EOSE members gather online for GA and Members Seminar 2021



EOSE members gather online for GA and Members Seminar 2021

>> EOSE General Assembly 2021

On 13th December 2021, 32 representatives of the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE) membership met for the 20th annual General Assembly (GA) since the organisation’s founding in 2002. Unfortunately, for the second year running, the Assembly had to be held online due to the current pandemic situation.

Opening Remarks

The GA began with a welcome from EOSE’s President, Professor Thierry Zintz who celebrated the Observatoire’s achievements over the past 12 months and commended the efforts of members and staff during such a difficult period for the sport sector. His address was tinged with a note of sadness since, as expected, he announced that after 10 years of dedicated service, he intended to stand down and that the Executive Board would select a new President later that day.

Policy Context

Ben Gittus, Director of Standards, then gave a presentation on the current EU Policy Context, providing insights into the EU Work Plan for Sport 2021-2024, the European Education Area, the new Erasmus+ Programme, the European Year of Youth 2022 and the opportunities for sport. He concluded by outlining EOSE’s Strategic Development Plan 2021-2023, including the vision, mission and goals, and explained how these align with EU policy priorities, especially in the areas of employment and skills, education and training, the youth agenda and sport policy.  Ben went on to summarise the proposed work programme for 2021 with four key areas of activity: Research, Development, Consultation and Dissemination, and Delivery and Implementation.


Aurelien Favre, Executive Director, then took members through the main business of the GA. Following the approval of the minutes of the 2020 Assembly, Aurelien provided an update on the current membership situation highlighting continued growth with members from two more EU countries, Sweden and Slovenia, and the very strong potential for the addition of membership organisations in Austria and the Czech Republic in 2022. This would provide almost full coverage of all EU nations.

Activity Report

Aurelien then took the Assembly through a comprehensive activity report for 2021, selecting examples of how EOSE is contributing to EU policy objectives through researching and analysing the EU sport sector labour force, the role of volunteering, the golf industry and new forms of employment in the sector with an emphasis on the impact of COVID. He also touched on the successful conclusion of the ONSIDE project which produced occupational standards and training resources for sport officials, and the delivery of three one-week training modules to young sport administrators in the Western Balkans. A highlight of the year was the final conference of the CHANGE project – developing occupational standards and a detailed Training Handbook for staff and organisations working in the field of Sport for Development – which brought together 95 participants from over 30 countries world-wide.

The activity report concluded with a brief presentation from Geoff Carroll, Director of Skills Development, who described EOSE’s work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2020 – 2021, supporting the agency’s Global Learning and Development Framework (GLDF) through a survey of its global workforce and the development of professional standards and training programmes for five key anti-doping roles in the industry. He wrapped up by indicating the possibility of two new projects commencing in 2022 which would continue the work of supporting clean sport and providing professional development resources for sport for development practitioners.


The official business continued with a detailed report from Aurelien and Simone Digennaro, EOSE Treasurer, which confirmed a healthy financial situation.

Executive Board Elections

The GA concluded with Executive Board Elections. Members reluctantly accepted the withdrawal of Thierry Zintz as President, expressing their heartfelt gratitude for his 10 years of dedicated service, and they supported his continuing membership of the Board as ex-President. Having considered the preceding nomination process, members validated the reappointment of three Board members, Abel Santos (Portugal), Mark Cutajar (Malta) and Simone Digenarro (Italy) whose mandates were coming to an end.

Member Interactions

Throughout each agenda item, member interactions were reinforced by stimulating Q&A sessions and the use of online polling which gave everyone ample opportunity to register their views, preferences and priorities. All-in-all, members voiced their appreciation for the strategic leadership of the Board and the efforts of the staff and expressed satisfaction with their achievements in 2021 and planning for the future.


Executive Board Meeting

The General Assembly was followed by a closed meeting of the Executive Board. This meeting discussed the role of President and unanimously agreed that the Presidency should pass to Mrs Kirstie Simpson, Deputy Dean and Associate Professor at the University of Chester Business School who has a long and honourable involvement in the sport sector particularly in the fields of municipal sport development, volunteering and learning mobility. Kirstie’s election as President left a vacancy as Secretary General. Mr Simone Digennaro, Senior Researcher at the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio, kindly agreed to accept this role, and Mr Abel Santos, Professor of Human Resources Management at the Sport Sciences School of Rio Maior, volunteered to take over Simone’s previous role as Treasurer. These changes were also unanimously supported by the Board.


>> EOSE Members’ Seminar 2021

On 14th December 2021, 24 representatives of the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE) member organisations convened for their annual members’ seminar – an opportunity to celebrate our projects, share research findings and exchange ideas and opinions amongst the members. Unfortunately, for the second year running, the seminar had to be held online due to the current pandemic situation. Perhaps inevitably, this year’s hot topic was once again the impact of COVID on the sector and its workforce.

The European Sport Labour Market – Overall Context

Members received a presentation from Aurelien Favre, EOSE’s Executive Director, on the findings from EOSE’s collation and analysis of European sport labour market data for 2011-2020 working in close collaboration with Eurostat and national statistics offices. This work, started through the ESSA-Sport project and continues through EOSE’s SKILLS initiative.

