News 27th April 2020

IOC should collectively bargain compensation with Olympic athletes

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) should collectively bargain with Olympic athletes in order to appropriately compensate them for participation in the Olympic Games, recommends a Report (PDF below) produced by Global Athlete, Ryerson University and the Ted Rogers School of Management. The Report outlines that Olympic athletes receive 4.1% of their funding through the Olympic Movement, with the IOC providing 0.5% of its revenue to Olympic athletes. These figures, however, are disputed by the IOC.

The Report highlights that the IOC’s revenue ranks it just behind the seven biggest sporting leagues in the world. In the top five leagues by revenue, athletes receive between 40% and 60% of the revenue generated. Yet although the IOC says it spends 90% of its revenue on the Olympic Games, just 0.5% of that goes to the competing athletes, argues the Report. 

It outlines that this situation has allowed the IOC to increase its bank balance by an average of US$140 million each year. If this money were redistributed to Olympic athletes, then the average $5,000 received annually by Olympic athletes during the 2013-16 IOC quadrennial would increase to $11,000, argues the Report.

It also highlights that as the IOC receives no grants or donations, this situation puts its non-profit status at risk. ‘In order to maintain its non-profit status in many countries, the IOC must maintain that its sole purpose is to, “foster international amateur sports”, as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of the United States of America (Internal Revenue Service, 2019, p. 4)’, reads the Report.

The Report highlights that the IOC is the only privately funded organisation to feature in the NonProfit Times Top 100 Report of the world’s largest charities. Over the 2013-2019 quadrennial, 73.5% of its revenue is generated by sales of broadcasting rights to the Olympic Games; and 17.7% though The Olympic Partner (TOP) Programme. 

Inequity

Over half of this $4.2 billion revenue from the sale of broadcasting rights is generated in the Americas, the Report outlines. It suggests that this ‘may explain’ why the US Olympic Committee (USOC) received £404 million of $1.1 billion (36.7%) allocated to the 206 Nacional Olympic Committees (NOCs) over the course of the quadrennial. This left $740 million for the other 205 NOCs – an average of $3.6 million. 

Questions are also asked about why the IOC spends so much money internalising sponsorship and TV broadcasting functions under the Olympic Foundation (OF), when these functions could be outsourced and the savings redirected to athletes. Likewise, questions are also asked about why Olympic Solidarity programmes account for $406 million during the quadrennial, but only $33 million of this (8.2%) went directly to athletes through scholarships.

The Report also mentions a clash between the non-profit status of the IOC and professional sport, which means that organisations such as the international federation of football associations (FIFA) cannot compensate footballers who participate in the Olympics. It argues that this is only partially offset by a relaxation of Rule 40 of the Olympic Charter, which restricts athletes from advertising during the Olympics, protecting the IOC’s TOP advertising partners from competition.

Wrong

‘The claim that the IOC only spends 4.1% of its revenue on the athletes is just plain wrong’, wrote an IOC spokesperson in a memo to NOCs. ‘It redistributes 90% of all its income generated from the Olympic Games to assist athletes and develop sport worldwide. As a result, every day the IOC distributes about $3.4 million around the world to help athletes and sporting organisations’. 

The memo points out that the IOC supports the international federations, the NOCs as well as the staging of the Games. It also pointed out that the IOC funds 50% of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) budget, matching contributions by governments. ‘Without all of this funding there would simply be no Olympic Games and no competitions for international athletes’, it argues. Global Athlete said it had yet to receive a response to its Report from the IOC.

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