The World Cup’s Legal sideshow and all legal aspects around this global showpiece

IVAN OJAKOL 

What you need to know:

After the concerns over Qatar’s human rights record, Fifa, Uefa, IOC et al now require commitments by bidders and hosts to incorporate human rights principles in bids and host agreements for these mega sports events.


The lucrative nature of world football, especially the World Cup as anything else that involves loads of money means that there are behind-the-scenes shenanigans couched in legal terms to protect those commercial interests.

Fifa imposes legal obligations on a host country in a neo-colonialist style. This involves amending internal laws and policies and enacting new ones. Aspects ranging from Intellectual Property rights, counterfeiting, workers’ rights, immigration, infrastructure, sponsorships and marketing, tourism, free trade, taxation, etc. are encompassed in this Fifa legal framework.

In the run-up to the 2010 South Africa World Cup, special Courts were set up to deal with disputes and contraventions regarding the "2010 Fifa World Cup Special Measures Act". In one particular case, two Dutch women were arrested and charged under that law for wearing orange shirts to a World Cup stadium emblazoned with Bavaria beer with Fifa arguing that that was ambush marketing. Ambush marketing is the unauthorized association by an entity of its products and/or services with an event where it has no sponsorship or licensing rights.  

The Qataris enacted a similar law and even set up a Sports Tribunal in preparation for the World Cup. Top of the agenda is to crack down on ambush marketing and counterfeiting-major banes in Fifa’s commercial interests. Fifa already has a strict code of what amounts to acceptable marketing practices at its events.

Of course, as you have followed in the press, Qatar being a conservative Arab, Muslim country steeped in its traditions, not all Fifa’s demands have been embraced by it, and looks like Fifa might have bent over backwards a bit in that regard even with immense pressure from the West which for starters largely believes that the hosting rights of 2022 World Cup were won illegally by Qatar with corruption taking the day.

After the concerns over Qatar’s human rights record, Fifa, Uefa, IOC et al now require commitments by bidders and hosts to incorporate human rights principles in bids and host agreements for these mega sports events.

Fifa aggressively protects its World Cup brand and registers trademarks over its symbols, signs, logos, etc. in the host country, and "Fifa World Cup 2022" is registered in Qatar as a trademark.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)and Fifa have also partnered and set up an ad hoc division of Cas to handle disputes in a “specialized, swift and expedited” around; eligibility, doping, sporting nationality, and "Field of Play” matters, to mention but a few. This column has explored this subject previously.

Critics have contended that Fifa's World Cup Laws go above and beyond established legal principles for instance criminalizing matters which would ordinarily be civil disputes. Trademark Law is another area as I highlighted in my piece last week that is often abused.

Fifa itself usually comes up with bespoke Regulations concerning a particular World Cup, for the Qatar World Cup, they are termed "Fifa World Cup Qatar Regulations, 2022" and they provide for among others The World Cup Organizing Committee, disciplinary matters, disputes, eligibility, and commercial rights.

On the flip side, Fifa’s neo-colonial approach comes with some benefits allowing all and sundry to tap into the commercial bonanza that is the World Cup showpiece. Qatar for example enacted a Foreign Investment Law that allows foreign companies to set up in Qatar where they have a contract and do not have to incorporate a new company but can just set up a branch, previously foreign companies could only operate in Qatar through a partnership with a Qatari partner who would own 51% of the venture.

Ojakol is a sports lawyer, partner at Matrix Advocates

and Lecturer at IUEA
 

contacts:0791683986/0787261019


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