BERLIN (Reuters) - German athletes and their sponsors will have more possibilities to advertise during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics following an easing of restrictions, the German Cartel Office said on Wednesday.
Athletes competing at the Olympic Games have been severely restricted in commercial advertising and promotion activities in the weeks running up to the Olympics as well as during the Games.
The International Olympic Committee charter rule 40 states that "except as permitted by the IOC Executive Board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games."
This was long a major problem for the vast majority of athletes who depend heavily on their visibility during the Olympics every four years to generate sponsorship and advertising revenues.
"We ensure that the advertising opportunities of German athletes and their sponsors during the Olympic Games, which the DOSB (German Olympic Sports Confederation) and IOC significantly restricted in the past, are extended," Andreas Mundt, President of the Cartel Office, said in a statement following the completion of administrative proceedings that started in 2017.
He said sports organisations pursuing economic activities were also subject to competition law.
"While athletes are the key figures of Olympic Games, they cannot benefit directly from the IOC's high advertising revenue generated with official Olympic sponsors. However, as the games mark the height of their sporting careers, self-marketing during the games plays a very important role."
Among the changes are that advertising activities planned for during the Olympics no longer need to be cleared by the DOSB beforehand.
They can also include some terms such as "medal, gold, silver, bronze, winter or summer games."
It is now also permitted to use certain photographs taken during the Olympic Games, while athletes are allowed to use social media more freely during the Olympic Games.
"With its decision, the German Cartel Office recognised that there are legitimate reasons for restricting individual athletes' advertising opportunities in order to ensure the ongoing organisation of the Olympic Games," the IOC said in a statement.
"At the same time, any implementation of Rule 40 at the national level necessarily has to take all applicable laws and regulations as well as pertinent case law into account, in this instance, particular German case law."
While these changes apply only for German athletes it is expected that more athletes from other countries, especially from the European Union, will demand similar changes.
"We are happy to have clarity for everyone involved," said DOSB president Alfons Hoermann. "It is a fair decision for both sides. On the one hand athletes profit from the widening of their personal rights, on the other hand the finance model of the Olympics which is crucial for the entire sport is secured."
The IOC, whose Rule 40 has been aimed at protecting the rights of its own Olympic sponsors, had already somewhat eased restrictions at the 2018 Pyeongchang winter Olympics after the Cartel Office had launched its administrative proceedings for "suspected abuse of a dominant position against the DOSB and the IOC."
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty and Christian Radnedge)