Top British athletes threaten action on sponsor restrictions

LONDON (AP) — Mo Farah and other leading British athletes have submitted a letter to the British Olympic Association, urging a relaxation on what they say are “unlawful” sponsorship regulations placed on them ahead of next year’s Tokyo Games.

The Olympic Charter’s Rule 40 prevents athletes promoting their own sponsors during the games to protect the value of the official sponsor deals made by the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC this year said national Olympic bodies could oversee new athlete agreements after a German federal agency ruled in February that Rule 40 was too restrictive and anti-competitive.

The British athletes taking a stand against the BOA say they are “extremely disappointed” that the body “had done comparatively very little to relax” regulations and that a fair balance had not yet been struck between the rights of athletes and the commercial rights of the BOA. They say they are unable to “maximize their economic worth” and want to “exploit their rights at the most valuable time of their careers.”

Joining Farah in threatening legal action, through law firm Brandsmiths, is world heptathlon champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson and sprinter Adam Gemili.

They are demanding seven changes — including the ability to use social media more freely during the games and permit messages of congratulation — are made within the next three weeks, “failing which they reserve the right to bring proceedings against the BOA” or send a complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority.

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