In a recent article commenting on the possible implementation of a new 20:20 tournament and how this might affect first-class county cricket in England and Wales, the very astute Observer Newspaper cricket correspondent, Vic Marks, wrote concernedly of a recent meeting of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s governing body* –

“It seems as if it is no longer a battle of reasoned arguments, but a battle of wills and egos, with self-interest rather than common sense dictating the outcome. At the last meeting the vote, which drew so much attention, was not so much on the merit of the proposals, but a “back me or sack me” resolution from the centre. Which may not be the best way to plot the future”

Is this reminiscent of anything?

  • Contested court or employment tribunal proceedings dominated by one person that have begun to resemble a pitched battle rather than the traditional but nonetheless civilised form of dispute resolution that they are intended to be?
  • Trial by media which often results in gross invasion of privacy?
  • A domineering Chief Executive fending off ostensibly legitimate concerns that are expressed during an AGM?
  • Politicians debating but in reality sparring with one another on a TV chat show?
  • A driven and very articulate but nonetheless bullying employer who in the process of investigating an alleged work-related transgression puts two and two together, makes five and in so doing misses the point completely?
  • A Head Teacher whose perhaps understandable concern about compliance with OFSTED requirements has resulted in him or her omitting to consider the interests of individual students and neglecting to deal adequately with a case of bullying?
  • A dominant parent or sibling whose blundering intervention in a family dispute makes matters worse?
  • All of the above?

All too often one encounters scenarios such as these. Those involved invariably find that they are distressed and confused, even bamboozled. They may feel that they are embroiled in a frightening and divisive dispute with someone whom they had perhaps mistakenly thought about before as being sensible and balanced. They fear that there is no way out and in a desire to resolve matters at all costs either incur vast expense or give in “gracefully” possibly to the extent of selling themselves short and allowing a dominant, misguided person to get his or her own way “again” – a blatant case of he who shouts loudest or has the deepest pockets getting his or her own way.

All too often, traditional dispute resolution mechanisms and even the use of good old common sense do not redress the balance in the types of scenario outlined above. Less forceful parties may be “heard” but not actually “listened” to and in many instances, great injustice can result.

What can be done you cry? How can I stand up to “this man” or “that woman”? In many instances, mediation can help all concerned. As well as being timely and very cost effective, the wholly impartial civil mediator works in a safe, confidential environment in which all concerned will have their say and imbalances such as those alluded to above will be minimised. Sides will not be taken but the bullying or domineering person will not be permitted to misbehave or to speak at length to the exclusion of others.

Someone who may be reticent or nervous will be given the opportunity that he or she needs in order to speak, to be heard and ultimately to get a point across. In many cases the dominant bully will find the calming environment that the mediator has engendered to be beneficial and may be able to make a potentially valid or significant point that has been forgotten or overlooked.

In mediation everybody will have their say. Having initially been able to identify their concerns and their needs but never compelled, coerced or forced by the mediator, the parties to an acrimonious dispute may then be able to result it and reach agreement. By the time they reach this stage they will invariably be better informed not just about the other person’s concerns and aspirations but also their own. Accordingly, they will then be well placed to reach an agreement, something that happens in at least 80% of all mediated cases. In most if not all instances the attendant savings of money and costs will be a very welcome bonus.

* ECB’s T20 Plans Risk Ruining County Championship’s Domestic Drama, 24 September 2016