The Australian Olympic Committee has announced its Rule 40 changes ©Getty Images

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has approved changes to its guidelines following the overhaul of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Rule 40.

It comes after the Olympic Charter was amended at the IOC Session in Lausanne last month which saw the much-debated rule altered.

Rule 40 previously warned that "no competitor, team official or other team personnel who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games".

This was seen as a major reason why companies have been willing to sign up as part of the lucrative The Olympic Partner (TOP) sponsorship scheme which guarantees huge exposure during Games-time.

Athletes have complained, however, that it prevents them from making money during the most important time of their career, particularly with sponsors who are not part of the TOP programme.

Following the Charter change, presented in Lausanne by AOC President John Coates who is the IOC Legal Commission chair, the rule now reads: "Competitors, team officials and other team personnel who participate in the Olympic Games may allow their person, name, picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games in accordance with the principles determined by the IOC Executive Board."

Debate about the issue has increased since a decision in Germany in February scaled back Rule 40's powers.

The list of banned Olympic terminology is now "considerably smaller" and applies to advertising and social media platforms.

It was also judged that sporting sanctions must not be applied in any disputes, with hearings having to take place in civil courts. 

This case, brought forward the Federal Association of the German Sports Goods Industry, the German athletes group Athleten Deutschland and two athletes, only applied in the European country but it was thought it could act as a precedent and spread elsewhere.

National Olympic Committees are now responsible to implement the new Rule 40 guidelines following the Charter change, with Coates' AOC confirming its position following talks with their Athletes' Commission.

Athletes' sponsors can now continue "business as usual" campaigns with their client during the Olympics, providing they do not use IOC properties or escalate activities during the Games.

The IOC now just requires notification of any campaign instead of a requirement for approval.

John Coates said that the changes represent a fair balance ©Getty Images
John Coates said that the changes represent a fair balance ©Getty Images

Another change allows athletes to thank personal sponsors during the Games although no commercial connection can be made with the Olympics.

The message of thanks cannot suggest the sponsor was responsible for the athlete's display and can be issued across multiple social media platforms once per performance, including any podium ceremony.

The sponsor is not allowed to congratulate the athlete.

Coates said that the changes represented a "fair balance" between athletes wanting to benefit commercially and the IOC's need to protect the exclusivity of its broadcasters and commercial partners.

The IOC has argued that the Games would not be possible without this backing while most of the money they make is invested back into global sport.

"The changes recognise the important principle of athlete solidarity," said Coates.

"The fact that the IOC distributes 90 per cent of its revenues to Summer and Winter Organising Committees of Olympic Games, International Federations, the 206 National Olympic Committees, the IOC Refugee Team, athletes and athlete programmes, makes it possible for many athletes to train for and participate in the Games.

"Without that IOC support made possible by its commercial programme including broadcast rights, many athletes from a range of countries would not be in a position to compete.

"Olympic athletes recognise and support that principle of solidarity and it is one of the wonderful features of the Olympic Movement.

"Equally, the IOC has listened to the concerns raised by athletes about the difficulty of realising their Olympic  earning potential imposed by the previous constraints. 

"While the IOC asks for this window of exclusively for a very brief period every four years, these changes provide more opportunity.

"Equally importantly, we are now telling athletes what they can do."