In the summer, before the start of the new Northern Hemisphere football (soccer) season, the thoughts of coaches, club owners and directors turn to…… the player transfer market – what else? There is a lot at stake. Reputations of individual clubs may be won and lost on their ability to retain players or their ability to attract players, preferably star players. In many instances, status is derived from spending what some would see as inordinate sums of money.
There is a lot at stake. Coaches have to be confident that they find the right player for their team, strenuous medical examinations are necessary and great care must be taken so as to ensure that approaches are made to individual players. Money has to be found, lawyers, accountants and agents will pore over complex contractual terms and for the players themselves, a high-profile move, possibly to the other side of the world, means there are lots of attendant stresses and strains.
Some players are dissatisfied with their existing clubs, others have aspirations either to ensure they are paid lots of money or that they can be “guaranteed” first-team football at a new club. Languages may have to be learnt, children will have to be re-schooled and new, possibly high-status properties may have to be acquired.
Small wonder then that from time to time, there is disagreement. In the case of very high-profile players this often spills over into the media and even in the quality press we are treated on a daily basis to accounts of animosity between managers and players, often with agents intervening. It is apparent that in some instances, things become very heated and disagreements that might perhaps have been contained and addressed early are allowed to spiral, sometimes aided by salacious media coverage. The recent press reports involving Gareth Bale of Real Madrid and Paul Pogba of Manchester United are cases in point.
At such times the full extent of conflicting interests between players, agents, coaches and clubs become all too apparent and although newspapers readily fill up their sports sections with or without such input, a lot of harsh things are said.
Although some national football associations might say that they have arbitration mechanisms in place and that such issues can be resolved, given that prominent dispute seemed to drag on endlessly, I doubt that they do.
In such instances, those involved in football transfer disputes do have the option of using mediation. With the benefit of the parties signing an agreement, the privacy of all concerned can be maintained. Mediations can be convened at an early stage in individual disputes. There is little that needs to be done by way preparatory work and because those involved are encouraged to look at matters in the round and to try to work together to find mutually acceptable solutions rather than simply restate positions that might serve only to fuel disharmony, even the most unpromising cases can be resolved in very short periods of time.
Football clubs that spend inordinate sums of money on professional advice services will find that they get much better value for money, periods of uncertainty are considerably reduced, good names will be protected and above all, stress levels are kept in check and meaningful conversations about difficult issues can take place in a safe environment that mediation engenders.
At least in England, in the run-up to the football transfer deadline in a few weeks, transfer market dealings are likely to become even more frenetic and given the considerations identified above animosity levels are bound to rise. Accordingly, I urge all players, agents and football clubs to give serious consideration to using mediation as a means of resolving transfer -related disputes. The benefits of using mediation far outweigh both the consequences of the current alternatives and the inevitable fallout that stems from unwarranted press intrusion.
Principal Director of ASM PLUS, civil/commercial, workplace, employment, family and educational mediator and trainer with a judicial/legal background. He has knowledge and expertise in dispute resolution in a wide range of areas and disciplines and mediates online.