Professional Sports Outlined in a Collective Bargaining Agreement: The Origins of a Unique Definition (France, 1995-2014)

Struggles to Define the Framework for Practising Sports
By Sébastien Fleuriel

In 2005, a collective bargaining agreement was adopted, enabling the entire French sports sector to be organised as a professional branch for the purposes of supervising and enforcing work regulations in the sports sector. One chapter of the collective bargaining agreement covers the concept of professional sports, but due to the difficulty laying out a definition with clear boundaries, this sparks debates over definitions during collective bargaining. While ‘professional sports’ is commonly used in opposition to amateur sports, the term is resistant to any stable legal definition, with legislation in most cases referring to the formal work contract characterised by an employee/employer relationship of subordination. These gaps between the common definition and the legal one prompt questions about the processes that nevertheless result in this term being used in contract law. The article analyses the determining factors that led the negotiating parties within the branch – employers and employees, organised into interest groups – to produce and adopt this analytical category for the sporting world that is unreliable but still suitable in practice. The reasoning eventually leads to a paradox : contract law acknowledges a practice that it has never successfully defined in legal terms.

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