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I’m not an attorney but I talk to what you can call “contest lawyers” every week and have slogged through more “official rules” than one person should in a lifetime…it’s mah job.

But is that part of what we do becoming irrelevant?   Believe me, nothing would make me happier…and by the actions of some mainstream brands you’d think that some legal aspect of contests just don’t matter any more, like abiding the laws in each country where you run your program.  We’ve been doing international contests since 2007, and I’ve engaged lawyers in over ten countries, collaborating to create sets of rules that thoroughly protect our clients.  That’s just good business.  But is it a waste of money?

Consider FIFA, currently hosting the ultimate international competition.  FIFA is running a fan photo contest at the World Cup, obviously in South Africa.  They are a Swiss organization.  Meeting contest law in each of the 24 competing countries would be technically and financially onerous.  At around $5-$8k per country and maybe more, the legal bill alone would run upwards of $200K, and in my experience the official rules would become so long and confusing that only about 1/4 of the countries could actually participate, and the contest itself would become annoyingly complex (to the participant).

So what does FIFA do, bag the program?  No…contests are too valuable and FIFA needs to leverage this cup’s popularity to start building an international database and engaging fans.  So they do what any good footballer would do…they punt!  They pull a George Costanza and do the *opposite* of complying with international contest law by putting the onus of compliance on the participant…YOU.

FIFA’s official rules read as follows:

3. Each entrant must ensure that his or her participation in the Contest is lawful in accordance with the laws of Switzerland and of the country of which he or she is a citizen and/or resides, and/or happens to be at the time the entry is made. FIFA shall not be taken to make any representations, express or implied, as to the lawfulness of any entrant’s participation, or as to any other aspect of the Contest.

In other words, if you’re Ghanian and in South Africa enjoying the World Cup, you can enter the contest so long as you understand Swiss contest law and/or (your choice!) either Ghanian or SAfrican contest law.  Of course first you have to learn the language(s).  FIFA is saying that they ain’t sayin’ it’s legal, but as long as you have “ensured” that it is in those two or three countries, go ahead and enter.

Redunkulous.  When you write rules like this you’re basically throwing up your hands and saying “this isn’t going to happen unless we punt”.  And you’re putting a ridiculous onus on your customers.

But you’re also saying, “the show must go on”…which says volumes about the promotional value of contests, that a leading Swiss cultural organization goes forward with such obvious flaws in its program.  Maybe they should have punted before this even started, but there was too much to be gained.