For the past few days there has been speculation that a group of 20 British athletes intends to sue the British Olympic Association (BOA) over what they deem to be controversial sponsorship laws.Among the athletes in the group are Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Adam Gemili, and Mo Farah.
The legal action in question pertains to Rule 40, a regulation put in place by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which protects official sponsors during the Olympics. According to rule 40 athletes must have limited interaction with personal sponsors during the four-week period before, during and after the Olympic Games. The BOA has its own partners and these partners are usually competitors of athletes’ personal sponsors. The BOA’s sponsors provide funding that the BOA uses for travel, kit, accommodation and other support for Team GB athletes during the Olympics.According to the BOA, they would not be able to provide the quality of support that they do without the funding from their official sponsors. However, the athletes state that this rule restrains them financially and they have no choice but to take legal action due to the BOA’s unwillingness to negotiate this rule.
The legal action is aimed at forcing the British Olympic Association to show some flexibility regarding rule 40. This came after the BOA refused to allow athletes to market themselves freely during the Tokyo Games in 2020.
Previously athletes were not allowed to use their image, performance or name in any advertisement in or around the Olympics. However, after the rule was challenged in a German court this year, the IOC enabled countries to decide for themselves how flexible they want to be regarding the rule.While some of the other nations allow athletes more control over personal sponsors and marketing during the Games, the BOA applies this rule with an iron fist. British athletes are only allowed to give a generic thank you message to each sponsor on social media during the duration of the Games. The thank you message should also not contain any Olympic branding, like a medal, references or a Team GB kit. The athletes believe that this is of no value to potential sponsors.
The group is not asking for any prize money, simply the opportunity to market themselves to potential sponsors. While they might be the only athletes who put their name on paper (so far), they believe that the entire British team –winter, summer, Olympic and Paralympic – will stand behind them.
Most Olympic athletes only get the chance to shine once every four years, and they would love to get the opportunity to recognise the sponsors that helped them get there.
In a letter to the BOA, athletes asked that 8 changes be made to the current rules. One of these changes include allowing athletes to use words like medal, silver, gold, bronze, summer or winter games in advertising for the Tokyo 2020 Games. They also want to be able to show more appreciation to non-Olympic brands that support them.