Abstract: The rise of social media in the last five years is nothing short of extraordinary and many areas of law are grappling with its effect. Social media is an incredibly useful marketing tool. At the same time, social media is extremely effective at disseminating scandalous information, with many sporting personalities recently being caught up in controversy. Sporting administrators and sponsors are naturally apprehensive. Athlete agreements increasingly contain restrictions on an athlete's use of social media. The Blogging and Media Guidelines ('Beijing Guidelines') contained in the Australian Olympic Athlete Agreement ('OAA') for the Beijing Olympic Games contained highly prescriptive limitations on social media use. The restrictions facing athletes participating in the London Olympics contemplate different types of social media use, however still impose significant limitations on the professional athlete ('London Guidelines'). This paper examines the extent to which the Beijing Guidelines and London Guidelines (together 'Guidelines') could be a restraint of trade. Restraint of trade has been considered extensively in a sporting context, traditionally being applied to scenarios such as limitations on player transfer rules, salary caps and collective bargaining. The basic principles of the doctrine require that the restraint is directed at a protectable interest and that it is reasonable to protect that interest. If not, the restraint is void. It will be demonstrated that the Guidelines are directed at a protectable interest and are reasonable given the unique nature of the Olympics and limited timeframe in which the relevant provisions of the Guidelines apply. However, not all athlete agreements will share these unique features. If the Guidelines were imposed by a club on a full-time athlete in the National Rugby League for example, then the answer may well be different. Although conduct related to a social media scandal in most cases would fall within a traditional disrepute clause, such clauses only offer an indirect form of protection to the commercial interests of sponsors or administrators. Therefore, disrepute clauses will continue to co-exist with more targeted social media limitations to protect the totality of sponsors' and administrators' interests.
To cite this article: Gray, Joshua. Social media and restraint of trade: An olympic case study [online]. Australian and New Zealand Sports Law Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2011: 119-133.
[cited 26 Apr 17].