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How to conduct effective sports dispute resolution & advocacy online

DRS online
Friday, 12 June 2020 By Jeffrey Benz, Catherine Pitre

The world as we knew it has changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic.  Sports dispute resolution, like nearly every other sector, has to adapt to remain effective.  As is so often the case, however, the commercial world of dispute resolution has moved more quickly than the sports industry in adopting appropriate standards for resolving disputes in this new world.  Births, deaths, taxes, and disputes are all certainties in life and, with few exceptions, they pause for no one and nothing.  Sports dispute resolution professionals need to embrace this new world and be prepared to move through it effectively.  With some forms of social distancing, business shutdowns, and travel restrictions appearing to remain in place for months more, and with people starting to posit views that this work at home situation is workable and inquiring why did we fly around the world so far and so often for seemingly little reason, some of the things we have learned during this time may come to stick.

This article sets out some of the basic learnings of the authors: one a busy arbitrator and mediator in sports and commercial cases in the UK and US trying to apply learnings in a sporting context, and similarly, the other, the Head of Case Management at Sport Resolutions, who oversees hundreds of sport-related disputes and arbitrations at both national and international level, to provide the perspective of the institution, the neutral, and the advocates.  Specifically, it looks at:

  • Sports dispute resolution characteristics in pandemic
  • Moving sports dispute resolution away from live hearings
  • Picking the right platform
  • Collaboration between counsel and between counsel and the arbitrator or mediator
  • Preparing witnesses for the experience
  • Agreeing on time-saving tools for efficiency’s sake
  • Preparing how to look and sound on the online platform
  • Practice, practice, practice
  • Recording the hearing
  • Actively practicing confidentiality
  • Dealing with the witness problem
  • Dealing with the holdout problem
  • Suitability for athletes
  • Special mediation issues online

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Written by

Jeffrey Benz

Jeffrey Benz

Jeff is an accomplished arbitrator, mediator and certified electronic discovery specialist with JAMS in Los Angeles and London and is a Door Tenant at 4 New Square Chambers, London.
Jeff started his law practice in San Francisco, first with a small maritime and admiralty firm and then with a major international law firm (Coudert Brothers) as an antitrust, commercial and IP litigator.  As a former General Counsel of the United States Olympic Committee (where he was responsible for all of the legal work (commercial, regulatory, governance, and otherwise) of the world’s largest and most successful National Olympic Committee), and other leading sports entities (including a stint as a California licensed professional boxing promoter, and separately as professional beach volleyball executive), and as a former athlete, Jeff's sports credentials are without compare, though sports disputes form only a part of Jeff’s overall dispute resolution experience and practice. 
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Catherine Pitre

Catherine Pitre

Catherine Pitre is Head of Case Management at Sport Resolutions, based in London, where she oversees proceedings before arbitral tribunals operated by Sport Resolutions, including those of international sport federations, and in the UK, such as the National Anti-Doping Panel and the National Safeguarding Panel. She also manages the operation of ad hoc panels for international sport competitions and championships.

Catherine previously worked at the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada, and for the Federal Court of Canada. Her experience of dispute resolution in the sport sector is wide ranging, and includes matters relating to anti-doping, safeguarding, integrity, governance, disciplinary, eligibility, team selection, and financial fair play, among others. Catherine has overseen arbitrations, mediations, med-arb processes, resolution facilitation, independent investigations, and reviews.

Catherine has been a guest lecturer and speaker for various Masters programs, and conferences. She has delivered training to arbitral institutions and stakeholders internationally.

Catherine is an elected Board member of the international association Women in Sports Law. She was a competitive gymnastics coach and judge for many years.

Catherine is a qualified lawyer and called to the Bar in the province of Ontario, Canada. She holds a Masters in International Sports Law from ISDE, and a JD from the University of Ottawa, where she also undertook undergraduate studies in political science and civil law.  She holds a MBA Essentials certificate from the London School of Economics.

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