BOA reduces commercial demands on athletes ahead of London 2012

By David BondBBC sports editor

The British Olympic Association (BOA) has been forced to water down commercial demands on athletes competing at next year's London Olympics after opposition from potential competitors and their agents.

On the day the BOA announced the first 11 members of its 550 strong team, BBC Sport has obtained a copy of the Team Members Agreement for London 2012, which sets out the rules governing athletes' conduct and obligations if selected for the Games. It is due to be signed off by the BOA board on Wednesday.

Included in the 25-page document is a request for athletes to take part in two victory celebrations - one two days after the Olympics closing ceremony on 14 August at the O2 Arena in London and an athletes' parade in the city on 10 September.

There is also a demand for all athletes to participate in one "fundraising event organised by the BOA in the period between the end of the [London] Games and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro", even though the contract formally ends on 18 August 2012.

But two more contentious requests - one for all team members to participate in a major team launch on 11 May next year and another for them to attend VIP sponsors' dinners during London 2012 - have been dropped.

That decision followed a six-month consultation period with leaders of Olympic sports' governing bodies, the BOA athletes commission and agents of leading Olympic names including Sir Chris Hoy, Rebecca Adlington, Phillips Idowu and Jessica Ennis.

On Tuesday, BOA chairman Lord Colin Moynihan admitted the demand for athletes to give up time for their sponsors during the Games was "an error" and added that the organisation would not do anything which jeopardised Britain's target of finishing fourth in the medal table.

Lord Moynihan said: "When the VIP dinner issue came up it struck me that could impact on their performance. That's the last thing in the world the British Olympic Association should be focused on.

"It struck me that was an error - it was an error to even think that athletes should appear during the Games when they should be utterly 100% focused on performance.

"It's part of a negotiation. For the first time in my lifetime it is a document that is negotiated and discussed with the athletes themselves and lots of things come in and lots of things go out."

The BOA said the decision to outline for the first time the appearances and commitments athletes are expected to make was designed to bring greater clarity to the relationship with team members which, in the past, had been "a bit vague". They insist that athletes will actually be expected to make fewer commercial and media appearances than in Beijing in 2008.

But the agreement for the 2008 Games, which BBC Sport has also seen, did not set out the specific number of appearances expected of team members.

Some sources involved in the consultation process have told me they remain worried about the number of demands being made on athletes.

They believe it is another sign that, amid concerns over its finances, the BOA is becoming too focused on its commercial operation - an accusation Lord Moynihan and the BOA reject.

One source told the BBC: "It's fair to say there was a negative reaction early on in the process - particularly from some agents who were very vocal.

"There has been some concern about what athletes have been expected to do free of charge."

Another source added: "The BOA has accepted a lot of the issues we raised but there is still a feeling that they have taken on too much with their commitments to sponsors."

In general terms the agreement sets out how team members must: "Co-operate with the BOA, BOA partners, Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games) partners and comply with all reasonable requests of the BOA to enable the BOA partners and Locog partners to maximise the promotional benefits from their sponsorship of, or supply to, the BOA and or Locog through the provision of personal appearances, interviews etc including attendance at hospitality venues of Locog and Team 2012 sponsors and events arranged by Locog and or Team 2012 during the Games."

But the BOA insists it will consider "at all times" the "training, competition and other reasonable commitments" of GB competitors.

Interestingly, there is only one mention of financial compensation for athletes in the entire agreement - a £10,000 bonus from Royal Mail for gold-medal winners in return for using their image on special collectors' stamps.

If Team GB achieve their stated aim of finishing fourth in the medal table in 2012, they are likely to need to win between 18 and 20 golds. That could mean a £200,000 bill for Royal Mail next year.

In June, the BOA published its 2010 accounts, revealing how the organisation's costs had risen significantly, with staff costs rising by 20% to almost £4m a year.

Much of its annual £10m income comes from a six-year deal with Locog, which led the BOA to hand over its commercial rights to market the Olympic rings in return for a regular revenue stream of £33m over six years.

The two organisations were involved in an unseemly row in the spring when the BOA challenged the way any surplus from the London Games would be divided up afterwards.

The BOA threatened to take Locog to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but dropped the action after London 2012 agreed to help the BOA with its sponsorship and marketing campaign after the Games.

Lord Moynihan said on Tuesday that he did not regret taking the dispute as far as he did.

"There is nothing more important in life than fighting for what you believe in. There's nothing more important in the BOA than fighting for the interests of the athletes," he said.

"It was a month of high-profile dispute. There's been no fallout in terms of the highly professional working relationship which we have both with Locog and the International Olympic Committee. We were right to go through that process, we are right to move on from it."