Employment in sport

Data extracted in May 2020

Planned article update: September 2021


In 2019, more than 1.3 million people worked in the field of sport in the EU-27, increasing at a higher pace than total employment.
In 2019, 35 % of persons employed in the field of sport in the EU-27 were aged 15–29.

Sport employment as a share of total employment, 2014 and 2019

This article analyses the trends in sport employment over the last few years, assesses its contribution to total employment and presents some of its characteristics - both at European Union (EU) and at country level.

In recent years, sport has acquired a significant profile in a number of European strategies and programmes. Sound, comparable statistics on the economic and social significance of sport in the EU are therefore needed to provide the foundation for evidence-based policies in the field.

To achieve this objective, Eurostat, together with DG Education and Culture, has launched a plan for the regular collection and dissemination of statistics on sport. Eurostat’s sports statistics reflect the multidisciplinary nature of sport and try to take into account its importance in various fields: employment, trade, social cohesion and personal well-being.

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Employment in sport represents more than 1.3 million people in the EU-27 and is steadily raising

In 2019, 1.37 million people worked in the field of sport in the EU-27. Regarding gender balance, men (54 %) outnumbered women, a percentage aligned with the one observed in total employment (see Table 1). The picture was more specific when considering age groups: in sport employment, the share of young people aged 15-29 was 35 % - twice the share observed in overall employment, while the 30-64 age group accounted for 63 % (17 percentage points less than the share reported for total employment).

Regarding the educational attainment level, 46 % of persons employed in sport had a medium educational attainment level (ISCED levels 3-4), followed by 39 % with a high level (ISCED 5-8) and 15 % with a low level (at most ISCED level 2). These percentages are close to the proportions recorded for overall employment; in the case of low and medium levels of education about two percentage points below the average in the total employment, and in the case of high educational attainment exceeding that average by more than four percentage points.

Table 1: Employment in sport, EU-27, 2019
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex), (sprt_emp_age), (sprt_emp_edu), (lfsa_egan) and (lfsa_egised)

In 2019, in the EU-27, the number of people in sport employment grew by almost 200 000 more in comparison with 2014, equivalent to an overall increase of 17 %. This rise was also observed in relative terms, with sport employment representing 0.69 % of total employment in 2019, up from the 0.63 % in 2014 (see table 2). The number of people employed in sport increased in 24 out of 27 EU Member States between 2014 to 2019. Five Member States accounted for more than half of the total increase in EU-27 sport employment during the five-year period under consideration: Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and France.

Table 2: Sport employment, 2014 and 2019
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex) and (lfsa_egan)

In the EU-27, between 2014 and 2019, employment in sport rose by 3.1 % in terms of annual average growth rate (AAGR), in comparison with 1.3 % registered for total employment (see Table 2 and Figure 1). The largest increases in EU Member States were observed in Latvia (AAGR +12.6 %), Croatia (+12.5 %), Hungary (+9.7 %) and Bulgaria (+9.1 %).

Figure 1: Average annual growth rates in sport employment and in total employment, 2014–19
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex) and (lfsa_egan)

Employment in sport as a share of total employment

In 2019, employment in sport represented 0.69 % of total EU-27 employment, ranging from 0.2 % in Romania to 1.6 % in Sweden (see Figure 2). For the majority of EU Member States, sport employment shares did not surpass the 1 % threshold; in addition to Sweden, only Finland, Latvia, Spain and Denmark exceeded 1 %. Compared with total employment, jobs in sport still accounted for relatively small shares, but the contribution of sport was steadily growing: this rise was observed in 23 of 27 EU Member States.

Figure 2: Sport employment as a share of total employment, 2014 and 2019
(% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex)

Men outnumber women in sport employment

In 2019, men accounted for 54 % of sport employment in the EU-27 (see Figure 3), reflecting the structure of the total employed population. In a majority of EU Member States, fewer women than men were employed in sport, with the highest differences (where at least two thirds of employed people were men) in Malta (72 %) and Bulgaria (66 %). On the other hand, more women than men worked in sport in Finland (56 % for women), Sweden (54 %), Latvia and Germany (both 52 %).

Figure 3: Sport employment, by sex, 2019
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex)

35 % of workers in sport employment are aged 15–29

Compared with the age structure of the total employed population (see Figure 4), it is noticeable that young people accounted for a relatively large share in sport employment: in 2019, more than one third of employees in sport in the EU (35 %) were aged 15–29. This is more than twice as much as the average for this age range in total employment. In all countries for which data are available, the proportion of young people in sport employment outnumbered this proportion recorded in total employment. The difference was particularly significant in Spain and Cyprus, where the percentage of young people employed in sport was 2.6 times higher than the share of young people in total employment, as well as in Slovenia (2.5 times higher) and in Bulgaria, Finland and Hungary (2.4 times higher). At Member State level, four countries recorded at least 50 % of young people employed in sport: Cyprus (57 %), Denmark (55 %), and Finland and Sweden (both 50 %). Only Lithuania (22 %) and Estonia (23 %) had less than one quarter of young workers in sport.

