From the home of the All Blacks, New Zealand’s top-rated men’s national rugby team, Emily Jackson’s favorite sport was rugby.
But as Head of Legal for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023, the New Zealander has begun to develop her appreciation for football.
“I feel there is a real wave of emotion around her now and a real passion about women’s sports and women’s football in particular. It really made me more excited to be working in this role,” she said.
Jackson is a key part of the team that will present the Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand in July and August next year, and includes 32 teams from six continents.
The Sydney-based lawyer and her team of four lawyers have broad powers that include contract administration and enforcement of hosting documents with various stakeholders, such as stadiums and training sites. Their responsibilities also include working on the procurement of suppliers, such as temporary buildings, equipment for training sites, hotels for teams and FIFA staff, media equipment and broadcast facilities.
Previous FIFA World Cups were run by a local football commission as the country’s highest football body. But for the first time, FIFA is offering next year’s event through a direct affiliate. Jackson and her team are working to build legal procedures and develop intellectual property within the company that can be used to organize future World Cups.
“It’s an interesting situation where we’re working with one of the best and biggest sports brands in the world, but there are still some things they haven’t had before, so we’re working closely with them to build a structured model,” she said. “It’s complex and moves fast.”
Jackson also has to ensure that all partners and suppliers meet FIFA’s standards and requirements for the tournament – like the stadium, for example. The lawyers also negotiate any deviation from these requirements and act as a bridge between FIFA and stakeholders.
Indeed, stakeholder management is one of the main challenges of this role. “It’s understanding what the drivers are motivated by a particular interest in and making sure that it is communicated in the right way to FIFA and that the right solution is in place,” she said. “We have to keep working with these people and maintaining relationships.”
Jackson began her career as a commercial and corporate intellectual attorney in New Zealand before joining the Westpac Number, Marketing and Sponsorship team. Exposure to sports sponsorship from this role led to a three-year stint in Cricket Australia before she was sought out to join Expo 2020 in Dubai.
A year ago, she joined the 2023 Women’s World Cup, inspired by her sporting and event experience.
Jackson says that working as a general counsel in sports isn’t much different than a GC’s role elsewhere — “only with a little more fascinating subject matter.” The GC has to handle company obligations, procurement processes and compliance.
But there are sometimes very unique and specific areas of work that do not appear in other organizations, such as sponsoring or enforcing sports regulations. In Cricket Australia I was involved in negotiations with the players’ union, which was a lot like dealing with any other type of trade union except that this union represents some of Australia’s most famous and admired athletes.
Her role with FIFA will end in December 2023, having faltered at the World Cup after next year’s tournament.
Jackson said that working as an internal consultant for a specific event with a specific end date for the role isn’t for everyone, but it does suit a certain type of personality.
“For me, the event or fixed-term contract space is very attractive because there is a natural narrative end to your role and then you can move on to the next opportunity and maybe the next growth area,” she said.
She also loves the fact that working to a deadline means there is no “cyclical distress” experienced in long-term roles or long-term organizations.
“It’s a short project. you come on. You have a building phase and kind of anticipation and excitement builds. You do something great. “You wrap up and then move on to something else,” she said.
Jackson says young lawyers should consider working at sporting events and not be deterred by fixed-term contracts. The work allows exposure to interesting and wide-ranging work and allows lawyers to develop skills they can acquire for other employers, she says.
“It’s also really fun,” she added. “It’s really cool in the event time to be on the ground in the matches, to see what the teams are going through, and to see the emotions,” she said.
Jackson, who studied law at the University of Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand, is a diplomat when asked which team she will support next year.
“I will support whoever plays as I am most excited about. I will not have an official position,” she said.