PtG Article 10.01.2013

AGGIS: The ‘Social dialogue’ in European professional football

Social dialogue in professional football is essentially about the credibility of the sports stakeholders and their capacity to self-regulate their activities in the name of the autonomy that they claim, argue the authors Michele Colucci and Arnout Geeraert in this report produced as a part of the project 'Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations'.


‘Autonomy’ and ‘specificity’ are the two key words in the regulation of sport in Europe. Autonomy means that Sports organizations adopt their own rules and regulations which take into account the peculiarities, i.e. the specificities, of the game, the nature and structure of the associations at international, national and local levels. Nevertheless, as professional sport increasingly became more commercialized, State Authorities have been trying to intervene in the sports world and stakeholders have started to question the legitimacy of sports associations in an attempt to have a greater input in their activities and regulations. As a result, the increasing litigation within the sports sector often arises out of (labor-related) disputes involving athletes and clubs and reveals their dissatisfaction for their lack of representativeness in the sports governance.

In this context, following a bizarre terminology – at least for a non-European - the so-called ‘social partners’, i.e. the employers (clubs) and workers (athletes) representatives, can be involved in a ‘social dialogue’, meaning that they can start discussion, consultation, and negotiations on labor related issues. It other words, it is a means to conclude agreements and to foster co-operation between employers and employees, sometimes with the assistance of a third party (often the government).  

At the EU-level, Social Dialogue can takes two main forms - a tripartite dialogue involving the public authorities, and a bipartite dialogue limited to the European employers and trade union organizations.  

European tripartite social dialogue takes place within the Tripartite Social Summit for Growth and Employment, established in March 2003, as well as the dialogues on macroeconomics, employment, social protection and education and training. European bipartite social dialogue takes place within the cross-industry social dialogue committee and sectoral social dialogue committees. 

Recently the European Union has been fostering a number of initiatives aimed at installing a social dialogue in the European sports sector. Professional football (soccer in the USA) is the first sport where a social dialogue has been set up at the EU level, paving the way for other sports. In this article, the authors make an assessment of the composition, work and functioning of the sectoral social dialogue committee in professional football. It is their aim to evaluate the 2011 compromise agreement on the implementation of the European Professional Football Player Contract Minimum Requirements (hereafter referred as the MRSPC), taking into account its genesis, the parties’ interests and difficulties linked to their implementation.

Download the full report as pdf or read it here

This report was created as a part of the project 'Action for Good Governance in International Sports Organisations (AGGIS)', which was initiated by Play the Game/the Danish Institute for Sports Studies and awarded funding from the European Commission to contribute to the Commission’s so-called ‘Preparatory Actions’ initiative which will pave the way for the EU’s future strategies in the field of sport. Read more about AGGIS here