Conflicts in sports – especially those in high-profile sports leagues – differ from many other high-profile conflicts due to the nature of stakeholders in the conflict. Fans of players, teams, and leagues have an unorthodox relationship with these organizations and entities. The fans are stakeholders insofar as what happens with their given interest truly does impact their lives. A fan will have much interest in what happens with their favorite player, team, or league, to the point where their identity is often tied into that interest. However, fans are not stakeholders in the conflict in a traditional way of being a stakeholder. That is, they (generally) do not have an actual monetary or other tangible stake in the outcome of the conflict. The fans are generally not present for the resolution of the conflict, no matter which system is used, yet are impacted nonetheless. Due to this special relationship between fans and those in the conflict, use of mediation in sports may be able to resolve the conflict in a way that appeals to fans the most. Mediation in sports could offer a quick resolution and a win-win scenario, both of which lead to higher morale among fans.

Mediation in sports is a relatively quick process

When a conflict occurs within an organization, it clouds the fans’ perception of what is going on with regard to the actual sport. The longer the conflict lingers, the more time the fans have to become frustrated. In terms of having a good relationship with fans, an organization should want to have as few, as small, and as quick of conflicts as possible. Mediation is touted as being a conflict resolution process which, when effective, can bring about resolution in a timelier manner than litigation, arbitration, or negotiation because of the informal and open nature of the process. If a sports team is able to resolve a conflict quickly, fan morale will be less likely to suffer.

“Win-Win” from mediation in sports can have positive effect on morale

The primary reason for fans to engage in sports is for the enjoyment of the game, whatever game that may be. When conflicts happen, fans will often have lower morale, spending the time normally devoted to the enjoyments of the sport thinking about the conflict. Use of meditation in sports could combat this negative effect by being an avenue for the two sides to work together. If fans believe that the two sides of the conflict will resolve it in a way that could potentially lead to a healthy working relationship going forward, they may worry less about the long-term impacts of the conflict, and suffer less from changes in morale. Mediation as a process aims for and allows both parties to ‘win,’ which can help those in the conflict to have a much better post-conflict relationship. Due to the relative speed of the mediation process, a conflict has less of a chance of lingering in the media and becoming a public relations nightmare. A conflict will have more lasting impacts on fan support and morale the longer it persists over time. With this in mind, fans will be able to confidently focus on the enjoyment of the sport, knowing that the conflict will have less impact than it might if it were to be litigated, arbitrated, or negotiated.

While sports organizations may have legitimate reasons for wanting to pursue other mechanisms of conflict resolution than mediation, fan morale should be kept in mind as a reason to consider mediation in sports.

Author: Mitchell Kiefer