With only a few months to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, activity at the Organising Committee is reaching its climax, not least for the in-house legal team

As we approach 100 days to go until the opening ceremony of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the in-house legal department of the Organising Committee (“OC”) has plenty to keep it busy. The department is split into two functional areas (“FAs”) – legal and brand protection. The legal FA has been operational from the inception of the OC in 2008, while the brand protection FA will become operational in the months to come.

From start-up to wind down

It is fair to say that the legal team has seen the OC change and grow enormously. When last featured in the Journal (July 2011, 56) there were 41 members of staff. Now in 2013, the OC has 717 staff members and is still growing. This is typical of any organising committee for a major sporting event – it will experience significant change across its project lifespan. In no other job has the legal team found themselves supporting recruitment and hiring strategies for employees and contractors at the same time as prescribing the end dates of employees who have not yet started, and the termination dates of contracts before contractors have even delivered on their obligations!

The driving force for this focus on contract completion was the start of dissolution planning in 2013. On 4 August 2014, the day after the closing ceremony, three quarters of the employees of the OC will finish their contracts, while the legal team will remain to support the decommissioning and dissolution of the company. This is an unenviable task to many, but one that will give the lawyers great satisfaction – the ultimate completion of more than 2,000 contracts that each contributed to a successful Games. It is undeniable the sense of achievement that will be felt when the lights go out in Commonwealth House, and the rights to the Games are passed to Gold Coast 2018.

Legal FA

Since 2011, the legal team has more than doubled in number and is supported by external legal advisers, Harper Macleod LLP. The early formation of the team has ensured its ability to provide consistent and knowledgeable support to all FAs of the OC. The focus now is on concluding the remaining contractual arrangements as quickly as possible before the operational FAs disperse to their venues for Games time. As well as the development of bespoke template agreements for various business areas, such as the temporary overlay works packages, goods and services agreements and sports equipment, the legal team also works closely with Harper Macleod to ensure a consistent approach to contracting.

The process of leaving Games Headquarters for venues is referred to as “venuisation”. While around one third of the 1,400 employees will start their employment straight into Games-time roles, many existing staff will redeploy into such operational roles. The legal team are no exception. All but two – the Head of Legal and the Legal Functional Area Manager – will redeploy into the brand protection team during the Games.
The two who remain will be on hand to support the Games time command and control operations, provide any back office “business as usual” support to internal clients within the OC (contract variations, issues resolution etc), and support key stakeholders externally One of these key external stakeholders is the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF).

In support of its objectives to deliver an outstanding Games to all attending athletes and team officials, Glasgow 2014 is in the process of setting up a pro bono legal service that will be available during the Games to accredited athletes, coaches and team officials from 70 Commonwealth countries. The purpose of the service is to provide a safety net for those who do not have their own legal representatives in place in Scotland and who may have difficulty in identifying representation at short notice. The service will be made up of a specialist sports advocacy section to represent athletes at hearings, particularly urgent ad hoc hearings before the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and a general section to provide advice and assistance in the fields of sports, criminal, defamation and privacy, immigration, discrimination and personal injury law. The sports advocacy section will comprise individual advocates and solicitors, while the general section will be composed of law firms and sole practitioners. This is recognised as being an excellent opportunity for the legal community to become involved in the Games and build on the sports law legacy in Scotland post-Games. See www.sportresolutions.co.uk, and click on Glasgow 2014 Pro Bono Service.

Success for the legal team would be to reach the end of 2014 with no major disputes or litigation. A Commonwealth Games is a complex project, and it would be unusual to have no legal issues at all. However, a clear measurement of success will be the ability to close down contracts effectively and expediently post-Games through to dissolution, while meeting our transfer of knowledge reporting requirements en route. Historically, the level of disputes surrounding the Commonwealth Games has been low, and legal involvement in any issues that arise will likely be facilitating discussions through an effective escalation mechanism.

Brand protection FA

The brand protection team recognised that guidance and communication on brand use were essential to avoid inadvertent infringements. The team has worked hard through seminars and attendance at key events to engage with and address concerns of local businesses, while at the same time ensuring that the key messages of the brand protection programme are shared.

The programme has generally been free of negative publicity and this may be due, in part, to the team recognising there was a need for businesses to be able to show their support for the Games while still protecting the rights of the Games sponsors to exclusively associate with the Games. This resulted in the creation of a standard range of brand assets that can be used by businesses (www.glasgow.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10735). Importantly, while these assets do not incorporate the Games protected marks, they effectively ensure that the Games do not become the Games “that could not be named”.

Focus will now turn to issues which might have an impact on the Games and sponsors. More attention will be given to those commercial organisations which may be thinking about marketing and leveraging from the surrounding publicity and general excitement surrounding the Games. The Queen’s Baton Relay’s return to Scotland for its 40-day tour will offer the first real opportunity for the team to assess this activity “on the ground”, by accompanying parts of the relay to observe commercial activity and arrange enforcement action where necessary. At Games time, the Glasgow Commonwealth Games (Trading and Advertising) (Scotland) Regulations 2013 will provide the team with legislative powers to protect the Games brand around Games locations. The team will expand in number and will have a presence at all venues. Those teams will consist of members of the legal team, secondees from Harper Macleod, and enforcement officers drawn from trading standards teams across local authorities.

Inevitably, in a year that has a Winter Olympics, World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup, there will be guerrilla marketing companies preparing to take advantage and seek a share of the publicity surrounding those events. A successful Games for the brand protection team will be that the rights of sponsors were protected, that they gained the exposure anticipated from their investment in the Games, and that they consider their sponsorship to be of such benefit that they are willing to invest in future events.

Supporting the Games has been a unique and fascinating challenge for the In-house Legal Department so far, and one thing’s for sure – the next 100 days will fly by faster than Usain Bolt!

The Author
Shonagh MacVicar, Head of Legal Stephanie Daniel, Legal FA Manager Aileen Alexander, Brand Protection FA Manager    
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