White & Case gets involved in Homeless World Cup 2004

Adding to the current international football fever pitch brought about by the 2004 European Championship, White & Case has teamed up with the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) and Scottish firm Shepperd + Wedderburn to kickstart the Homeless World Cup 2004, to be held in Gothenburg, Sweden, in September.

The 2003 Cup, involving teams of homeless people from 18 countries, was touted as a hugely successful event for both the players and for coverage of homelessness in the media. Last year, Real Madrid and Manchester United provided coaches for their national teams, while money raised during the Cup went to funding sporting activities among the homeless.

White & Case IP counsel John Runeckles has been running the project in London since late 2003. He says: “Last year’s World Cup was life-changing for the people who took part. A couple of homeless players have become semi-professional as a result, while the US goalkeeper who had been savagely beaten in New York prior to competing went on to become one of the heroes of the Cup.”

White & Case was initially approached by INSP to help following two American film companies expressing interest in a fictionalised film on the 2003 Cup. Runeckles says: “The legal issues involved the film companies getting the rights to the Cup and how agreements could be entered into for optioning those rights, as well as general legal advice on contracts, sponsorship and merchandising on the 2004 event.”
The firm was also instrumental in setting up the legal frameworks and drafting the contract for the international organising committee. Shepperd + Wedderburn has been involved in setting up a company in Scotland to run the annual World Cup.

Runeckles says: “Preparations are currently underway for at least 30 teams to take part in Gothenburg in September. There’s extensive interest from the media and sponsors. UEFA is a sponsor and a number of film companies have expressed interest in acquiring the film rights. Many high-profile clubs will be involved.”

The firm’s multijurisdictional involvement has seen lawyers from Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Sweden and the US advise on local sponsorship and immigration issues. “At local levels, our work has involved getting money together for airfares and then negotiating immigration issues,” says Runeckles. “The players have to be careful leaving their respective countries as many do not have passports.
This year there is a shortfall between the number of teams who are lined up to go and those who can actually legally go.”

The World Cup project is the first time Runeckles has been involved in pro bono work. “The experience has been great, but the difficult thing is to convince myself and others that the same level of service should be given to this project as any other paid work,” he says.
“Sometimes, work like this can go to the bottom of the pile.”