of out-of-court dispute resolution in which the parties decide a solution among themselves. A Mediator merely facilitates the process.

· An independent and impartial mediator agreeable by both parties is selected.

· With an enforced solution, the parties will be unable to negotiate the results post an agreement. This is as opposed to a Court judgment where a Judge may rule in favor of a single party. Parties in a mediation are free to have an amicable solution favorable to everyone.

· In contrast to litigation, which is generally conducted in open court, the procedure is secret and helps to maintain brand images and avoid media attention.

· Speedy and efficient, especially relevant for athletes with brief careers that do not have time for lengthy disputes.

· Mediation is less expensive than going to court.

Let’s now understand how these characteristics are specifically applicable to sports disputes. An essential advantage certainly is the aspect of privacy and confidentiality; sports personalities as well the Clubs/Teams involved often have a specific image to maintain with colossal fan followings that can be protected by resolving disputes through mediation.

Speedy and efficient dispute resolution is particularly relevant in a country like India, where most of our leagues do not last more than a few months. In conventional litigation and arbitration, the resolution may take years, sometimes even longer than the athlete’s career, like the Adrian Mutu — Chelsea FC dispute which ended ten years after it started. The crown jewel of Indian Sport, the Indian Premier League for cricket, lasts only two months, the Kabbadi Premier League — 4 months, and the ISL for a maximum of 3 months. With such short seasons, disputes such as those involving player salaries and team branding cannot be dragged out for years. They will destroy advertising and other allied opportunities that are essential for the sustenance of the leagues in the first place.

As stated earlier, mediation often leads to an agreement that favors both parties; this is different from traditional Litigation and even Arbitration, where the judgment usually favors one party over the other as parties have no control over the same after submitting their individual grievances/arguments.

Maintenance of healthy professional relationships while also having an efficient and speedy resolution. For example, in North America, the National Hockey League’s (NHL) 2012 standoff with the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) over the parameters of their next collective bargaining agreement. The league suspended multiple players after the two parties could not reach an agreement and were approximately $200 million apart on the subject of player revenue-sharing. The threat of a canceled season loomed as weeks stretched into months of postponed games. Scot L. Beckenbaugh, a federal mediator, eventually settled the case. When face-to-face discussions became tense, Beckenbaugh split the two parties and visited each party for nearly 12 hours, understanding where they might be willing to compromise and then facilitated the same. NHL players, whose careers are typically brief, were able to compromise on the short-term problem of salary in exchange for peace of mind about their long-term financial future due to the mediation.

Thus, we see the various benefits Mediation can have with specific reference to Sports Disputes. Most commercial contracts in the industry already implement Arbitration clauses for dispute resolution. But considering the above advantages, one thing is certainly clear; mediation is the superior form of Alternative Dispute Resolution when it comes to Sports Disputes.

‘The Settlement Table’ offers a wide variety of services to resolve your disputes online with the help of the Expert Panel. To know more about how to resolve your legal disputes online, book a free appointment by, signing up in or writing to



The Settlement Table

We are a team of young professionals providing dispute resolution services at low cost and in a time-bound manner, with the help of technological advancements.