The specific issue of the sport sector

The Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee

Building a Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee is an opportunity for every sector to regulate common issues at European level. In fact, it represents the best framework for the sport because it is close to the needs, concerns and interests of the social players. Talking about social partners is not yet reflecting the reality of the sport sector. In fact, the social dialogue is not organised in all the countries with official institutions representing workers and employers. Most of the time a dialogue exists concerning social issues but without an institutional framework corresponding to the criteria of the social dialogue. Moreover, the necessity of a regulation at European level is an obvious acknowledgement. In fact, about the only regulation existing is the freedom of circulation and concerns particularly the professional football. The sport sector is open to Europe: the competition is traditionally open to the continental area. Workers circulation is a habit for some professional in sport. Regulation at European level is not new. The problem is the way to do it that is to say by the social partners.

However, the sport sector, which has often been regarded as an economical sector, has been involved in two consecutive projects whose ultimate goal was to create a social dialogue committee. The first one, lead by ENGSO (European Non-Governmental Sports Organisation), was called "European Network Sport and Employment in the Third Sector" (Final Report 2001). One of the proposal of this project was: "Time has come to initiate or encourage the dialogue between the different social partners and the sport organisations. This social dialogue must run to the adoption of collective agreements at national level and European level".
The second project, lead by EOSE (European Observatoire of Sport and Employment), called "Preparing for a Social Dialogue Committee in the Sport sector" (Final, Report, November 2002), was the occasion for European and national social partners to declare their will to build a social dialogue committee for the sport sector in a next future.

Those studies identified the growing employment potential in the sport sector across the European countries and revealed that the social dialogue is perceived by all the players as the key factor to improve the professionalisation of the sector. The European Commission estimates that two million employments are generated, directly or indirectly by the sport sector.

In 2003, another application dealing with the preparation to build a social dialogue committee was sent to the European Commission. Its title is "Building of the social dialogue in the sport sector" (BSDSS). The partners of this project believe that the social regulation in sport will be tomorrow's task of the European social partners, and not only the task of the European Commission and the sport movement institutions as it used to be sometimes.

Definition of the sport sector

The first issue is to build a unique sectoral social dialogue committee for all sports. There is no legal definition of "sport". The sport and active leisure sector, as generally defined in the EU Member States, embraces a number of enterprises covered by the European Communities' Nomenclature of Activities (NACE). The NACE defines the sector under the headings “Sports and recreation education” and “Sports activities”, under the codes 85.51 and 93.1.

Three main segmentations of the sport and active leisure sector can be done :
- not-for-profit sport,
- professional sport,
- active leisure.
The social dialogue does not concern the public sector.

It is possible to provide fairly clear definitions and limits of the sport and active leisure sector: it is made up of several segments organised around the productions of differentiated services:

Not-for-profit sport is the traditional part of the sector and is still the most important one. It gathers not-for-profit organisations (mainly associations), which provide training and competitive sporting activities to their members. Essentially run by volunteers, it is nevertheless experiencing increasing professionalization of its human resources.

Active leisure represents a growing area in the sport and active leisure sector. It is organised either by associations or by companies, often very small, which offer services and leisure opportunities but do not offer training for competition (e.g. fitness, horse riding, sailing, winter sports…).

The last one is the most popular and well-known segment: professional sport. This is orientated essentially towards putting on events, within which professional football occupies a dominant position in Europe, ahead of other sports. Professional sport has highly visibility because of its media coverage and the high degree of internationalisation of its human resources.

These 3 segments enjoy relative autonomy, which varies depending on the European Union country involved. In some of them, guidance of the whole sector is in the hands of the sport association movement (National Olympic Committee, Sport Confederations…), sometimes with the support of the public authorities.

However, these segments are socially, culturally and even economically dependent on each other. It seems difficult for each of them to be able to optimise their development, if they do not work in conjunction with the others.
This means that although the feeling of belonging to a whole – the sport and active leisure sector - is broadly shared by the enterprises in the sector.

The European social partners' representativeness

The second issue is to fulfil the European commission requirements: social dialogue at European level is only possible with social partners' representative at European level.

UNI Europa Sport

Regarding the workers side, the requirement is fulfilled: UNI Europa is a European organisation created in 2000, belonging to the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation). It is in charge of the social dialogue with employer organisations in the third sector (bank, insurance, telecommunication, post services, trading, hairdressing, cleaning industry and private security). Its members are national syndicates affiliated in those sectors from different countries in the European Union. However, as the sport sector discovers social dialogue in many countries, it is clear that a majority of unions in the sport sector are not affiliated to UNI Europa. Today, UNI Europa is already involved in sectoral social dialogue committees in the services. And it is the only worker organisation recognised by the European Commission in the sport sector at European level.


On the other hand, the employer side does not know this tradition, and it had to organise itself. In fact, improvement of social dialogue at European level in the sport sector was possible only if national employer organisations, coming from different countries create a European organisation. The task was to build an organisation by putting together national organisations, for a common objective: create a European organisation representing employers, facing UNI europa.

This issue was obviously linked to the first on: how to gather, within the same employer organisation, sport employers coming from the voluntary, commercial and professional sectors?

So, on January 24th 2003, 4 national organisations from 4 countries created EASE.
But this creation is not mainly due to social partners. It is clear that national sport organisations were not mature enough to anticipate a new field of negotiation. The impulse came from the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE). In fact, EOSE participated, as the applicant and the manager, to the previous projects concerning the preparation of the social dialogue in sport. Its role was to manage the project, to make researches and to set up a network between the different identified actors.

Furthermore, the creation of an European employer association has been accelerated because of the perspective to ask for a new subvention from the European Commission for another project, preparing the creation of a Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee in the field of sport. UNI–Europa did not want to be the applicant and preferred to be a partner of the project. And, after the two projects previously evoked ("European Network Sport and Employment in the Third Sector", and "Preparing for a Social Dialogue Committee in the Sport sector"), the European Commission considered that the applicant for a new project should be a social partner representative at European level and directly involved in the application. In other words, the institutional structuring of the branch was a preliminary asked by the European Commission. So, the creation of such an organisation for the employer side was absolutely necessary.

The European Commission's criteria

But the European Commission gave some criteria in order to monitor the participation of organisations in the social dialogue. The organisations should:
– be cross–industry or related to specific sectors or categories and be organised at European level;
– consist of organisations which are themselves an integral and recognised part of Member States' social partners structures and with capacity to negotiate agreements, and which are representative of all Members States, as far as possible;
– have adequate structures to ensure their effective participation in the consultation process.

Regarding particularly the representativeness, the organisation should "consist of organisations which are themselves an integral and recognised part of Member States' social partner structures" and "which are representative of all Member States, as far as possible". But the European Commission takes many elements into consideration. Both theoretically and the light of the various national traditions of social partner to negotiate Collective Agreements or to participate in developing social policies, can be interpreted in a variety of ways. These interpretations vary from the organisation's ability to effectively mobilise workers or employers, to quantity thresholds linked to the result of social elections, and include a system of mutual recognition in the strict sense of the term where no criterion has yet been defined. The European Commission will examine EASE members, and EASE itself through this conception of representativeness.


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