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Practice Area Feature: Arbitration in Sports and Entertainment



Whether a true arbitration or a sports and entertainment administrative proceeding, the Firm has substantial experience in navigating the unique aspects of arbitration that many litigators do not know or understand. As an arbitrator, I have served as the sole arbitrator in more than 500 cases across a multitude of different arbitration platforms. I have served as an arbitrator overseeing and deciding disputes involving athletes, coaches, national governing bodies, leagues, teams, sponsors, and a host of other constituents in sports. As a result, I have a unique understanding of the arbitration system, the rules of arbitration, how to select an arbitrator who is the best fit for the case, and the proper presentation of the evidence and case.


Often times, litigators, without arbitration experience, present to arbitration hoping to treat the proceedings like a jury trial. Simply put, that is not the way it works. In addition to serving as an arbitrator, I have substantial experience as an advocate for athletes, coaches, leagues, teams and clubs, sponsors, and others in a variety of sports and entertainment arbitrations and administrative hearings.


The arbitration process starts earlier than any jury trial. The drafting of an arbitration clause is imperative to a party's success in arbitration. Identifying the type of arbitrator and the skillset and background of the arbitrator helps identify the panelists to be considered for appointment. For example, an arbitration clause can list that the arbitrator must have "ten years of experience litigating sports and entertainment disputes." Similarly, the arbitration clause (if a AAA proceeding) can require the arbitrator to be a member of the AAA National Sports Panel. This type of language can help identify a list of panelists who are specialists in sports and entertainment law and have significant experience in the practice area. In turn, the arbitrator does not need to be educated for hours and days on topics that are known by skilled sports and entertainment law practitioners.


When selecting the right panelist to serve as the arbitrator, parties can cut down on time and costs by (1) selecting an arbitrator who does not require days of unnecessary education; and (2) offering evidence focused on the issues of the case. Point two (2) is critical. As an arbitrator, I prepare in advance by reading the pre-hearing briefs and the documentary evidence. By the time I get to the hearing, I have a good sense of the evidence and holes the parties will need to address with testimony. As an advocate, I am adept at finding the holes and knowing the information an arbitrator needs to make his/her decision.


If you want a firm that knows what an arbitrator wants, hire a firm that has experience making difficult decisions in arbitration. We are happy to help. For any questions, contact Christian Dennie at cdennie@denniefirm.com.

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