Ambush marketing and the legal issues to consider at the RWC 2015 and Euro 2020
Last week marked one year to go until England hosts the Rugby World Cup 2015 (RWC 2015)1. There were also big announcements for Wembley2 and Hamden Park as they were confirmed as host venues for UEFA’s Euro 2020 (Euro 2020) tournament, which is, for the first time, being hosted in multiple cities around Europe.
With more major events coming to the UK’s shores, brands and their marketing agencies will again be wondering what this means for them. In recent years, major events have clamped down on ambush marketing and other activities that can erode their commercial revenue, such as unauthorised trading around stadia, with special legislation being introduced to protect them.
Will there be specific legislation for forthcoming sports events in the UK?
International Federations responsible for awarding major events and tournaments have placed increasing demands on organising committees. Bidding rules normally now state that prospective host cities/countries must have, or commit to put in place, anti-ambush marketing laws and protected “clean” zones around stadia in order to protect the event’s official sponsors. This was the case for the RWC 2015 and Euro 2020. However, a closer examination suggests resistance from lawmakers to capitulate. In terms of special “event legislation” it seems the high watermark in the UK has already been reached and that the metaphorical tide is now receding.
For the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, new legislation was promised during the bidding stage and was subsequently introduced and implemented to satisfy the demands of the International Olympic Committee and the Commonwealth Games Federation , respectively3,4. These laws established an “association right”5 to prohibit ambush marketing seeking to ride off the coattails of the events, and provided for regulations that rendered unauthorised advertising and trading in the "clean" zones around stadia illegal. Ticket touting offences were also created6.
The International Rugby Board and UEFA might reasonably have expected that their tournaments were of equal prestige to the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games and therefore should benefit from similar legislation. However, no special legislation or regulations have been introduced in respect of the RWC 2015 and, after reading UEFA’s evaluation of the English and Scottish Football Associations’ respective bid submissions for Euro 2020, there is no suggestion that any commitments to introduce legislation have been made. For example, the evaluation of the Wembley bid simply states, “ambush marketing is subject to no specific legislation but may be tackled using various existing laws”7.
So why is there a shift away from legislation? And why are International Federations accepting bids without solid commitments to implement their “requirements”? The answer could lie in the fact that implementing new laws is a lengthy and costly procedure, and ultimately International Federations will weigh up the pros and cons of all bids and are likely to always have to concede some of their demands.
There is perhaps also a realisation that, at least in the UK, existing legislation can offer a suitable amount of protection when used effectively, and special legislation does not always provide the slam-dunk solution. Ambushers in particular will always, it seems, find creative ways to get around the law.
What protection does existing law in the UK provide rights holders?
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- Tags: Commonwealth Games 2014 | Copyright | Corporate Law | Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 | England | Europe | Football | Glasgow 2014 | Intellectual Property | International Rugby Board (IRB) | London 2012 | London Olympic and Paralympic Games Act 2006 | Olympic Games | Paralympics | Rugby | Rugby Football Union (RFU) | Rugby World Cup 2015 | The Glasgow Commonwealth Games Act 2008 | Trade Mark | Trade Mark Act 1994 | UEFA | UEFA Euro 2020 | United Kingdom (UK)
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Alex is the Head of Lewis Silkin’s Sport Business Group. Her work focuses on advising entities across the sports sector on a wide range of predominantly commercial and IP issues.
Ash Rahmat is a Sports Group and Media paralegal at law firm Lewis Silkin LLP. Originally a Law with French graduate at the University of Birmingham, Ash spent a year working in the banking sector before pursuing his passion for sports law.