13th March 2019

One common theme stands out: Athletes want an equal say with administrators on how sport is run and how it looks in the future

Dear Athletes,

It has been one month since Global Athlete launched. The past month has resulted in a lot of listening and a lot of athlete engagement. While we are only just beginning our journey, one common theme has stood out: athletes want an equal say with administrators on how sport is run and how it looks in the future. That includes improved athlete rights and compensation.

The last four weeks have highlighted the need for change and confirmed to us that change is indeed coming. Here’s some highlights…

German Athletes

Athleten Deutschland received a real win for athletes with a favourable decision from the German Federal Cartel Office for stronger athlete rights. The key outcomes of this decision were:

  1. The decision applies only for German Athletes;
  2. More possibilities to advertise at Tokyo 2020 following an easing of restrictions;
  3. International Olympic Committee and German Olympic Sports Confederation will need to grant athletes more promotional rights ahead of and during the Games, including:
    1. More branding, sponsorship and advertising rights;
    2. Benefitting directly from IOC high adverting revenues generated
  4. German Athletes will now be:
    1. Permitted to use certain photographs taken during the Games;
    2. Allowed to use social media more freely during the Olympic Games;
    3. Free to use terms such as medal, gold, silver, bronze, winter, or summer.

The overall decision determined that, until now, German athletes competing at the Olympics have been severely restricted in commercial advertising and promotional activities.

Police doping raids

Some of you may have seen the leaked video of the police doping raids in Austria and Germany involving FIS cross-country ski athletes and coaches. This included showing the Austrian Max Hauke with a needle in his arm. Callum Skinner spoke for thousands of athletes when he said:

“Most athletes will have heard doping via of blood transfusions – to actually see it was worse than I had imagined. Not one athlete enters the sport with dreams of doping. The entire system needs to be reviewed and that is why athlete engagement and equal involvement in decision making is crucial fo the future success of the sport. In a very short period of time, we have heard a lot from athletes and change is being demanded.”

American athletes

Based on media reports, and following a meeting of the United States Olympic Committee Athlete Advisory Committee, athletes across the US are demanding change. The are exploring the potential of unionizing and, at the very least, demanding an equal vote at the decision-making table. There is also the potential of the United States Government legislating such rights for athletes. Progress is clearly on the horizon here, and it’s now a case of ‘watch this space’.

Future of Global Sport Report

This report released by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations may be of interest to the athlete community as it talks about the threats to sport and what needs to be done to overcome challenges.
The report did highlight the fact that athletes are increasingly acting more independently and recognizing the power of a collective approach. However, the report does not highlight that meaningful engagement of Athletes has been rare and inconsistent to-date – something, since our launch last month, athletes have said is the reason they are feeling the need to act more independently and autonomously.

It is now time to grow sport together so that revenue streams can be shared and athletes’ rights can be enhanced. Such an approach can be a victory for everyone involved – athletes, administrators, fans and others involved in the world of sport. Significantly, the report also highlights the success of the professional leagues in the USA and Europe, something that we have cited as successful models that could be learnt from and explored further.

“The professional leagues in the US and Europe – who have collective agreements between athletes and the Leagues – their industry has not suffered. It has grown.”

Athlete Survey

Soon, as part of our ‘listening exercise’, we will be sending out a confidential survey to athletes of all countries and all sports to get a further understanding of how you want to be engaged and how you see sport developing in the future. As a movement by athletes, for athletes, we will be champions of a ‘bottom up’ approach.

“You, the athlete, can determine what needs to change and then how we go about changing it”.

We would also like to let you know that our full website will be launched in April. In the meantime, please visit www.globalathlete.org where you can sign up to the vision and join the movement for positive change.

The past month has been a humbling one for many reasons. The stories and inside perspective athletes have provided have been both inspiring and troubling; but as a movement that focuses on forward-looking solutions, we believe that through adversity comes opportunity. Thank you to all athletes and support personnel that have already joined our journey for change. We look forward to growing and changing sport forever, together!

Best Regards;

Callum Skinner
Lead Athlete

Rob Koehler
Director General

• This Open Letter was published by Global Athlete on 13 March 2019. To access the original, click here.

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