Athlete development, athlete rights and athlete welfare: a European Union perspective

2015-11-06T14:13:46Z (GMT) by Ian Henry
The issue of athlete ‘dual careers’ in elite sport and education or work has received increasing attention over recent years from a whole range of stakeholders. In particular the European Commission has engaged in research and dialogue with a range of stakeholders over the past decade, fuelled in part by the development of a ‘soft’ competence in sport in Article 165 of the Treaty of Lisbon which came into effect in December 2009. This paper traces the nature of the European Union’s interest in this policy issue and in particular the rationale for, and the manner of, EU involvement. Two principal rationales exist for the protection of athletes’ access to education and vocational training, namely (a) a rights-based discourse in which athletes are seen to be denied access to education and vocational training which are protected for other workers or citizens; and (b) a performance-based discourse in which the athlete’s ability to perform in athletic terms is enhanced by virtue of their access to educational opportunities. The paper reviews the relevance of these two rationales, and argues that although the EU engagement with dual careers might rest not on a sports competence but on prior competences relating to workers’ rights and the protection of minors, the identifying of a performance rationale for supporting dual careers may be important in terms of engaging coaches and administrators.