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Sports Law Team Publishes LexisNexis Article on Compensation for Olympic Athletes and Rule 40

Phoenix, Ariz. (May 30, 2024) - Phoenix Partner and Chair of Lewis Brisbois' Collegiate & Professional Sports Law Practice Gregg E. Clifton and New York Associate Christina Stylianou published an article in the April 2024 issue of the LexisNexis Sports Law Bulletin titled, "Rule 40 Sponsorships and Pay-For-Play.” The article discusses changes to the policies of and economics relating to the Olympic Games (Games), including compensation for athletes and the applicability of Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter, which governs the way that athletes and their sponsors may use their name and image in advertising.

The authors begin the article by observing that in recent years, “the introduction of media and technology, and, perhaps most importantly, the business of sports, whether associated with the Olympics or other organizations or events globally, has exploded, sharply challenging the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) original policy on amateurism and restrictions on athlete compensation and forcing it to unravel.” Nevertheless, they note, athletes have never been paid specifically for their participation in the Games, until now.

The article goes on to describe that World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, recently announced that it would pay $50,000 to gold medalists at the Games this summer. The authors observe, “It remains to be seen whether or not this move will trigger other sports to enter the economic fray with similar prize offerings, what kinds of prize offerings might be proposed, and whether this might disrupt present methods of athlete compensation.” Mr. Clifton and Ms. Stylianou predict, however, that “the more relevant and, indeed, more lucrative revenue stream will likely remain sponsorship and endorsement money.”

Finally, the authors describe the history of Rule 40, which was created during the 1990s and prohibited Olympic athletes from engaging with their sponsors during a blackout period surrounding the duration of the Games. The original purpose of the rule was to shield the Games from brand advertisement that sought to benefit from the “cachet of the Games” without officially sponsoring them. The authors explain that the IOC has since updated Rule 40 to provide that athletes may work with their sponsors during the Games, but must abide by certain restrictions, which the article outlines. 

The authors close the article by noting, “It will be interesting to see Rule 40 in play at the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and if the IOC will propose further amendments ahead of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. For now, the Rule remains clear on what athletes can and cannot do and how they may interact with brands and sponsors.”

Mr. Clifton is chair of Lewis Brisbois' Collegiate & Professional Sports Law Practice, and a member of the firm’s Entertainment, Media & Sports and Labor & Employment Practices. He has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world and has advised numerous professional franchises on a range of labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. Mr. Clifton is also an editor of The Official Review, Lewis Brisbois’ sports law blog.   

Ms. Stylianou is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ Collegiate & Professional Sports Law, General Liability, and Entertainment, Media, & Sports Practices. She regularly represents clients in a variety of professional and collegiate sports and entertainment matters, including contract-related matters, intellectual property matters, workers’ compensation and injury, Title IX issues, among others. In addition, Ms. Stylianoufrequently writes for Lewis Brisbois’s sports law blog, The Official Review, and also handles New York State labor law as well as general liability matters.    

Read the full LexisNexis article here (subscription may be required).

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