IOC Pres Calls On NOCs To Defend Sports From ‘Commercial Bodies’

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has called on national Olympic committees (NOCs) to defend what he called the “European sport model” from commercial bodies. Though Bach didn’t mention the specific organizations by name, the issue connects to the ongoing struggle between FINA and the ISL in swimming.

Bach addressed the European Olympic Committees General Assembly last week, warning that the current sport model faced “serious threat” from outside commercial organizations. Bach emphasized “the social contribution which sport makes to society all over Europe,” alleging that the outside bodies are ignoring the social contribution of sports and seeing them only as commercial assets, according to Inside the Games.

Bach specifically mentioned European basketball, which is in the midst of a conflict between the international basketball federation and Euroleague basketball. Earlier today, we examined a paper by an Italian legal expert, who wrote that the basketball federation created a Champions League that was in direct competition with European professional clubs, and that the international basketball federation “did not hesitate to put pressure on national federations threatening the possibility of excluding their national teams from participation in main competitions such as EuroBasket and the Olympic Games” in an attempt to force athletes to compete in the Champions League rather than the Euroleague events.

Inside the Games also mentions the National Hockey League (NHL)’s decision not to build a break into its season to allow players to compete in the 2018 Olympics, along with the current dispute between FINA and the International Swimming League, which has bubbled over into the threat of two-year suspensions for athletes who compete in next month’s unauthorized Energy for Swim meet in Italy. You can read all of our previous coverage of that dispute below:

In his speech, Bach essentially sided with FINA in that dispute, calling on National Olympic Committees to work with governments to defend the current model from the commercial bodies he says threaten it. Per Inside the Games:

“We have to realise the model is under pressure, for not to say under threat,” Bach said. “We see a tendency from some Governments, and in particular the European Union, that the value of an organisation and an activity is not determined any more by its values and its contribution to a better society. But it is determined by money and markets.”

“They treat sport like any goods in life and speak of free trade and engagement,” Bach continued. “This is putting many of our sports organisations into trouble… We have to look into this and start defending our European sports model… It is in the interest of European society.”

Bach’s speech comes just under a year after a banner European Commission decision that forced the International Skating Union to change its rules punishing athletes for competing in unauthorized competitions. The Commission found those rules to be in violation of antitrust law, and at least one legal expert says that decision should also affect similar rules in swimming, gymnastics, hockey and cycling.

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SUM Ting Wong
4 years ago

Why should these swimmers not be sanctioned ? . Banning them from PayPal, YouTube, Twitter, SWIFT & even non home grown food & our patented medicine is only right .

We hope they will be like normal people again . Signed Mr Bolton- Bach .

4 years ago

They a have a point. However, this ship has sailed. Amateurism is simply not viable into today’s world, sports have gone full on commercial, and institutions that have resisted this have struggled. This IOC is the apithamy of these, gaining all the capital from the Olympics while individual athletes get almost nothing. This is just an argument for organizations like the IAAF and FINA to continue limiting opportunities for athletes to profit while stripping countries that host their championships bare. Screw off.

4 years ago

Maybe that’s why they changed it to morning swimming finals in Tokyo because it’s got nothing to do with commercial bodies making money for the IOChahaha

Coach Mike 1952
Reply to  Verram
4 years ago

Or Bejing, let alone 10 pm at night for Rio!

4 years ago

Is there any organization on earth that exploits Olympic athletes more that the IOC?
The Euroleague basketball is a different story altogether. One with VERY different characteristics from the swimming situation.
Bach is a hypocrite. He and his organization just want athletes serving the Olympic organization for as little consideration as the IOC can get away with.
The “athlete works for us for free” model, is collapsing across the sports world.
Bach is trying to mobilize the organizations to make a final stand, or at least to retain the old-boy network monopolistic control of the enterprises in which athletes can compete in consideration for real financial remuneration.
But the free market is destined to prevail.… Read more »

4 years ago

The IOC talking about the dangers of placing financial interest over the integrity of sport.

Simply incredible.

4 years ago

“Sports organisations, based on volunteers and social engagement, are being treated like any commercial sport organisers who wish to pick the cherries of sport.

“They just want to harvest the fruits of the trees you have planted and nurtured over so many years.

“They treat sport like any goods in life and speak of free trade and engagement.

“This is putting many of our sports organisations into trouble.”

Bach has a point, the pro leagues are harvesting the capital from the IF developmental model that they didn’t contribute to

Reply to  Hembucha
4 years ago

Hembucha – I actually think this is the best counterpoint that I’ve heard yet (though to propose that anybody at FINA is a ‘volunteer’ with their 5-star vacations and 4-figure daily ‘stipends’ is probably an exaggeration). And the answer is a different one in different parts of the world – in some parts, the sport is privately funded, in others, its publicly funded. The ‘publicly funded’ parts of the world is a pretty simple equation – ensure that the swimmers are taxed in their home nations.

The ‘privately funded’ parts (aka the USA) – it’s a much more complex equation.

Reply to  Braden Keith
4 years ago

When I see Bach’s reference to volunteers I think of the pool officials at age-group meets all the way up to Olympic trials. They take time away from work or family to officiate. Likewise many swim teams have boards that are composed of volunteers. Even high level volunteers like the FINA Bureau, the IOC, the USOC, and USA Swimming have jobs outside of their service to the Board.

Maybe I’m just optimistic. Maybe you’re cynical. Not sure….

Reply to  Hembucha
4 years ago

So? Apple, Microsoft and Google are harvesting the brains that they didn’t nurture, teach and educate from a young age. Are the IF’s not supposed to be in this for reasons other than money?
Let them grow the talent. Let the athletes “harvest” the rewards.
The only thing that matters is to uphold respect for a reasonable schedule of international championship level competition.
There is no reason that a 3rd place trials finisher, who is on level par with an Olympic finalist, won’t get a chance to compete more extensively in commercial races, than a 15th place Olympic finisher who happened to be first in a smaller country.

Reply to  swifter
4 years ago

Slightly off-topic but perhaps an opportunity to make a point:

Yes, Apple Microsoft and google are doing what you say. There is also a plurality of democratic voices that believe they don’t pay their fair share of TAXES, funds that could go back into public development.

About Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson

Jared Anderson swam for nearly twenty years. Then, Jared Anderson stopped swimming and started writing about swimming. He's not sick of swimming yet. Swimming might be sick of him, though. Jared was a YMCA and high school swimmer in northern Minnesota, and spent his college years swimming breaststroke and occasionally pretending …

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