How are sporting disputes settled in the United Kingdom?

Disputes can arise throughout the operation of sport and can take the form of disputes between a National Governing Body and a Member Club, disputes between a club and an individual player and even disputes in between a National Governing Body and an individual player.

Often the dispute will relate to certain sanctions that have been handed down in most cases to punish an individual or their clubs for certain conduct or will relate to payment issues between a club and an individual or an individual and the national governing body.

Independent arbitration

When disputes arise in particular sports it is often necessary that a settlement be reached through independent arbitration. This means that a final decision will be made in the case by a body which is independent from the sport which is binding on both parties.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport makes these decisions in relation to international sport but there is also an independent body which can make decisions in relation to issues which simply concern sport within the United Kingdom.

This body is called the Sports Dispute Resolution Panel.

Sports Dispute Resolution Panel  

The Sports Dispute Resolution Panel is an independent dispute resolution service available for sport in the United Kingdom. The Sports Dispute Resolution Panel is also referred to as Sport Resolutions.

What kind of services does Sport Resolutions offer?

Sports Resolutions offers the following services:

  • Arbitration

  • Mediation

  • Tribunal appointment

  • Administration services

National Anti-Doping Panel

Sport Resolutions is also the independent provider of the National Anti-Doping Panel (NADP) and Tribunal Service for sport in the United Kingdom.

Developing and Planning

Sports Resolutions continually develops and plans dispute resolution services in order for UK sport to continually attain high levels of conduct and fair play on and off the sports field.

Who brings disputes before Sport Resolutions?

Most of the enquiries and referrals made to Sport Resolutions are concerned with the high performance professional and Olympic and Paralympic sports in the UK.

Is access to Sport Resolutionssimply reserved for professional sport in the UK?

Access to Sports Resolutions is not simply reserved for professional sport in the UK with at least one quarter of the referrals before them coming from Community Sport in the UK. Often issues faced by and dealt with in the sphere of Community Sport do not require independent arbitration and are often settled before it needs to get to that stage.

How does Sport Resolution come to its decisions?

Sport Resolutions has an expert panel of mediators and arbitrators who are all leaders in the field of sports and who have a unique understanding of the UK sporting system and the variety of issues that it continues to face.

How does Sport Resolution step in to resolve a dispute or provide mediation?

In order for Sport Resolution to resolve a dispute, provide an opinion and get involved in any way into a particular case a referral must be made directly. For Sport Resolutions to accept a referral it must have legal jurisdiction in the form of consent to resolve the dispute. Accordingly this consent can be given in one of the following ways:

The rules of the sporting organisation involved in the dispute must allow for recourse to independent arbitration – in the form of Sport Resources or the Sports Dispute Resolution Panel

If the dispute is in relation to a contract or agreement, that contract or agreement must contain a clause referring disputes should they arise to the Sport Resolutions or the Sports Dispute Resolution Panel

The parties to the dispute agree in writing to submit the dispute to Sport Resolutions or the Sports Resolution Dispute Panel for arbitration / mediation


What is meant by Arbitration?

Arbitration is the procedure whereby the dispute is submitted by agreement of both parties to one or more arbitrators who will then make a binding decision on the dispute.

Private dispute resolution

In choosing arbitration both parties choose a private dispute resolution procedure instead of going to court.


Both parties must consent for arbitration to take place.

What are the main advantages of Arbitration?

The main advantages of Arbitration are as follows:

  • The composition of the tribunal

  • Privacy

  • Flexibility

  • Finality

Composition of the Tribunal

Under the Arbitration rules provided by Sport Resolutions the parties can select a sole-arbitrator together.  Furthermore the parties can choose to have a three-member arbitration panel whereby each party will appoint one of the panel and both parties will agree on the final member.

Sport Resolutions also has the capacity to suggest potential arbitrators will relevant experience to that particular dispute.


The hearings will be held in private meaning that decisions are not usually published unless both parties agree to them being so.

This is an extremely important factor for some sports in the UK which receive huge amounts of media attention.


The Arbitration procedure is flexible in relation to decisions being made by a particular deadline.


The Arbitration Rules of the Sports Dispute Resolution Panel provides for a final and binding agreement.


What is meant by Mediation?

Mediation is a process whereby a third party who is not involved in the original dispute will assist the parties to reach a mutually agreed settlement without the need to go to court or arbitration.

Is mediation binding on the parties involved?

During mediation there is no binding decision placed on the parties by a judge or arbitrator, the mediator simply works with the parties enabling them to come to their own agreed solution.

What are the advantages of mediation?

The process of mediation has the following advantages:

  • It is quick

  • The parties retain control

  • There are a wide variety of settlement options available

  • Mediation is done without prejudice


Mediation can be achieved in a matter of weeks compared to the long process of litigation.


Both parties will be involved in the decision making process and are not required to relinquish control to a judge or arbitrator.

Settlement options

A wide variety of settlement options are available through mediation which can be written into settlement agreements between the parties following mediation.

Without prejudice

This means that mediation does not affect any of the other options available to the parties. For example if mediation does not provide a satisfactory outcome, litigation can commence or continue with nothing revealed in the mediation process being used in any court or arbitration proceedings.

National Anti-Doping Panel

What is the National Ant-Doping Panel?

The National Anti-Doping Panel is an independent body which determines anti-doping issues arising in sport throughout the United Kingdom.

What are the purposes of the National Ant-Doping Panel?

The National Anti-Doping Panel has three main purposes, which are as follows:

  1. To improve the quality and consistency of tribunal decision making in anti-doping cases

  2. To protect National Sporting Governing Bodies from the conflict of interest in both prosecuting and establishing and administering tribunals to hear the cases

  3. To remove the financial and administrative issues from the National Sporting Governing Bodies of managing their own anti-doping panel and tribunals.

Are decisions of the National Anti-Doping Panel published?

In the same way as the decisions of the Sports Dispute Resolution Panel decisions by the National Ant-Doping Panel are not published unless consent has been given by both parties involved. This enables much of the issues of sport to be kept out of the media spotlight.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.