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SBD Global/March 28, 2013/Olympics
UK Athletics Accused Of 'Bulldozing' Olympic Athletes With 'Performance Agreement'
Published March 28, 2013
UK Athletics has been accused of "bulldozing" Olympic and Paralympic athletes into signing a central contract "that would blunt their individual commercial appeal and place them in breach of existing endorsement deals," according to Ashling O'Connor of the LONDON TIMES. Agents "acting for some of the biggest names in British track and field," including Gold Medalists Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis, have expressed concerns that the "performance athlete agreement" for '13-'17 severely limits their clients' freedom to capitalize on their success at the 2012 London Games. Rising stars including Katerina Johnson-Thompson, Perri Shakes-Drayton and Andy Pozzi "have been advised not to sign the contract because it constitutes a restraint of trade." One leading agent said, "I cannot see any athlete signing it in its present form." Others accused UKA "of employing strong-arm tactics by insisting that athletes who failed to sign the four-year contract before the end of this week would be withdrawn from forthcoming warm-weather training camps." The row comes amid a change of sponsorship strategy by UKA, "which is pursuing a multi-brand approach" after the termination of its £50M ($75M) five-year sponsorship deal with Aviva. The main issue is that UKA's new sponsors are unknown, "so it is not clear whether they will conflict with present or future personal endorsement deals." One agent said, "They're asking athletes to sign something blind" (LONDON TIMES, 3/27).