Supporting Canadian Athletes

Anticipating Conflict

Athletes need to protect themselves when entering into agreements with a sponsor. It is possible to include provisions in the contract that will predict issues or conflicts that may arise as a result of the sponsor-athlete relationship. Requirements of the NSO or major games stakeholders can be satisfied through the sponsorship agreement to ensure athletes’ competitive careers will not be compromised in any way. This will help prevent any conflict that may arise between athletes, the NSO and the sponsoring entity.

The inclusion of a dispute resolution clause into your sponsorship agreement may allow you to determine the way in which any dispute with your sponsor will be resolved.  Because it may prove difficult to negotiate such arrangement after tensions have already risen due to a disagreement or conflict between you and the sponsor, it is easier to plan for this in advance to ensure the process is predetermined. Mediation and arbitration offer alternatives that are usually less costly and faster than civil court proceedings. Here is an example of an arbitration clause that would allow you to bring your dispute before the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada. You can adapt it to your own needs or preferences:

“If any dispute, controversy, disagreement or claim arises out of or relates to this contract including any question regarding its existence, application, interpretation, validity, breach or termination, the Parties undertake and agree to attempt to settle such dispute, controversy, disagreement or claim through direct discussions. The parties undertake and agree that any unresolved dispute, controversy, disagreement or claim arising out of or relating to this contract including any question regarding its existence, application, interpretation, validity, breach or termination shall be exclusively resolved by the arbitration process administered by the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada (link to AUDIO of SDRCC Video), in accordance with the rules of the Canadian Sport Dispute Resolution Code for a final and binding resolution.

The place of arbitration shall be [hometown of athlete or closest major city]. The arbitration shall be governed by the laws of the [province of residence of athlete]. The arbitrator shall not award consequential damages in any arbitration initiated under this section. Each party shall bear its own costs and expenses and [name of sponsor] shall be responsible for [75%] of the arbitrator’s and administrative fees of arbitration and [name of athlete] shall be responsible for [25%] of the arbitrator’s and administrative fees of arbitration. The award of the arbitrators shall be provided with reasons.”

If an athlete is unsure about whether a potential sponsorship agreement conflicts with the obligations owed to an NSO or any other stakeholders, the athlete should contact their NSO’s Athlete Representative or AthletesCAN’s Sport Solution program. These resources can be vital in helping athletes navigate the subtleties of sponsorship agreements and can help explain precisely what rights athletes have to offer potential sponsors in future agreements.

To learn more about the role of your National Sport Organization click here.  


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