IOC relaxes Rule 40 ahead of Tokyo 2020

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has moved to further amend its controversial rules governing athletes’ endorsement deals when competing at the Olympic Games.

The IOC Session has seen the organisation alter bye-law three of Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter. Rule 40 sets out the guidelines that competitors, team officials or other team personnel must agree to before participating in the Olympics, but 40.3 has come under scrutiny in recent months amid concerns over athlete rights.

In April, IOC president Thomas Bach resisted further calls to change Rule 40.3 and urged athletes to negotiate directly with their National Olympic Committees (NOCs) if they want to earn marketing freedoms during the Olympic Games.

Rule 40.3, which limits athletes from working with their own sponsors for the duration of the two weeks of the summer and winter Games, is designed to protect the exclusivity of the IOC’s ‘TOP’ partnership programme. However, a ruling by the German Cartel Office in February deemed that its restrictions were ‘too far-reaching’ and lifted the obligation on German athletes to clear their personal marketing activities with the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) ahead of the Olympics.

Bach previously said that the IOC would not extend the concessions won by German athletes to athletes worldwide, but the organisation has now softened its stance. The IOC 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 right to generate income in relation to their sporting career, name and likeness.

The IOC said NOCs will be responsible for the implementation in their respective territory, while taking into consideration their specific applicable legal framework, and will receive the guidelines soon.

The IOC Session decided to amend Rule 40.3 of the Olympic Charter as follows: “Competitors, team officials and other team personnel who participate in the Olympic Games may allow their person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games in accordance with the principles determined by the IOC Executive Board.”

Previously, the rule had read: “Except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, team official or other term personnel who participate in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.”

Commenting on the changes, Bach said yesterday (Wednesday): “The amendments of the Olympic Charter…show a clear demonstration of the new approach of the IOC, which is based on openness and flexibility, without infringing the existing agreements.

“We want to look at this in a positive way and we want to be as liberal as possible without affecting the sponsorships contracts of the NOCs. We are protecting them and that’s why we don’t have a one size fits all solution. I don’t think such a solution exists.”