Sport NI – could mediation have saved the public purse £250,000?

Sport NI – could mediation have saved the public purse £250,000?

I’ve written many times in this blog about the cost-effectiveness of mediation and there is no shortage of research that proves this is the case, so a call from a local politician this weekend for consideration of a ‘blueprint for a mediation process’ that could potentially have saved the public purse an estimated £250,000 makes enormous sense.

Sport NI is a publicly funded body with an annual budget in the region of £30million. It has been surrounded by controversy since allegations of bullying were uncovered by a whistle-blower in 2015.

The Chief Executive was suspended in a flurry of media attention and the disciplinary process began. The Chief executive was dismissed as a result of the findings in November 2016, the findings were overturned on appeal in June 2017 and the chief Executive has now been reinstated. In the meantime it has been reported that there are a number of claims by employees, some of which appear still to be unresolved.

The report of a bill of £250,000 does not seem to have been verified but, as a practicing lawyer familiar with costs in this type of employment dispute, it would not be surprising if it were in that region, given the extent of the problem in Sport NI.

What difference could mediation have made?

  • Likelihood of success - we cannot be certain that it would have succeeded in this case , but we do know that 85-90% of mediations result in successful resolution
  • Cost – mediation, particularly at an early stage, would have resulted in a bill that would be a very small fraction of the cost here, probably more like £10,000 than £250,000
  • Speed – mediation is a much faster means of resolving a dispute, even a wide ranging dispute of this nature, and it certainly would not have taken anything like 2 ½ years
  • Process – what would it look like in this scenario? Ideally a mediation process would have begun before the issues reached crisis level. I have written many times about the benefit of organisations being proactive about conflict – the stitch-in-time approach (

But even if Sport NI had invoked a mediation process once the problem blew up, it could still have gained many benefits – engaging those concerned in a collaborative process, rather than adversarial positions developing with only binary solutions ahead.

There are numerous options within the general umbrella of mediation that could and should have made a difference to a case that results in a cost such as this, particularly in a climate where the public purse is stretched to breaking point.

All organisations, but particularly public funded ones, have a duty to consider how they can resolve disputes the better way.

For more information on mediation contact Dorcas by email

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