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Athlete body calls on IOC to make Rule 40 relaxation mandatory

(Kai Pfaffenbach - Pool/Getty Images)

Global Athlete, the body that exists to give athletes a stronger voice in sport, has called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to mandate all National Olympic Committees (NOCs) to relax their Rule 40 marketing guidelines.

The IOC’s Rule 40 clause limits how athletes work with their personal sponsors during the Olympics and Paralympics and is designed to protect the exclusivity of the Olympic Partner Programme (TOP). But the IOC has been forced to loosen the restriction after the German cartel office deemed the clause was ‘too-far reaching’ and tantamount to ‘abusive conduct’. Following the ruling, the IOC devolved responsibility for implementing Rule 40 to each of the NOCs their respective territories at the IOC Session in June.

Global Athlete welcomed the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s (USOPC) decision to update its Rule 40 guidance for athletes yesterday, giving US athletes greater freedom to associate with their sponsors during the Olympics. But it called on the IOC to ensure the regulation was applied uniformly across NOCs.

“This is a positive led initiative by the USOPC Athlete Advisory Council to unlock their earning potential but more needs to be done,” said Noah Hoffman, an American member of Global Athlete, in a statement.

“It is time for the International Olympic Committee and the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) to mandate all National Olympic Committees to relax Rule 40 to ensure a level playing field.”

SportBusiness contacted the IOC for a response to Global Athlete’s statement. A spokesperson said the IOC had already provided a set of ‘guiding principles’ for the implementation of Rule 40 that were approved at the IOC Session in June.

“The principles seek to clarify the commercial opportunities during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and put athletes and other Olympic Games participants in a better position to work with their personal sponsors in a manner consistent with their rights and responsibilities under the Athletes’ Rights and Responsibilities Declaration and the Olympic Charter,” the spokesperson said.

“The new principles represent a balance between, on the one hand, protecting and maintaining Olympic marketing programmes to ensure funding of the Olympic Games and the Olympic movement, and, on the other hand, the individual athlete’s rights to generate income in relation to their sporting career, name and likeness. The USOPC, like all National Olympic Committees, is responsible for implementation in their respective territory, taking into consideration their specific legal and contractual framework.”

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