Dispute Resolution in Professional Sports


By Qianhang Fang

SKEMA Business School

Paris, France



In the modern society, sport is an indispensable part of our life. Following the development of professional sports, resolution to sports disputes is more and more important. In the 20th Century, the concept of ADR was brought into the sports field, which gave us more choice of resolving sports disputes. However, more choices also brought us more confusion: with lack of understanding the alternative resolutions, it seems really difficult to choose the appropriate one. Furthermore, the popularity of Sports ADR is low in some countries where is more difficult to choose the right dispute resolution. This paper, using the method of Multi-attribute Decision Making (MADA), found out that Mediation is the most suitable resolution to sports disputes.

Key words: Sports Dispute, Resolution, ADR, Litigation, Arbitration, Mediation, Negotiation, Right and Interest


In recent years, modern sports has seen a rapid development; the trends of professionalism and commercialization brings more and more participants into the sports industry. The prosperity of professional sports brought a great profit, which makes the relationship between the related parties (sports organization, players, sports brand, boss of a sports team…) more complicated. In this situation, the increase of disputes in the field of professional sports is inevitable. Solving disputes in an effective way will not only protect the rights and interests of the involved parties but also stimulate the development of sports industry. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to find out a better resolution to the disputes in the sports industry.

In general, professional sports dispute can be divided in to three types: the first one is commercial dispute, such as the disputes caused by sponsor, advertisement and the broadcasting right; The second is the dispute between sports organizations and their members where the contract of player, the eligibility and the nationality are examples; The last sort of dispute is caused by punishment such as suspension and cancellation of license.

There are several resolutions to disputes; the commonest is bringing a lawsuit to the court. However, litigation is not the only way to solve disputes. There are also some alternative dispute resolutions (ADR) for sports. Avoid is one of the resolutions, for example, in Chinese basketball Association, Stephen Marbury left Beijing Ducks this summer because of a dispute of contract. As we know, avoid, which is passive and may bring a lose-lose situation seems not to be a wise way. Thus, I will also discuss other ADR, which are negotiation, arbitration and mediation. In this paper, I will discuss and compare the alternative resolutions and then find out an appropriate and effective way to solve the dispute in professional sports.


  1. Problem Statement

Dispute is common in our life; it’s also common that people resolve disputes like marital disputes, property disputes, trading disputes and debt disputes with litigation and ADR. However, in the area of sports, the ADR has just risen. Some sports organizations or athletes in the developing countries are even not familiar with the ADR to sports dispute so that they are always confused when they want to choose a resolution. Thus, I will present and discuss the dispute resolutions in professional sports, and then decide which is the most appropriate.


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Editor’s note: Student papers are authored by graduate or undergraduate students based on coursework at accredited universities or training programs.  This paper was prepared as a deliverable for the course “International Contract Management” facilitated by Dr Paul D. Giammalvo of PT Mitratata Citragraha, Jakarta, Indonesia as an Adjunct Professor under contract to SKEMA Business School for the program Master of Science in Project and Programme Management and Business Development.  http://www.skema.edu/programmes/masters-of-science. For more information on this global program (Lille and Paris in France; Belo Horizonte in Brazil), contact Dr Paul Gardiner, Global Programme Director [email protected].

How to cite this paper:
Fang, Q. (2018). Dispute Resolution in Professional Sports, PM World Journal, Volume VII, Issue 5, May 2018. https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/pmwj70-May2018-Fang-dispute-resolution-in-professional-sports-student-paper.pdf

About the Author

Qianhang Fang

Paris, France



Qianhang Fang
, Bachelor of Finance and Bachelor of English Language, is a Master of Science (MSC) student majoring in Project Management at SKEMA Business School, Paris. After graduating from Beijing Technology and Business University in 2016, he worked for a content marketing department in SSPORT, a sports media company in China. He also has the experience of starting up his own small business. As a student of Project Management, he has gotten the certifications of AgilePM and Prince 2 Foundation, which proves he is qualified to be a project team member. Qianhang can be contacted at [email protected].