Last Thursday evening (24 June) you were probably watching England suffer agonising defeat at the hands of hosts Portugal while drinking yourself silly, or perhaps you were a little more refined and screened the event for clients. Either way, while you might think that you spent a fortune, you will definitely have spent a great deal less than the e4bn (£2.67bn) that the Portuguese government has on hosting the event. Hopefully you will also have spent significantly less than the £250,000 Uefa has on legal fees during the last two months.
Euro 2004 is the third-largest sporting event in the world after the football World Cup and the Olympics, and the organisers have one of the biggest legal budgets in sport.
Hammonds is one of the biggest beneficiaries. The firm’s head of sport Jonathan Taylor built up a close relationship with Uefa senior counsel Richard Verow while the latter was working in his previous role at sports marketing agency Octagon. Verow now instructs Hammonds on most things.
Verow heads Uefa’s legal commercial team of six lawyers, which deals with all the aspects of the competition’s SFr1.2bn (£530.2m) commercial programme. There is a separate four-man disciplinary team, which deals with on-field matters such as suspensions and doping.
Hammonds reaffirmed its relationship with Uefa when it poached competition partner Alasdair Bell and sports and advertising partner Louise Quinn from Olswang.
Taylor’s team has been working full time on Euro 2004 for the last few months. The team’s big success has been to stem the flow of tickets through unauthorised outlets.
Work on the commercial programme commences almost as soon as the previous tournament has ended, but the deals with Uefa’s official partners really begin to flow around 18 months before the tournament kicks off.
Uefa has eight official partners (Canon, Carlsberg, Coca-Cola, Hyundai, JVC, Mastercard, McDonald’s and T-Mobile), six national supporters, which are local companies, and three IT partners.
Over the last two months, Hammonds’ key contribution has been to ensure that these sponsors’ exclusive rights are protected against ambush marketing and to assist with the safety and security of the tournament by stopping tickets falling into the hands of hooligans.
When Domino’s ran a competition using Euro 2004 tickets as a prize two months ago, Uefa wrote to the company stating that it could not continue its promotion, as McDonald’s had bought the exclusive rights to promotions in that category. Domino’s was only the first – Hammonds has written to around 20 companies in the UK alone, many of which have stopped their promotions after watching the Domino’s scenario. Despite an interim order being granted to stop the promotion, Domino’s has filed a defence and the case is awaiting trial. Ironically, Osborne Clarke, another Uefa adviser, is representing Domino’s.
The other threat comes from black market ticket sales. To stop this, Uefa relies on two key tenets: the non-transferability of a ticket and the fact that Uefa retains ownership of the ticket. London Underground uses a similar system. Uefa requires a full list of everyone who has tickets, whether buying them from Uefa, from a national football association or receiving them from a sponsor.
Hammonds has also been active in the UK, German and Spanish courts in the fight against ticket touts. Typically, an internet seller is found, sued and told to reveal how they got the tickets. If they refuse to reveal their source, then Hammonds will go to the courts and, using the Harry Potter Bloomsbury tactic, an injunction is granted against ‘persons unknown’. Five injunctions have been granted against a series of people.
“The market seems to have got the message because we’re getting fewer infringements,” said a Uefa source.
When it comes to hooliganism, legally everything Uefa does flows from these ticketing arrangements. In terms of practical arrangements, everything flows from Uefa’s relationship with the Portuguese government and from its relationships with police forces around Europe.
“We’re stopping more than we’re letting through,” said a source.
It is not all Hammonds, though. On ticketing, Denton Wilde Sapte has performed a similar role for the English Football Association and has advised Uefa on the official Euro 2004 song and album.
Another of the beneficiaries of Uefa’s legal budget is David Gill, who launched his own consultancy Gill & Co following the demise of his previous employer ISL Worldwide, the sports marketing agency that went bust despite its lucrative contracts with world football governing body Fifa. Uefa has granted asylum to a number of refugees escaping the ISL wreckage. Gill advises Uefa on trademarks and counterfeiting, particularly the onsite measures to try to stop ambush marketing and counterfeiting.
Gill and Verow and his team have temporarily set up an office in Lisbon for a month.
“The contracts are all signed. We’re here now making sure that the rights get delivered to our sponsors and broadcasters and to protect them from ambush,” said a Uefa lawyer.
No doubt they will be watching a bit of football, too – even after last Thursday’s penalties.