BOA responds to athletes' legal challenge

11 Dec 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

The British Olympic Association (BOA) has responded to Team GB athletes, led by Adam Gemili and Laura Muir, who have launched a legal challenge against the organisation over its stance on the IOC’s Rule 40 regulations.

In October, the BOA published its Rule 40 guidelines, relaxing some of the restrictions on what athletes and their partner brands who are not Official Sponsors of the Olympic Games or Team GB can say during the Games window. 

In November, however, a number of Team GB athletes took legal advice to challenge the BOA’s interpretation of the rules, arguing that they don’t go far enough in allowing athletes to take advantage of the Games to boost their commercial earnings. Those athletes were backed in their claim by international athlete-led organisation Global Athlete.

Now, the BOA has ‘formally responded’ to the legal challenge and says it is ‘dismayed’ by the legal tactics used.

A BOA spokesperson said: “The BOA can confirm it has formally responded to the recent legal challenge brought against the BOA’s interpretation of the IOC’s Rule 40 in the UK.

“Since we learned of the legal challenge – through the media – we have proactively sought to understand the athletes’ concerns and who, in fact, we are negotiating with – athletes, agents or commercial organisations.

“Last week we had a positive meeting with representatives of the athletes who have challenged Rule 40 and we continue to impress upon all concerned that we are open to dialogue and reaching a positive outcome that balances the desire for individual athletes to maximise their personal sponsorship revenues with the need to preserve and enhance a system that has collectively sold rights for the benefit of the whole of Team GB, including smaller sports and less high-profile athletes.

“However, despite those encouraging conversations, we have been dismayed by the ongoing legal tactics being conducted in the background, which in no way reflects the spirit of the discussions held.

“Therefore we have been forced to respond fully and robustly to the legal challenge and have done so in the best interests of all of the athletes we serve.”

The BOA’s new guidelines will permit athletes and brands to send ‘good luck’ and ‘thank you’ messages, but will not be able to reference the Olympic Games or other Tokyo 2020 IP - such as an image of a medal they might have won - in any social media posts.

Brands, meanwhile, will only be permitted to promote their sponsorships outside of the Games window (from 14th July to 11th August 2020) unless it is part of a wider marketing campaign which has been running for at least 90 days before the 14th July 2020.