On the basis of the EU Work Plan for Sport for 2011-2014, an ad-hoc Group of Experts chaired by the Sport Unit of the Directorate-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission drafted EU Guidelines on Dual Careers of Athletes in the course of the last two years. The EU Expert Group on Education and Training in Sport had appointed the members of the Group of Experts, supervised the drafting process and agreed the final text.
The concept of "dual career" refers to the combination of the sporting career of talented and elite athletes with education or work. Athletes often face challenges in their dual careers. The aim to succeed at the highest level of a sport demands intensive training and competitions at home and abroad, which can be difficult to reconcile with the challenges and restrictions in the educational system and the labour market. Not only high levels of motivation, commitment, resilience and responsibility from the athlete, but also special arrangements are needed to avoid the situation where talented and elite sportspeople are forced to choose between education and sport or work and sport. Dual career arrangements are beneficial for athletes' sporting careers, allow for education or work, promote the attainment of a new career after the sporting career, and protect and safeguard the position of athletes.
At present, the success of dual career arrangements often depends on the goodwill of persons in key positions of an organisation or institute, while in fact a systematic approach based on general and sustainable financial and legal arrangements is needed. The increasing trend that athletes regularly train and/or compete abroad makes the combination with study more complex. Guidance at European level, based on the views of European experts in this field and results of projects, studies and initiatives throughout Europe, should be helpful to develop and improve the conditions needed for sustainable dual career programmes throughout Europe.
The main purpose of the Guidelines is to address governments, sport governing bodies and education institutions at different levels that are in a position to establish sustainable policies and legal or financial frameworks in the field of dual careers. The Guidelines are not intended to be a manual for workers in the field, although they could function as inspiration for them as well. They promote the idea of setting up a general framework for dual careers, taking into account that dual careers can only be made possible by developments in a number of different policy areas (in particular sport, education, employment, health and finance). The aim is also to raise awareness and to share good practice examples. The Guidelines respect the diversity of competences and traditions in Member States in the various policy fields involved. They are intended to lead to initiatives in Member States and at the European level. It can also be expected that they will be helpful in the context of the implementation of the Sport Chapter of the proposed Erasmus for All Programme (2014-2020), which mentions dual careers as a priority area.
The Guidelines will be further discussed in the Working Party on Sport of the EU Council.