Global Athlete backs British talent over BOA dispute

19 Nov 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement which promotes the interests of elite competitors, has said it supports British athletes’ legal action against the BOA over recent changes in its enforcement of the IOC’s Rule 40.

The rule, which greatly restricts how brands and sponsors interact with their talent in the period around the Olympic Games, was challenged in a German court earlier this year before the German and US Olympic Federations relaxed their enforcement of the rules.

The BOA has also since relaxed its Rule 40 provisions to allow sponsors to post congratulations to social media and allow athletes to give their thanks to a sponsor during the games. Under the current guidelines, that will be permissible so long as the message doesn’t contain Olympic branding, medals or the Team GB kit. 

A group of British athletes led by Adam Gemili say the changes don’t go far enough and will challenge the ruling in court, hoping to be able to use terms such as “medal, gold, silver or bronze” when thanking sponsors. 

They will have the backing of Global Athlete, whose Director General, Rob Koehler, said: “The BOA has always prided itself on being an athlete-centric organisation, however the recent tweaks it made to Rule 40 guidelines clearly show that it is failing to put its constituents - the athletes - first.

“The stance of the BOA indicates that National Olympic Committees are using the relaxation of Rule 40 as nothing more than a public relations campaign without any substantive change. The BOA statement is a smoke and mirrors exercise; it’s another example of sports leaders trying to win the support of public opinion rather than winning the support and buy-in from their athletes. The BOA model continues to line the pockets of administrators while leaving their number one stakeholders, the athletes, fighting for basic survival.

“Rule 40 is an analogue rule in a digital age – it symbolises the prevailing athlete view that the Olympic movement is antiquated and out of touch. It’s time the rule is abolished; it’s time to drag the Olympic movement into the 21st century.” 

A BOA spokesperson said: “The British Olympic Association (BOA) is an entirely independently funded organisation, which is not in receipt of public funding. The BOA's main purpose is to take athletes to the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic events across the world and has to raise its own funding to achieve this. As such, the BOA’s funding model is different to many other National Olympic Committees, who receive direct government funding.
“Rule 40 is an IOC rule which we apply in our territory and is the protection that allows us to fund such activities for all athletes, regardless of their sport, status or personal sponsors.
“We acknowledge the statement made by a number of athletes today and will continue our ongoing dialogue with our Athletes’ Commission and the wider athlete community in relation to this important matter. 
“In the meantime we will continue to work hard to raise the vital funds needed to enable us to fulfil our ambitions for the team going to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.”