The emphasis on workplace mediation is unfortunately yet to prevail in all workplace arenas. Oh the beautiful game (aka. Football [or Soccer]), how regularly you show us your fickle nature. A recent case in point is the former Chelsea manager’s premiership plight after the recent premiership title dogfight.

For what might be seen like a successful tenure, a silver medal is sometimes just not good enough. Carlo Ancelotti’s failure to secure a trophy this season ultimately led to the failure to secure his job for next season. Carlo was always pragmatic about it, whenever asked would raise an eyebrow and as if channelling Vito Corleone, and say something nonchalant about it being the clubs decision and that he would accept the decision of the club. Whilst there was a glimmer of hope up until the last couple of games, you could predict his Chelsea stay would conclude collapsed in the tomato field.

One has to wonder if taking him off his contract was the best thing to do; could it have been done differently so that more of everyone’s needs were met? It’s a difficult situation to mitigate; from one perspective you have an owner who invests huge amounts of money to build a winning team, and a manager that did not achieve those aims, however there is more to life than retribution; it isn’t just a didactic relationship. What about the players, what about the fans, what about those close to Ancelotti?

In this particular case the risk of tribunal is minimal; the manager is paid off for the last year of his supposed £5 million a year contract. However whilst this may be true, there is certainly room in any working relationship for dialogue; it would certainly have been useful to have an opportunity to discuss each other’s understandings of the season and what went wrong and build clarity between the parties, and then to hash out an exit strategy to suit everyone’s needs, inevitably there will have been some offers that were very hard to refuse.

If it was a clean break then all the better, both parties can go on with their needs met and even share a fond memory of their time spent in business together. The flip side of this is crucial. Had a deal not been made, the need for a process to build clarity and understanding and reach a successful and holistic resolution might be more pertinent. Yes mediation would most likely cost a fraction of the price of a tribunal, take a fraction of the time of a tribunal and leave the parties feeling a fraction of the strain of a tribunal, but besides all these formidable reasons it seems that there may be an element we are missing. Mediation has the capacity to build relationships and deepen understanding through conflict, creating a phoenix out of the ashes of a burnt relationship. Perhaps he wouldn’t have needed consoling on “one last night on the town with captain John Terry, Frank Lampard (and) Ashley Cole” (Metro.co.uk, 24th May 2011) had the working relationship not ended in the manner that it did.

Had there been more of a conflict I would have been keen to mention CEDR’s dispute resolution capabilities in the sporting sector, addressing all areas of disputes within sport through a panel of selected experts. The truth is as mentioned, mediation was not necessary, and to all intents and purposes the accord was struck with very little pain. In some cases, mediation is not necessary, however I believe that mediation will always be useful in both exploring the issues and potential solutions, facilitating the dissipation of the fog of emotions and representations that pervade the mind in times of conflict, allowing for a genuine and holistic settlement to be reached, which is ultimately more satisfying all round than being sent off with a red card.

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by Daniel Kershen
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Daniel Kershen is the Foundation Project Co-ordinator for The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).