British Olympic Association & Athletes Reach Agreement Over IOC Rule 40

Photo Courtesy: Team GB

British athletes will have greater freedom to promote personal sponsors during Tokyo 2020 after an agreement was reached with the British Olympic Association (BOA) over the International Olympic Committee’s Rule 40.


The IOC amended Rule 40 last year which limited athletes from endorsing their own sponsors for the duration of the summer and winter Games, preventing them from benefiting commercially and ensuring exclusivity for IOC-approved sponsors and commercial partners.


It means the athletes will have commercial opportunities at the time of their greatest exposure although their ability to do so may well be delayed with this year’s Olympics under serious threat given the spread of the coronavirus. 


Following the relaxation of the rule, the IOC said National Olympic Committees would be responsible for its implementation.

adam gemili

Photo Courtesy: Adam Gemili Twitter


The BOA’s position on Rule 40 was challenged in November 2019 by an athletes’ group led by Adam Gemili, the 2017 4x100m relay world champion and four-time European gold medallist, and represented by legal firm Brandsmiths.


Following negotiations, the BOA has “agreed to provide a greater level of commercial freedom to athletes whilst preserving the BOA’s unique funding model, with new guidelines to be published in due course.


“The guidelines will include increased multiple opportunities for athletes to endorse – via ‘thank you’ messages – their personal sponsors during the Games period, and a move to a process of deemed consent for athletes and their sponsors in relation to Games-time marketing campaigns.


“The move to deemed consent – whereby athletes do not now have to formally submit all marketing materials for approval (but are still required to notify) – has been further supplemented by a relaxation of the ‘in-market’ period, defining the dates by which a campaign has to be visible to the public.”


Gemili, who missed out on a 200m bronze medal by 0.003secs at Rio 2016, spoke on behalf of the athletes, saying:


“As an athlete group we are pleased to have reached an agreement with the BOA that moves us into line with other Olympic federations and that provides every athlete an equal and fair chance to generate sponsorship revenue in the build-up to and during the Games. 


“I would like to say thank you to the BOA for facilitating an open dialogue and recognising and addressing the concerns of the athlete body.


“Most importantly I would like to thank my team-mates who have supported this movement both openly and behind the scenes, together we have made a real difference and demonstrated the strength of unity.”


Andy Anson, BOA chief executive officer, added:


“This agreement allows athletes to further benefit from their personal sponsors whilst balancing the needs of the BOA to raise funds to support all athletes at the Games.


“I’m grateful that Adam [Gemili] and his colleagues took the time to work with us to find a solution.


“We have always been and will continue to be supportive of athletes maximising their earning potential and having sponsors at a national or local level.”


Ben Hawes, chair of the BOA Athletes’ Commission, said:


“The BOA Athletes’ Commission is put in place by and is representative of athletes across all sports. We are glad to have supported the process to find a satisfactory position that will help all athletes access more marketing and commercial opportunities, whilst protecting the vital funding of the BOA which continues to enable Team GB athletes to have the best support at Olympic Games.


“It remains crucial that we have a strong athlete voice and seat at the table within the organisation. Athletes will then continue to have the ability to raise issues and concerns on any matter across the Olympic sporting journey.”

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