Employment in sport

Data extracted in January 2018. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: January 2019.

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

In the latest 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 the Directorate-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission, has launched a plan for the regular collection and dissemination of statistics on sport. Eurostat’s sport statistics reflect the multidisciplinary nature of sport and aims to take into account its importance in various fields: employment, trade, social cohesion and personal well-being.

Table 1: Employment in sport and average annual growth rates in sport and total employment, 2011-16
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex)and (lfsa_egan)
Figure 1: Sport employment as a share of total employment, 2011 and 2016
(% of total employment)
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex)
Figure 2: Share of women and men employed in sport, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_sex)
Figure 3: Share of people aged 15-29 in sport and in total employment, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_age) and (cult_emp_artpc)
Figure 4: Share of people with tertiary education, in sport and in total employment, 2016
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_edu) and (cult_emp_artpc)
Figure 5: Share of people employed in sport with tertiary education, 2011 and 2016
Source: Eurostat (sprt_emp_edu)

Main statistical findings

Sport employment in the EU is slightly rising

In 2016, 1.7 million people worked in the sport field in the EU, with the largest contribution from the United Kingdom (431 thousand) and Germany (243 thousand).

Between 2011 and 2016, employment in sport rose in nearly all EU Member States, The highest increases[1] were observed in Slovakia (annual average growth rate (AAGR) +12 %) and in Hungary, Portugal and Estonia (all +10 %) (see Table 1). It should be noted that in the EU as a whole and in nearly all countries the employment in sport increased at a higher pace than total employment.

The decrease of sport employment in France between 2011 and 2016 (influencing also the EU figures) is mainly due to two breaks in series: in 2013, caused by modifications in the correspondence between the national classification of occupations and the International standard classification of occupations (ISCO-08) and in 2014, by the extension of the geographical coverage.

In 2016, employment in sport accounted for 0.8 % of total EU employment, ranging from 0.2 % in Romania to 1.5 % in Sweden (see Figure 1). In the majority of EU Member States, sport employment accounted for less than 1 % of total employment. As well as in Sweden, employment in sport exceeded 1 % in five other EU Member States: the United Kingdom, Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg and Spain.

Between 2011 and 2016, sport contribution to total employment increased slightly in nearly all Member States and from 0.7 % to 0.8 % at EU-level.

Men outnumber women in sport employment

In 2016, men accounted for 55 % of employment in sport in the EU, while 45 % of such jobs were occupied by women (see Figure 2). This reflects the structure of the total employed population (46 % female). More men than women worked in sport in all EU Member States, except in Latvia, Luxembourg, Germany and Sweden where women employed in sport accounted for 60 %, 54 %, 52 % and 51 % respectively.

On the other hand, in Slovenia, Greece, Croatia and Hungary, sport employment comprised only one third of women (or even less).

Among non-EU Member States, only Switzerland counted more women than men employed in sport (56 %).

Young people account for 38 % employment in sport

Compared with the age structure of the total employed population (see Figure 3), it is noticeable that young people account for a relatively significant share of sport employment: in 2016, over one third of sports workers in the EU (38 %) were aged 15–29, twice the figure for the total employed population (19 %). In all the countries for which the data are available, the proportion of young people in sport employment outnumbered that in total employment. The difference was particularly high in Spain and Italy, where the percentage of young people employed in sport was 2.8 and 2.4 times higher respectively than the share of young people in total employment.

Young people employed in sport in the Member States accounted for 58 % in Denmark. The figure was higher than 45 % also in the Netherlands, Finland, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg.

One third of people employed in sport completed a tertiary education

Considering the educational background of persons employed in sport in the EU in 2016, 35 % had completed tertiary education (see Figure 4). This figure was slightly higher than the share of tertiary graduates in total employment (34 %). In four EU Member States, half or more of those working in sport were tertiary graduates: Lithuania (71 %), Greece (61 %), Latvia (55 %) and Estonia (50 %).

In particular, the proportion of tertiary education graduates working in sport in Greece and Portugal was nearly double their share in total employment.

On the other hand, only Denmark reported a share of tertiary graduates employed in sport below 25 % and in ten Member States the share of tertiary graduates in sport employment was lower than the share in total employment.

Between 2011 and 2016, the percentage of tertiary education graduates employed in sport rose in the EU as a whole as well as in all Member States for which data are sufficiently reliable (see Figure 5).

Data sources and availability

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).


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) 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.

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

See also

Further Eurostat information

Data visualisation


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)

Dedicated section

Methodology / Metadata

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 employment in the culture sector; 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).

Additional methodological information is available in the correspondent metadata:

Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)

Other information

External links


  1. Luxembourg has an increase of 17 %, but this growth rate is not reliable due to that there was a break in the series in 2015 for employment data. Therefore the data are not commented on in the text.