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BOA set to further relax Rule 40 regulations following athlete legal challenge

The Olympic rings displayed in front of the New National Stadium, the main venue for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. (Photo by Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images)

The British Olympic Association looks set to further relax its Rule 40 marketing guidelines after a legal challenge by prominent British athletes.

Team GB’s athletes will now be able to thank personal sponsors on up to a maximum of three occasions across the Olympic games, instead of this being allowed just once as was the case under its previous guidelines, according to a report in The Times.

Rule 40 is an International Olympic Committee measure designed to protect the exclusivity of its major partners, placing restrictions on personal sponsorship activation for athletes competing at the Olympic games.

The IOC was prompted to relax the regulation after Germany’s competition regulator deemed it to be overly strict and too far-reaching. The organisation then gave individual national Olympic committee’s greater agency in how the rule was applied.

British athletes, including the likes of Katrina Johnson-Thompson and Mo Farah, were disappointed with the BOA’s October 2019 revision to its Rule 40 guidelines, arguing that allowing just one generic thank you message to sponsors during the Olympic games was insufficient. This resulted in a legal complaint being filed against the BOA.

There was also discontent regarding the timescale under which athletes had to apply for consent for marketing activities. Most athletes won’t know whether they have been selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics until the end of June, yet they were required to submit applications three months before the games, which take place between 24 July and 9 August in Tokyo. Reports now indicate that the BOA is willing to relax this period from three months down to two.

In the last year, national federations in Germany, USA and Australia have all relaxed their Rule 40 restrictions. However, a recent survey of Olympic and Paralympic athletes by athlete representation body Global Athlete revealed 80 per cent of respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that they should be allowed to control their marketing rights at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and other national competitions.