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ESG now key for major sporting events
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11 Aug 2021 / corporate law Print

ESG now key for major sporting events

Lawyers at William Fry say that environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria are becoming increasingly important in evaluating bids to host sporting or other large events.

In a note on the firm’s website, Patrick Murphy and Karolina Rozhnova explain that ESG criteria are non-financial measurements that allow individuals, bodies and entities to make decisions based on an event’s impact on others, and on the environment.

They say that these criteria will continue to increase in importance for business assessments and crucial decision-making, such as awarding contracts or tendering for services.

UEFA requirements

They refer to the recent announcement from European football’s governing body, UEFA, that Dublin will host the 2024 Europa League final.

The city had missed out on being one of the host cities for Euro 2020, as it could not provide UEFA with assurances that spectators would be allowed at the games.

The William Fry lawyers say that bid requirements for UEFA events include social and governance criteria.

Bidders for Euro 2020 matches were required to provide “a sustainable event management system, accessible and tobacco-free stadiums, free local public transportation, healthy food options, implement inclusion measures such as audio-commentary for partially-sighted and blind persons, and use a minimum of 50% of energy from renewable sources”.

UEFA found that the FAI had developed these criteria to a “high standard” in its 2020 bid.

Human rights

The William Fry lawyers point out, however, that the criteria set out for Euro 2024 represented a “notable shift”, with the inclusion of “political, social and environmental aspects" as one part of the tournament organisation.

Bidders had to "respect, protect and fulfil human rights and fundamental freedoms, with a duty to respect human, labour and child rights" throughout the bidding process until the conclusion of the tournament.

The note points to a recent example of ESG criteria being applied, when UEFA found that the Portuguese FA’s bid to host the 2020 Champions League final failed, due to a lack of free public transport, and a low number of seats for wheelchair-users. (The 2020 final was ultimately switched to Portugal due to COVID-19 restrictions.)

The William Fry lawyers say that football is not alone in putting the onus on prospective host nations to consider sustainability and social responsibility as part of their bid. The organising committee for the 2023 Rugby World Cup has claimed that the event in France will be "the most socially responsible and sustainable rugby event ever".

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