Medalling Lawyers

September 21, 2012

The Olympics are over. What legal legacy will they leave behind?

Photo: Shutterstock


With the Olympics and the summer holiday season now well and truly over, there really is no excuse left for shirking the day job.

But contrary to the popular belief that law firms shut down for the month of August, it seems that some of you lawyers ditched the promise of the beach this year and instead elbowed your way into this summer’s sporting act.

Such prodigious efforts in the line of duty are likely to be rewarded, too. For in the endless debate over the Olympic legacy, one thing is certain: law and sport will become ever closer (if strange) bedfellows. And there will be obvious advantages for the career prospects of UK sports lawyers.

‘Lawyers manage to get in on every area of life, and sport is certainly no exception,’ was the rather sinister-sounding comment made by Lord Phillips, President of the Supreme Court, at the launch of the Olympic inspired exhibition Playing by the Rules – Sport and the Law.

The exhibition, which will close on 28 September, looks at the ways law has supported the growing professionalism of sport, including issues such as ethics, anti-doping, commercialisation, branding and the role of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

So if you think sport has become too money and business-oriented, then you can probably apportion at least part of the blame to the lawyers.

Behind the scenes

In fact, look behind the 2012 Olympic scenes and you’ll find lawyers everywhere.

From considerable contract negotiations in the lead up to the Games, to representing sponsors and athletes throughout the proceedings, there were more lawyers than you could shake an Olympic hockey stick at.

When the International Boxing Association changed its mind over the winner of a bout between India’s boxer Vikas Krishan and his American opponent Errol Spence, it was the lawyers in the CAS that settled the dispute by rejecting India’s appeal. They, too, dismissed the Swedish Olympic team’s appeal to declare the women’s triathlon a dead heat, including its call to upgrade Lisa Norden’s silver medal to gold.

One wonders what happened before the days when lawyers were around to approve the final decision of the judges.

Lawyers on the run

When the Olympic lawyers weren’t in court, they were spotted out and about. Lawyers were seen checking out event venues, as they battled to protect sponsors against any advertising infringement for the duration of the Games.

So keen were they to do their job well that a couple of lawyers from LOCOG were even reported to have donned their running shoes to shadow ‘every step’ of the Olympic torch on its way to London. Their determination to prevent any ambush marketing would be admirable if it wasn’t so damned silly.

At the launch of the Olympic law exhibition, a veteran lawyer asked why thousands of lawyers were now needed to protect the Games, when only one was needed back at the London Games of 1948.

Well, perhaps it is just that world has changed. Perhaps it’s scarcely-needed proof that lawyers know how to make the most of a burgeoning opportunity. But whatever the cause, Team Lawyer is undoubtedly here to stay.

And for UK sports lawyers that can only be good news. For those lawyers that have been involved in the Olympics, the Games will have been a great opportunity to develop experience on a global event, prove their credentials and get ahead.

For the sports world of today is big business, which means a big legal team, running shoes included. CP

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