The European Sector Skills Alliance for the sport and physical activity sector, known as the ESSA-Sport project, came to an end 6 months from now. It is important to remind that new knowledge and data have been collated for the sector through this 3-year transnational initiative.

For instance, one of the main goals of the ESSA-Sport project was to fill a knowledge gap by undertaking the collection and deep analysis of the available data and official statistics on the sport labour market[1] at both the European and national levels.

Actually, such data have been missing for the sector for many years as the last attempt to formulate a European map of employment for the whole sector was through the VOCASPORT[2] transnational initiative in 2004. In order to make an impact on the sector and allow it to unlock its recognised potential on society, it was crucial to provide an updated picture of its labour market to better understand its realities, challenges and trends.

ESSA-Sport thus provided a unique opportunity to undertake a series of research activities to quantify and describe in detail the labour market for the full breadth of the sport sector which is still young and developing. This was necessary to provide a precise idea of the size and characteristics of the labour market as well as information about its evolution and tendencies.

We believe that a proper understanding of the characteristics, realities and trends of the labour market is the basis to reskill the workforce with modern, fit for purpose training and qualifications in line with the needs and expectations of employers and the labour market. EOSE is delighted to mention that the official available statistics collated at both national and European level have been used to contribute to the consultation with stakeholders and to the design of relevant and adapted strategic action plans with concrete recommendations to improve the situation in Europe.

The official statistics in question have been collated with invaluable help from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, and from National Statistics Offices (NSO). It is important to state that this is the best information from available statistics about the sport labour market but should not necessary be seen as the exact reality of the sector.

In line with the statistical definition used by the ESSA-Sport project, statistics highlighted that in 2018 the total number of people working in paid employment in the sport sector in the EU was 1 765 728 which represented 0.79% of the overall European labour market (all sectors). The sector shows a significant growth rate of 19.2% since 2011 as 1 481 306 people were involved as paid employees in the sector at that time. It is reasonable to think that these numbers are still underestimated and do not capture the whole picture of the sector as it does not include volunteers and unpaid staff for instance. The full breakdown and analysis of the sport labour market can be found within the recently published ESSA-Sport final outputs but we are delighted to provide you a sample of information.

In 2018, whereas more women continue to join the sport labour market, it is interesting to underline that the gap between the females and males has widened in favour of male employment.

Moreover, the majority of the workforce falls into the 25-49-age bracket but it is interesting to highlight that the percentages of young sport workers (15-24 years old) as well as workers over 50 have increased through the period from 2011 to 2018.

In addition, ESSA-Sport findings revealed that the proportion of sport workers with low education has decreased whereas the percentage of those with high education level has increased.

Regarding the type of contracts and employment, the sport sector engages a higher number of workers who are either part-time or self-employed compared to the European workforce as a whole (all sectors) and there has been very little change in that respect over the last eight years.

Furthermore, ESSA-Sport partners and the research team managed to estimate and break down the number of people having a sport specific occupation (ISCO 342[3]) in both sport and non-sport organisations (NACE[4]) and this can be found in the final outputs of the project. Such level of data and knowledge is new for the sector and provides a fantastic opportunity to communicate and collaborate on the realities and challenges facing the sector.

To conclude, we are pleased to mention that the work is not finished as EOSE has been successful with an application for a new Erasmus+ Sport project aiming to continue the collection and analysis of relevant data for the labour market of the sector.

This new project is called “Continuing the journey towards a skilled workforce for the sport and physical activity sector in Europe (SKILLS)” and is funded for a duration of 24 months.

The statistical definition used by the ESSA-Sport project for the collection of available statistics for the sport sector can be summarised as follows


The statistical definition used by the ESSA-Sport project

The statistical definition used by the ESSA-Sport project for the collection of available statistics for the sport sector can be summarised as follows

The work carried out through the ESSA-Sport desk research and in collaboration with Eurostat and National Statistics Offices (NSO) was to collate available data and statistics to identify the size and characteristics of:

  • Box 1 = Persons having a sport and fitness occupation (ISCO 342) in an organisation whose main business is the provision of sport (NACE 93.1), e.g. professional athletes, coaches, instructors
  • Box 2 = Persons having a non-sport and fitness occupation (Other ISCO codes) in an organisation whose main business is the provision of sport (NACE 93.1), e.g. managers, receptionists
  • Box 3 = Persons having a sport and fitness occupation (ISCO 342) in an organisation whose main business is not the provision of sport (Other NACE codes), e.g. a fitness instructor working in a hotel

The addition of the 3 boxes I + II + III would then provide the total employment for the sport sector based on our statistical definition (= the sport labour market).





[1] The term “sport labour market” mans those working in a paid position in the sport and physical activity workforce

[2] VOCASPORT (2004) – “Vocational Education and Training related to Sports in Europe: situation, trends and perspectives” – European project led by a consortium composed of EOSE, ENSSEE and EZUS Lyon and funded by the European Commission

[3] ISCO – “The international standard classification of occupations”. ISCO divides jobs into 10 major groups of occupations and sport specific occupations are listed under ISCO3 Technicians and associate professionals and more precisely under the sub-group ISCO 342 Sport and Fitness Workers (3421 – Athletes and Sports Players; 3422 – Sports Coaches, Instructors and Officials; 3423 – Fitness and Recreation Instructors and Programme Leaders)

[4] NACE – “Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Community”. NACE is a basically a four-digit classification providing the framework for collecting and presenting a large range of reliable and comparable statistical data according to economic activity. The codes under NACE 93.1 (Sport activities) define the organisations whose main business is the provision of sport (93.11 Operation of sports facilities; 93.12 Activities of sport clubs; 93.13 Fitness facilities; 93.19 Other sports activities).