Liverpool conference yielded valuable learnings for EMPLOYS, ushered in the second phase of the project

On March 16, 2022, the EMPLOYS team held its third conference at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk/Liverpool, UK to discuss the interim results of governing athlete employment relationships with a focus on Northern Europe. The EOA acts as a practice-oriented partner in this Erasmus+ supported programme.

After completing the first stage of the project, which sought to understand the specific settings in all EU member states and Norway and the UK, the Liverpool Conference kicked off the second stage, which evaluates current practices of athlete employment with a focus on its governance. The final report at the end of 2022 will provide policy recommendations for key stakeholders to improve the employment relations of athletes.

During the length of five and a half hours, a presentation by the research team and two panels with excellent speakers provided guests with a highly informative and insightful conference.

The first panel discussion placed its focus on how national specificities on the employment of athletes prevail. From the perspective of the Nordic countries, Tore Øvrebø (Olympiatoppen, Norway), Sami Itani (Finnish Athletics Federation) and Anton Dahlberg (Swedish Olympic Committee) gave their respective insights. It became apparent that athletes are a constant “moving target”, and there must be a stronger interest to deal with it and get control of certain narratives and perspectives. Another important finding of this panel was that it heavily depends on the wealth of the sports system, how important athletes’ rights are taken and how much financing can be put towards athlete employment standards. The insights marked a slight shift of commitment by nation-states towards the governance of employment standards of athletes. It became clear that the Nordic countries are looking for innovative solutions to improve the situation for their Olympic athletes.

The second panel, on the other hand, primarily focused on the European level. Participants included Matteo Zacchetti (European Commission Sport Unit), Stanislas Breuil (European Association of Sport Employers), Geoff Carroll (European Observatoire of Sport and Employment), Periklis Iakovakis (European Athletics Athletes’ Commission) and Florian Yelin (World Players Association). Overall, the consensus of the conference was that soft law agreements, accompanied by social dialogue, might be a potential step towards a final solution. What is still unclear is the clear-cut definition of “social dialogue” and what this pertains to.

Project leader Prof. Jürgen Mittag (German Sport University Cologne) wrapped up the conference and re-emphasised the need for comparison of various national governing systems and their athlete employment standards, which in turn, needs to be translated into comprehensive data for analysing and evaluating.

The next steps will be to further debate these soft law agreements and how they can be applied on a micro and macro level.

The next conference is planned for May 13, 2022 in Rijeka, Croatia.

About EMPLOYS

The Erasmus+ funded EMPLOYS project explores employment relations of athletes in Olympic sports and the aim is to provide policy recommendations to sport governing bodies, national legislators, and the European Union to improve good governance in athletes’ employment relations in Europe. See website

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