UK Athletes Sports Image Rights Dispute

By Blackshaw, Ian | The International Sports Law Journal, January-April 2009 | Go to article overview

UK Athletes Sports Image Rights Dispute


Blackshaw, Ian, The International Sports Law Journal


Top British athletes are to meet with UK Sport and the British Olympic Association (BOA) to try to settle a potential dispute over the use of their valuable image rights. UK Sport wants athletes to sign a contract to be part of a sponsorship scheme to cover a [pounds sterling]50m shortfall in the government's [pounds sterling]300m funding package in connection with the London Olympics in 2012.

The scheme is designed to bring in private investment and would require athletes to promote its commercial partners. But athletes are concerned that the deal could affect their exploitation of their individual image rights with other companies and firms.

UK Sport has responded to these concerns by claiming that any work required will not compromise private deals; and are hoping to discuss the matter with the athletes and their agents, as soon as possible, to put a stop to any potential row breaking out between them. all 1,400 publicly-funded athletes must agree to the terms to qualify for UK Lottery Grants, but there are believed to be around 80 athletes who are opposing the proposed scheme.

A UK Sport representative has remarked in general:

"The majority of athletes have not had any questions over this, and we are committed to finding resolution with those that have."

Currently, athletes, who receive Lottery Funding, are required to give up three days each year for promotional activities, and UK Sport insists that the new arrangements will not significantly increase those demands.

"The three days we are asking for is on the back of the very substantial public funding being invested in the athletes already, and we would not want to have to consider that investment," he added.

BBC sports news correspondent, Gordon Farquhar, has explained that the deal has been put together to try to fill a shortfall in funding ahead of London 2012 and adds:

"The Team 2012 initiative is designed to bring in private sector investment to plug a [pounds sterling]50m funding hole. It's hoped that it will develop into a significant funding stream in the future for elite sport."

But private companies are concerned that the new sponsorship scheme could devalue their deals with the individual athletes that they are sponsoring by putting conflicting pressures on them. In other words, diluting their valuable image rights for which not insignificant sponsorship fees have been paid.

UK Sport hopes that the situation can be clarified and any misunderstandings ironed out in an explanatory meeting with the athletes concerned. …

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