As the Official Legal Advisers to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, our cross-practice team advised on a wide range of complex legal projects to help bring the historic sporting event to life. In this video, partner Robert Breedon discusses the public procurement elements vital to the delivery of the Games.


Robert Breedon: Being the Official Legal Advisers to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games has been a great opportunity for Gowling WLG to showcase its talents as a full service law firm and in particular in relation to commercial contracts and public procurement law.

So the Games is being organised by the Organising Committee, or the OC as we call them, and the OC is a non-departmental public body.

And as such it falls within the definition of a contracting authority under both EU and UK public procurement law, and therefore it falls within the scope of the public procurement regulations.

So this means that when the Organising Committee is entering into contracts for either goods, services or works, it needs to advertise those opportunities and then run a fair and transparent process.

That process is designed to identify the bidder that is best placed to meet the OC's requirements, both in terms of quality and also price, but the regulations come with certain constraints and limitations, including time limits in which bidders are allowed to respond.

The type of questions that you can ask of bidders and how you can evaluate bids fairly. The application of the public procurement rules is considered by some to be unduly burdensome, even bureaucratic. But really it's the best way for the OC to be able to demonstrate that it's using public money and getting the best value for money.

So the first challenge is the scale of the task, because there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of contracts that need to be entered into for the running of the Games. And in the case of the OC, of course they had less time than normal since Birmingham had stepped in at relatively short notice, following confirmation that Durban were not hosting the 2022 Games.

There were other challenges too, not least of this is running a whole series of procurements during a global pandemic. This was heightened actually following the postponement of the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020, leading to some speculation that the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games might in turn be postponed. And of course that creates great uncertainty for both the OC and its planning, but also for bidders who are looking to provide the goods and services involved.

Overall, the application of public procurement law did bring an added layer of complexity, which was not experienced by previous organising committees.

But the application of those same rules brought an important discipline and rigour to the process, which gives the public increased confidence that public funds are driving value for money. And I'd say that the legal and procurement teams of the OC, they really rose to the task in dealing with public procurement law and indeed in addressing all of the other challenges that were thrown at them.

So looking back, I think it's been a great experience for the Commercial and the Procurement team to be involved in something which has had some real additional complexities to it and to have worked in the context of what is frankly a once in a lifetime opportunity to support an event such as the Games.

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