EASE TALKS n°1 – The consequences of the Covid-19 crisis on the sport sector

The annual general Assembly of EASE gathered the sport employers’ representative of France, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, and the Netherlands as well as the think tank Sport and Citizenship for a time of exchange around the role of sport employers in the Covid 19 crisis and the consequences of this crisis on the sector. The sport employers shared information about the way to deal with this crisis at national level.

Several topics and arguments were raised, and the following conclusions and assessments were made:

  • On the role of sport employers and the way to lead social dialogue in times of crisis

Sport employers’ representatives were unanimously consulted by national authorities for addressing the economic consequences of the crisis on the sector. The importance to have an organised sector to efficiently address the impact of the interruption of activity has been highlighted. It has allowed for the voice of the economic actors of the sector to be represented more efficiently and contribute to policymaking in time of crisis in a more efficient way. The crisis has put forward the already existing need for frequent consultation and implication of economic stakeholders in the public decision.

The Covid-19 crisis has also shown the importance of social dialogue as the consultation of stakeholders, even more in trying times, is necessary to adjust the social laws to the economic reality. Although, the different sanitary restrictions (interruption of limitation of activities) have changed the way to lead social dialogue. As such the Dutch sport sector reduced its duration of collective agreement from about 3 years to only 1 to monitor the crisis more efficiently by social dialogue on more regular terms. The social partners of the sport sector in Sweden have, for their part, postponed the negotiation with the arrival of the crisis to have more visibility to assess the situation.

  • On the policies led at national level

In all the represented countries, the government adopted measures of publicly compensated temporary unemployment. The possibility for sport employers with interruption or limitation of activity to use this policy has been more than necessary to maintain the level of professionalization of the sector.

The crisis has also shown the importance for even more professionalization of the sector. The Italian sport employers have highlighted that it has been easier to efficiently compensate the consequences for the work done under employment contracts rather than voluntary engagements. indeed, voluntary work is highly used in the sport sector and is then necessary to maintain sport activities. Yet, state aid only covered employment contracts and not volunteer work. Therefore, more structuration and professionalization are the way forward in order to have a sector resilient to crisis. Additionally, the sport sector is attractive for young workers and more professionalization would help maintain the interest of youth in this sector.

The sport employers present were unanimously agreeing that the state subsidies have allowed avoiding a catastrophe for the sport sector by maintaining the clubs, associations, and businesses. However new aids will also be necessary in order to repair the damages of the extended period of inactivity and to restart the economic activity of the sector.

  • On the future of the sport sector

The crisis has put forward the necessity of sport and physical activity, especially for global health. It has also enhanced the shift towards less organised activity and more individual physical activity. Furthermore, since the youth practice of sport is essentially made through clubs in most European countries, it has affected the practice of young Europeans.

Finally, the overall practice of sport has increased in Europe during the past year and a half. The sport sector is shifting from an organised competitive model to a broader range of activities more concentrated on what could be defined as “movement”. These changes of practices will impact the sport sector with new forms of sport employers, more needs for structuration, new opportunities for professionalization and new challenges of representation.