Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I was just sent a contract that Australian swimmers are suppose to sign if they want to swim in the Pan Pacific Championships!

The beast of a document is 29-pages long and after a fast glance it essentially says: We so own you and we are going to leverage your talent for every dollar we can. You are not allowed to think freely, dress freely, write freely, work freely, or self promote freely, because you are owned by the "company store!"

I will read it fully and completely tonight but here are some points that stand out.

Team members cannot communicate with the media unless they wear a team uniform and they can only talk about their events, their prospects and their performances while at the event itself; nothing else.

If a team member has a blog and he wants to talk about "team content", all advertising on their blog has to be removed unless they are Swimming Australia sponsors.

Team members are not allowed to be sponsored by a competitor of the Swimming Australia sponsors and one of them just happens to be Speedo. Consequently, you can't be sponsored by a rival brand unless you fill out a bunch a paper work and demonstrate that the brand is faster. Now how do you do that?

Now it gets worse: Let's say a telecom wants to sponsor you; forget it, It is not allowed because Telstra sponsors Swimming Australia. Since Telstra has an internet presence, this sponsorship precludes the athletes from being sponsored by internet companies both domestic and international which sell products, services, equipment etc. etc. This also includes online portals such as Yahoo or Google, blogs, movies, video games, children-sites, and more.

Let's say a brokerage house, an insurance vendor, a mortgage bank, a credit card company wants to sponsor you: It's not allowed unless Swimming Australia allows it after you fill out a "schedule 2" which definitely sounds formidable. I would love to get a hold of that form for I wonder if Swimming Australia would demand a cut?

I may make this contract available as a download. When you view it you will marvel at how a national governing body can bring a swimmer to their knees "voluntarily" just so that they can swim. I need to talk to a lawyer first before I make it available and I do have a lawyer who was the chief strategist for Sketchers (the shoe company), and he is partnering with me for the new swimming news site which will go live on July 1st. If he says, I can publish this, I am going to put it up.

Swimming Australia athletes work hard for their daily bread, same goes for all the world's swimmers. I think it is time we look at the culture within the sport at large and put a spot light on how athletes are treated, how underpaid they are, and what they have to do to be able to swim. To me this "voluntary" servitude is akin to working as a "share cropper."

I don't know what Swimming Australia's budget is. USA Swimming makes about $30-million a year and it's head boss, Chuck Wielgus, gets 2% off-the-top of each million-dollars the organization brings in. Recently, the Organization is talking about giving pro swimmers a $50,000 a year salary but will this salary set our athletes up to sign contracts that suppress speech, suit choice leveraging their income? This is something for the sports agent to really look at? [Link]

What I really want is for athletes, coaches, suit manufacturers, meet directors, and even the agents to make as much money as they can. "Industrial age" contracts like the one that was sent to me is not going to deliver a wage comparable to the salary that the CEO of USA Swimming and probably Australia Swimming is going to make.


Scott said...

If Australian swimmers have half a brain they'll understand this contract is the first step to becoming the property of the very Non-Governmental Organization originally created to simply find and develop talent such as theirs. They'll find themselves in the same position as hundreds of athletes in American university football and basketball programs who earn their schools hundreds of millions of dollars a year in return for just a pittance (OK, the best basketball players bolt for the NBA as soon as they can - which is to say after their first year - but only because the NBA allows it).

They must get together and refuse to participate if they have to abide by these proposed terms of sponsorship. And while sitting this one out they might as well demand a piece of Swimming Australia's sponsorship earnings from future events at the same time. If they make the mistake of accepting this blatant theft of their hard work and God-given talent this one time the opportunity will almost certainly be lost. They'll forever be in the grip of grasping, uncaring bureaucrats who really don't give a fig for the sport, but instead are really only interested in the weight of their own purses.

Tony Austin said...

Check your email

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that Australian swimmers already receive a percentage of Swimming Australia's sponsorship revenue. The agreement that you hope to post is a result of negotiations between SA and the Australian Swimmers' Association, a body made up of elite Australian swimmers.

Quite a few years ago, the ASA was granted the right to collectively bargain with SA. You can read that here. There's more here.

I don't think there's really a problem here. Australian swimmers are well represented and this is a contract written in consultation with the ASA. It makes sense that swimmers can't be sponsored by rival sponsors condsidering that they receive a piece of the revenue. Also, receiving sponsorship from a rival swimsuit maker is a trivial process, demonstrated by Ian Thorpe, Jodie Henry, Danni Miatke, Jessicah Schipper and Cate Campbell who are all/have been sponsored by Adidas.

There are many industries where swimmers can seek sponsorship outside of the areas where SA already has agreements. Australian swimmers appear to be doing pretty well, and I'd guess they're probably the highest paid in the world.

Tony Austin said...

I got permission over the weekend to publish it but I am going to publish it on July 1st at the new site. I read it twice and it's extraordinarily binding. IF you swim at Pan Pacs for Swimming Australia, you are swimming for the benefit of Swimming Australia and their sponsors only and you cannot profit in any way or any form.

But look at this snippet:

11.3. In the event that Your Identity is used in a Prohibited Promotion without Your permission, You acknowledge and agree that SAL has the right to determine whether any claim should be made or resolved in respect of such misuse or unauthorised use ...

Hello SAL? An athlete has to ask permission to to make a claim against infringement on their identity?