Money for medals divides the Olympic movement

EU athletes: ASOIF statement is disappointing

Paulina Tomczyk is Secretary General of EU Athletes, which represents top European athletes, and for her World Athletics the introduction of Olympic prize money is not negative, but she believes that in a multi-sport event all athletes should be paid the same.

“ASOIF’s statement is disappointing. It appears they are taking the idea that athletes should receive payment or compensation off the table. That is not the right approach. Solidarity does not mean that no one should receive money. Solidarity means that everyone should be paid. and have decent working conditions,” Tomczyk argues in an interview with Play the Game.

EU Athletes wants all athletes to have the same fundamental rights as all other citizens. When sport is an economic activity, athletes must be recognized as employees and their labor rights must be protected and respected. EU Athletes also states that occupational health and safety standards must be respected in athletes’ workplaces and that the unique risks of a sporting career must be taken into account.

But according to a common position among EU athletes, many sports federations, leagues and even some national laws deprive athletes of their rights as employees by classifying them as ‘amateurs’ or ‘non-professionals’, even in cases where they have a significant income. :

“These athletes often lack basic employment contracts and are excluded from social security, not to mention labor protections or collectively bargained regulations,” the paper says.

Tomczyk adds that in her opinion, most definitions of “professional athletes” are arbitrary:

“The best athletes in the world are all professionals. Sport is their life, their work. But the IOC and international sports federations are not very interested in a dialogue with players’ associations about how to pay athletes and guarantee their working conditions. “

Tomczyk: The IOC exploits Olympic athletes

The Secretary General of EU Athletes recognizes that paying all Olympic athletes is a complex issue, but she encourages all stakeholders in Olympic sports to help find possible solutions to the current problems, as decent pay and working conditions for all athletes also will reduce the risk of athletes involved in match fixing and doping in sport.

When asked why paying money to Olympic athletes is controversial, 36 years after professional tennis players were allowed to participate in the Seoul Olympics and 32 years after the ‘Dream Team’, the first professional US Olympic basketball team, won gold at the Games Barcelona, ​​Tomczyk replies:

“First of all, sport is so important for many athletes who are willing to sacrifice many things, both physically and financially, to participate in the Olympic Games. Money is secondary to them. Athletes are so committed, motivated and passionate. Unfortunately, exploitation the IOC this,” says Tomczyk.

“Second, athletes have short careers. Most of them do not want to risk their careers by demanding decent wages and working conditions. They fear they won’t be selected for the team or will lose support. Unfortunately this happens. “

Athletes Deutschland: The entire system makes billions from the labor of athletes

Nevertheless, the trade union movement of global players is growing and becoming stronger. An example of this is Athleten Deutschland, which was founded in 2017 to give top athletes competing for Germany a stronger voice and to work towards fundamental changes in the German and international sports system.

Johannes Herber, CEO of Athleten Deutschland, calls World Ahtlete’s decision to share part of the IOC’s revenue with athletes a big step forward.

“Athletes and their performance are at the heart of the IOC’s multi-billion dollar business model. This should be another wake-up call for the IOC and the other international federations to follow suit and start implementing revenue sharing models themselves. are earmarked and distributed, not only for the benefit of the medalists, but for everyone who qualifies for the Games,” Herber tells Play the Game.

According to Herber, World Athletics’ move is in response to a long-standing call from athletes around the world “to receive a share of the exorbitant profits generated by their performances.” He added that the IOC’s revenues are increasing and the Games in Paris and Los Angeles are expected to surpass previous revenue records.

“It should undoubtedly be possible for athletes to share directly in these revenues and at the same time support the international federations and national Olympic committees,” says Herber, adding that “it is currently unclear whether the money generated by the athletes will actually be used exclusively used. for their benefit.”

According to Herber, the Olympic movement, primarily the IOC, but also the international federations and national Olympic committees, are at least obliged to provide a detailed account of their financial flows:

“It must be made public how the decision-making processes for the distribution of these funds are actually structured and what influence athletes can have on them. After all, the entire system makes billions from the work of athletes without paying them fairly or allowing them to participate in the wealth they generate,” Herber argues.

Triple jumper: Some sports circles cling to the Olympic ideals of amateurism

World Athletics’ announcement about Olympic prize money in track and field was welcomed by US track and field stars Tara Davis-Woodhall, Kenny Bednarek and Ryan Crouser, as well as Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

“Any time we can put resources in the hands of athletes, we should all celebrate that. We need more resources to get into the hands of athletes so that they can both have the ability to support themselves from a regular day-to-day lifestyle perspective, but also continue to invest in their training,” Hirshland told Reuters news agency. .

“I know that athletes who have won medals at world championships still work two jobs and live with a roommate. It’s just the misconception that persists among athletes, no matter what level you are at, if you make it to the Olympics, that you are financially secure and you are absolutely not,” said two-time Olympic shot put champion Ryan Crouser. according to Reuters.

Olympic track and field stars from other countries, such as Karsten Warholm of Norway, Armand Duplantis of Sweden and Andre De Grasse of Canada, have also welcomed World Athletics’ move. And even some athletes at lower levels of sport support the Olympic prize money initiative in athletics.

“In my opinion, this is a good and correct development direction,” Topias Koukkula, a Finnish triple jumper and president of the Finnish athletics federation Yleisurheilijat ry, tells Play the Game.

“Athletics today is an extremely global and competitive sport. I think this reform gives the right kind of appreciation for athletic success at the Olympic Games – other than on a symbolic level.”

Koukkula adds that while an Olympic medal can indirectly lead to significant sponsorship income, and in some countries Olympic champions are rewarded with pensions, there are significant differences between countries and athletes:

“Generally speaking, prize money in athletics is still small compared to some other individual sports, such as winning a Grand Slam title in tennis. It is also important to note that World Athletics awards prize money to the top 8 finishers at the World Championships. The Olympic Games are no different in level from these competitions in general.”

The Finnish triple jumper, who has come close to qualifying for the European Championships a few times but is still quite a way from Olympic level, says that the ideology of amateurism on which the Olympic Games were originally based is still strong in some sporting circles is:

“While sport in general is increasingly becoming a commercialized entertainment industry, the Olympic Games are seen as an event where the ideals of amateurism are held as the last bastion – despite the fact that a significant proportion of Olympic athletes today are professionals.”