Figure 4: Share of people aged 15–29 in sport employment and in total employment, 2019
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_age) and (lfsa_egan)

In the EU-27, the percentage of young people employed in sport has slightly increased by two percentage points: from 33 % in 2014 to 35 % in 2019 (see Figure 5). Among EU Member States with reliable data for both years, Cyprus had the largest increase of 14 percentage points, followed by Slovakia, Hungary and Sweden, each with an increase of 8 percentage points.

Figure 5: Share of people aged 15–29 in sport employment, 2014 and 2019
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_age)

Almost 40 % of people employed in sport completed tertiary education

Considering the educational background of persons employed in sport in the EU-27 in 2019, 39 % had completed tertiary education (see Figure 6). This figure was slightly higher than the share of tertiary graduates in total employment (34 %). In five EU Member States - namely Cyprus (73 %), Greece (58 %), Lithuania (55 %), Spain (54 %) and France (51 %) - at least half of those working in sport were tertiary graduates. Out of the 26 EU Member States with reliable data, 14 registered a share of tertiary education graduates lower than the total EU-27 (39 %), with the lowest percentages observed in Denmark (22 %) and Finland (25 %).

In comparison with total employment, Romania had the highest proportion of sport workers with a tertiary education (ratio of 2.1), followed by Greece, Cyprus and Portugal (each with 1.6). On the other hand, in ten EU Member States, the share of tertiary graduates in sport employment was lower than that in total employment.

Figure 6: Share of people with tertiary education, in sport employment and in total employment, 2019
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_edu) and (lfsa_egised)

Between 2014 and 2019 (see Figure 7), the percentage of tertiary education graduates employed in sport rose in the EU as a whole - from 35 % in 2014 to 39 % in 2019. The same trend was observed in 16 out of 25 Member States for which data are sufficiently reliable for both years.

Figure 7: Share of people with tertiary education, in sport employment, 2014 and 2019
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_edu)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

As no Eurostat data collection is devoted specifically to sport, sport statistics are derived from already existing EU surveys. Sport employment statistics are derived from the results of the European Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) — the main source of information on the situation of the EU labour market and employment trends.

The purpose of these statistics is to throw light on the contribution sport makes to overall employment and on the main characteristics of sport employment (using variables such as age, sex or educational attainment).


Employment in sport is measured using the central statistical definition from the 'Vilnius definition' of sport, covering the core sporting activities coded under NACE Rev.2 class 93.1 — Sports activities.

The dimension of occupation has also been introduced within the scope of sport employment. The methodology used is very similar to that used to estimate cultural employment; all jobs in a NACE economic sector and jobs in a sport occupation (ISCO, 'International Standard Classification of Occupations’) outside the NACE sport sector are considered simultaneously.

Concretely, all workers recorded in NACE rev.2 code 93.1 (Sports activities) and/or ISCO-08 code 342 (Sports and fitness workers) fall within the scope of this definition of sport. In other words, employment in sport includes the working population employed:

  • in a sport-related occupation in the sports sector (ISCO 342*NACE 93.1), e.g. professional athletes, professional coaches in fitness centres, etc.;
  • in a non-sport occupation in the sports sector (NACE 93.1), e.g. receptionists in fitness centres;
  • in a sport-related job (ISCO 342) outside the sports sector, e.g. school sport instructors.

NACE Rev.2 code 93.1 includes:

  • the activities of sports teams or clubs whose primary activity is participating in live sports events before a paying audience;
  • independent athletes who take part in live sporting or racing events before a paying audience;
  • owners of vehicles or animals that take part in races (such as cars, dogs or horses) who are primarily engaged in entering them in racing or other spectator sports events;
  • sports trainers providing specialised services to support participants in sporting events or competitions;
  • operators of arenas and stadiums;
  • other activities of organising, promoting or managing sports events, n.e.c.

ISCO-08 code 342 includes sports and fitness workers (athletes, players, coaches, instructors and officials, fitness and recreation instructors and programme leaders).

It is important to bear in mind that the employment figures presented here are person counts, not full-time equivalents. In other words, they include all paid workers in sport-related jobs, regardless of their work pattern (full-time or part-time).


Sport is part of the wider EU policy agenda, which includes achieving the EU's social and economic goals. Since 2011, the Commission and EU countries have worked together on the basis of multiannual work programmes agreed by the Council (EU Work Plan for Sport 2011–2014; EU Work Plan for Sport for 2014–2017; EU Work Plan for Sport for 2017–2020) which set priorities and define the principles underpinning cooperation.

A number of expert groups have been set up to achieve concrete results. Among them, the Expert Group 'Sport and economics' (XG ECO) and the Expert Group on Health-Enhancing Physical Activity (XG HEPA) play a key role in implementing evidence-based policies in the sports sector. XG ECO, for example, has produced the economic definition of sport ('Vilnius definition'), and made progress towards developing Sport Satellite Accounts in some EU countries. XG HEPA concentrates on implementing the Council recommendations on physical activity adopted in 2013. These include a monitoring framework with indicators both on the level of physical activity and on policies to promote physical activity in the EU Member States.

Eurostat comparable data on sport employment, international trade, participation in sporting activities etc. is an important tool to contribute to the monitoring and development of the EU’s sport policies.

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Employment in sport by sex (sprt_emp_sex)
Employment in sport by age (sprt_emp_age)
Employment in sport by educational attainment level (sprt_emp_edu)