Unhappy that the 2015 Women’s World Cup is scheduled to be played on artificial turf, a group of women star soccer players, led by American players, recently filed suit at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario against the Canadian Soccer Association and FIFA alleging that the use of artificial turf, which a man’s World Cup has yet to be played on, is gender discrimination.
That Tribunal declined to expedite a hearing hear the matter prior to the start of the Cup and on Friday, a vice-chair suggested the two sides try mediation/arbitration to handle this dispute. It is unclear which, since ESPN writer Doug McIntyre uses the term interchangeably and there aren’t a lot of other agencies reporting on the legal issues of women’s soccer, so it was hard to find a determinative answer as to if mediation or arbitration was suggested.
Mediation and arbitration are similar in that they are both forms of alternative dispute resolutions that involve a third party listening to the dispute between the parties. However, the main difference between the two is that in arbitration, the parties agree to be bound to whatever solution the arbitrator determines is the best course of action to resolve the dispute. In mediation, the third party remains natural and works to facilitate discussion(s) between the parties to help them reach a resolution on their own. That solution is binding between the parties, but unlike arbitration, the parties are free to leave at any time before a resolution is reached and the mediator has no power to inflict a solution on the parties. In fact, mediators generally avoid doing so.
Regardless, the distinction doesn’t matter in this case as the CSA wisely declined to participate in a legal matter it views as meritless. Why volunteer to engage in discussions to reach an out-of-court agreement if you know the other party won’t actually get their argument heard in court?
However, arbitration has been used to settle disputes in the sports world before. Here are three examples:
1. Major League Baseball
MLB has its own arbitration rules. Unlike regular arbitration, (think Judge Judy without the drama), the arbitrator doesn’t reach his/her own conclusion when delivering a ruling. Instead, each side presents the arbitrator with their best offer and the arbitrator makes a determination between the two offers.
This PDF from Tulane University Law School offers a great explanation of the details of Major League Baseball’s arbitration system, which is used to set salaries for players in a certain class.
2. Court of Arbitration for Sport
The Court of Arbitration for Sport is an international quasi-judicial body established to settle disputes related to sport. The organization decides all disputes relating to the Olympics and several other major sporting organizations. The World Anti-Doping Agency uses the agency to resolve dispute between athletes and member organizations.
3. Ray Rice
Ray Rice, the former Ravens star turned infamous-elevator-video-star, recently appealed his indefinite suspension from the NFL and for the first time, someone other than Roger Goodell heard the appeal. No ruling has been issued yet.