Are Olympic athletes workers? Final EMPLOYS conference held in Brussels

After two years of work, the EMPLOYS team culminated their project in a final conference with stakeholders and experts on 6 December 2022. The meeting in Brussels served to discuss the recommendations that emerged from the fact base of the legal and socio-political situation and the evaluation of good governance in athletes’ relations, the first two steps in the project design. The recommendations are summarised in the Final Report of this EU-funded project.

The event at the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels saw a video welcome address by Hannes Heide MEP (S&D, CULT Committee). After an introduction to the project, the EMPLOYS team reported on the results and the recommendations to stakeholders on how to shape athlete employment relations in the future.

The recommendations were discussed in two panels.

National stakeholders panel
Pia M. Johansen (Danish Swimming Federation)
Matthias Van Baelen (Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee)
Anna Jovanovic (National Elite Athletes’ Union of France)
Luis Alves Monteiro (Portuguese Athletes’ Association)
Leon Knaack (Athletes Germany)
European and international stakeholders panel
Marc Theisen (European Olympic Committees)
Paulina Tomczyk (EU Athletes)
Matteo Zacchetti (European Commission Sport Unit)
Joanna Paraskevopoulou (Council of Europe, EPAS)
Tomasz Frankowski MEP (European Parliament, EPP)
Giovanni Di Cola (International Labour Organization)

In addition, Petra Kammerevert MEP (S&D, CULT Committee), who acted as the host, gave a speech between the two panels.

The final conference of the EMPLOYS project demonstrated once more that athlete employment relations matter, as the current situation between the perception of athletes as public heroes contrasts with their unsatisfactory reality in this regard. The EMPLOYS project had been able to produce an evidence base and a set of good governance principles covering six dimensions (contract, income, commercial opportunities, occupational safety & health, social protection and participation & bargaining), which were generally endorsed in previous conferences in Rijeka and Warsaw.

The panel discussions in Brussels revealed the priorities of the stakeholders, often contracts/funding and the claim for formal negotiations in the sense of collective bargaining. The insufficient legal definition of the working status of an elite Olympic athlete raises the question of regulation at the EU level.

The EMPLOYS project will come to a close by the year’s end. Besides the final report (see below), an e-book publication will be published soon. A follow-up project called “SOPROS” (Assessing, Evaluating and Implementing Athletes’ Social Protection in Olympic Sports) will continue the discussion on athlete employment relations and focus on the dimension of social protection. In addition to the current project partners, the European Association of Sport Employers (EASE) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) will join the team. The SOPROS project will be funded by the Erasmus+ Programme.

More information can be found on the EMPLOYS website.

EMPLOYS Final Report
Good Governance In The Employment Relations Of Athletes In Olympic Sports In Europe
Understanding – Evaluating – Improving
Published in 2022.

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