Despite Brexit, Aurelien emphasised that the statistics continue to include the UK since the British labour force makes up about 24% of the European sport sector and that removing the UK now would mean that the UK figures would need to be taken out from all previous analyses in order to show long-term trends. Although Eurostat no longer collects UK stats, the UK Office for National Statistics continues to provide the necessary data directly to EOSE.

He also issued a ‘health warning’ that, as ever, these are only statistics which can be interpreted in a number of ways and that we need to continue to collect qualitative information to be sure about the real characteristics and tendencies.

Main Findings and the Possible Impact of COVID

Aurelien then presented the following main findings:

  • Despite 21% growth 2011-2019, the total sport labour force declined from 1.9m in 2019 to just over 1.7m in 2020, a fall of -3.7%. This is the first time we have seen a decline since 2011.
  • Sport employment (-3.7%) has been significantly more affected compared to employment across all economic sectors (-1.25%)
  • The groups where the drop in employment was largest included: female workers (-5.9%); the under-25s (-7.9%); females under-25 (-17.5%); those with low educational attainment (-18.3%); part-time workers (-6.2%).
  • The only group to show an increase was the self-employed (+6.7%).
  • Overall, when compared to the European labour market as a whole (all economic sectors), the sport labour force continues to have:
    • less representation of females
    • more under-25s (despite the decline in 2020)
    • fewer workers with low educational attainment
    • a much higher percentage of people on part-time contracts
    • a much higher percentage of self-employed people.
    • The total number of sport and fitness workers (coaches, instructors and officials) has only declined by -1.4%, less than half of the drop in the sport labour force as a whole (which also includes for example, managers, catering and retail staff and cleaners).
    • The largest decline in all occupations (sport and non-sport specific) is seen among those working in organisations whose main business is sport (-4.1%).

Members were asked to request from EOSE any other analyses – cross tabulations etc. – which they would like to see based on the available statistics.


European and national fact sheets, professionally designed with clear infographics, will be circulated to the members and more widely. Members were encouraged to consider how they could disseminate the findings through their networks, and this received an enthusiastic response with many suggestions about target groups and communication channels. Target groups included: ministries of sport; European Commission; Olympic committees; national and international federations; employers’ organisations; professional bodies; universities and their students. Communication channels mentioned included: webinars and conferences; website pages; national seminars; newsletters; social media; journals. Seven members immediately volunteered to translate the factsheets into their national languages.

Overall, the members acknowledged the value of the statistics and their potential for formulating strategic responses to the current emergency both at European and national levels.


During and following the presentation there were a number of online polls with the members and a concluding discussion moderated by Geoff Carroll, EOSE Director of Skills Development. The following points were made:

  • The majority of members were not surprised by the findings since they reflect the experiences of their own organisations and national sport sectors during 2020.
  • The sport sector may have been more severely impacted because so many of its services depend on face-to-face working, the reliance on volunteer workers, less attractive wages and conditions of employment compared to sectors which have grown during the pandemic. The impact on volunteers can be explored further in EOSE’s current V4V project.
  • The view was also voiced that the sector has not always been effective in persuading governments of its vital role in promoting health and physical activity and therefore failed to attract specific sector support during the pandemic.
  • There is a concern in several countries that the sector is losing skilled workers, and it may take time to attract them back again or train replacements. This may have a negative impact on participation levels in sport and physical activity.
  • Women may have been particularly affected because in many families they are the primary care giver and when schools were closed, they had to leave their jobs to be at home with their children. It may also be the case that women were more likely to hold part-time contracts.
  • Although the majority felt that employment in the sector will continue to be attractive to youth, 33% were concerned that it has become less attractive to young people due to COVID.
  • Members cited examples of good practices from a variety of countries in response to the pandemic and urged that these be analysed and disseminated further.
  • 72% of members felt the negative impact of the pandemic continued to grow in 2021 and when the statistics for that year become available, we will see a further decline.
  • Some national governments introduced employment support for businesses (e.g., furlough schemes) during 2020 and we do not know what the impact will be when these schemes came to an end.
  • Across Europe, the pandemic could lead to a shift away from club-based provision.
  • We may see the further growth of alternative forms of employment in the sector such as digital platform working, employee sharing, portfolio careers and micro-entrepreneurship. This trend is being explored in another EOSE project, FORMS.
  • Employers are likely to seek alternative ways of providing sport services. Almost all of those present were clear that the pandemic has changed skills expectations in the industry and there is likely to be a greater demand for digital skills and skills related to health and hygiene practices amongst others.

The Role of EOSE and Proposed Actions

All of the seminar members strongly felt that EOSE should have a role to play in recovery from the pandemic. Suggestions included:

  • Continue the research and analysis of statistics
  • Find ways to promote the importance of the sector at the national and European level, using the current statistics as evidence
  • Carry out broader dissemination and consultations on the findings
  • Share examples of good practice in COVID resilience
  • Connect with employers and higher education

Two particular proposals were well received:

  • Carry out a similar Employer Skills Survey to the one done in 2018 under the ESSA-Sport project, with a particular focus on new skills requirements as a result of the pandemic
  • Design an initiative specifically for youth which could be a practical legacy project from 2022 European Year of Youth

EOSE members look forward to the 2022 work programme and hope the General Assembly and Members’ Seminar 2022 can take place in person.

EOSE – European Observatoire of Sport and Employment

A new wave for the sport and active leisure sector

Ensuring the right skills in the right place

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