Rule 40 guidelines to be sent to NOCs as IOC claim balance reached between athletes and commercial rights

FILE PHOTO: Construction workers and passersby are seen through Olympic rings in front of the construction site of the New National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, in Tokyo, Japan June 13, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

LAUSANNE, 30 JUNE 2019 (INSIDE THE GAMES) – Rule 40 guidelines will be sent to National Olympic Committees (NOC) to determine their implementation, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has revealed.

IOC Legal Commission chair John Coates presented a change to the Olympic Charter at the IOC Session at the swiss Tech Convention Center in Lausanne regarding Rule 40.

Rule 40.3 of the Olympic Charter warns “no competitor, team official or other team personnel who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games”.

It is seen as major reason why companies are willing to sign up as part of the lucrative The Olympic Partner (TOP) sponsorship scheme which guarantees huge exposure during Games-time.

However, it has often caused contention with athletes who claim they are unable to make money during the most important time of their career.

The charter change will amend bylaw three of Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter to read: “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.”

The rule had previously 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.”

Coates claimed the change showed the rule in a more positive light than it had previously been viewed, particularly by athletes.

Canadian doyen Richard Pound questioned whether the IOC were “rearranging deckchairs on the titanic” regarding the rule, before asking whether there had been discussions with athlete groups who have been vocal in seeking changes.

Coates responded by saying there was strong discussion with the Athletes Forum in Lausanne, an independent German Athletes group, the IOC and the competition authorities in Europe.

The Australian added that drafts of new principles will be sent to NOCs next week, following approval from the IOC.

“There is a feeling that the new drafts and principles which were approved last week are much more liberal than those which have been in the past,” Coates said.

“The drafts were run by the NOCs of Europe and seen by others.

“There has been strong discussion.

“There are concessions that have been made that we can live with, that is the view of our marketing people.”

Discussion and the implementation of Rule 40 has come into sharper focus in recent months, after the independent German athletes group succeeded in achieving a partial rollback of the ruling.

Under the new rules in Germany, the list of banned Olympic terminology is now “considerably smaller” and will apply to advertising and social media platforms.

The judgment by the German Federal Cartel Office also ruled that sporting sanctions must not be applied in any disputes, with hearings having to take place in civil courts.

The revised ruling will only apply in Germany as it stands, but the decision has been viewed as potentially paving the way for similar decisions in other nations.

The IOC has claimed the new principles represent a balance between protecting and maintaining Olympic marketing programme and athletes’ rights.

They claim this will ensure funding of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement, as well as allowing athletes to generate income in relation to their sporting career, name and likeness.

Despite this, IOC President Thomas Bach insisted that no “one size fits all” solution exists with implementation remaining down to the respective NOCs.

The German had previously called on athletes to begin negotiations with their NOCs over the rule.

“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,” Bach said.

“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.”

The NOCs will be responsible for the implementation in their respective territories, the IOC said.

The organisations are expected to take into consideration their specific applicable legal framework, after receiving the guidelines.

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