ASSER International Sports Law Centre awarded European Commission study “Mapping of the labour status of sportspeople under EU law”

Published 1 November 2014

The European Commission (DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion) has, under a competitive tendering process, selected the ASSER International Sports Law Centre to conduct a study on the labour status of sportspeople under EU law.

As professional and semi-professional sportspeople commonly exercise their profession on a cross-border basis, it is of paramount importance that their social rights are appropriately safeguarded. This includes the right to look for work and take up employment in another Member State – a fundamental principle of EU law enshrined in Article 45 TFEU.

The Court of Justice has adopted an autonomous understanding of who is to be considered a “worker”, stressing that the “essential feature of an employment relationship is that for a certain period of time a person performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for which he receives remuneration” and that this work must be “effective and genuine”. The Court therefore found that e.g. professional and semi-professional football players can be considered workers under the framework of EU law.

In a number of EU Member States, however, professional footballers and other sportspeople are not considered, under the applicable national law and/or contractual practice, to be employees of the club for which they play. Moreover, in the case of individual sports the labour status of sportspeople may vary. For example, professional tennis players could be considered independent service providers when they compete in individual competitions, but also employees when they participate in club championships.