Special Employment Situation of Professional Athletes in Spain

4th August 2019
To better understand the relationship between work and exercise that professional athletes have, let's take a look at Spain's Statute of Workers and get into the details.

In Spain, professional athletes have a very special employment situation. For professions in the athletic field, sport is their work and it’s absolutely necessary for a successful business or work performance.

Such professions adhere to certain laws that regulate sport as a job and legally outline the rights and responsibilities of the workers. In our post today, we’ll talk about the details regarding the special employment relationship for professional athletes in Spain.

Sport, employment and professional athletes: what does Spanish Law say about it?

In its second article, the Spanish Workers’ Statute organizes professional athletes as special characters or in the non-classified workgroup. Rather than clearly identifying a line of work, this group covers many different activities, such as public entertainers or artists and inmates who work within an enclosed institution.

The Spanish Royal Decree 1006/1985 of July 26 defines and regulates the employment affairs of the sport that an athlete or fitness professional partakes in. The Decree provides all the details that guide and regulate Spanish professionals in this field.

Some years later after the 1006/1985 decree, the Secretary of State for Immigration and Emigration published the Resolution of August 12, 2005. The Resolution called to authorize the residency and sports development as employment for foreigners living in Spain.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at the key elements in these two legal documents to better understand the special employment situation for professional athletes in Spain.

fitness progessionals

Who counts as a professional athlete?

To identify relevant workers, we first need to understand who is a professional athlete according to Spanish Law. The previously mentioned Royal Decree 1006/1985 details that a professional athlete working in Spain must be someone who:

“[…] in accordance to an established contract, dedicates themselves voluntarily to play a sport for and in the context of an organization and direction of a club or sports entity in exchange for compensation.”

Contracts between professional athletes and commercial companies also fall under this law. Similarly, contracts between professional athletes and companies that organize and promote sports are regulated by this law as well.

However, professional athletes that act or perform in a club setting solely for financial compensation don’t fall under this law. They’re exempt due to the costs implied in their training.

How does Spain regulate the work of professionals athletes in this sector?

The Royal Decree 1006/1985 also states any work, situations, and acts of legal sports statuses regarding professional athletes in Spain must abide by the special law.

The law mainly defines the nature, form, and class of sports competitions as well as their organization. In addition, it determines the rules of games and disciplinary measures that can be applied to players who break rules.

fitness professionals law

Furthermore, work ties established between national federations and professional athletes are excluded from these regulations given that they join a team or group organized by those institutions.

The work and sporting life of professional athletes: rights and responsibilities

Professional athletes maintain a right to the workers’ rights defined in the Spanish Workers’ Statute. Among those rights are:

  • Freely expressing opinions about their work. In doing so, they must respect the law and the contract or collective agreement they established with their employers.
  • Right to continue their work, unable to be excluded or discriminated against during training or important practices. However, cases of injury or disciplinary sanctions are exceptions.

Lastly, Spain’s Workers’ Statute also defines workers’ responsibilities as well. The Statute states that professional athletes must perform as agreed upon. In addition, they must respect the terms and dates stipulated in their contracts or agreements. Lastly, they have to also respect the rules and instructions of their representatives in their sport.

  • Real Decreto 1006/1985, de 26 de junio, por el que se regula la relación laboral especial de los deportistas profesionales. Extraído de: https://www.boe.es/buscar/doc.php?id=BOE-A-1985-12313
  • Boletín Oficial del Estado. 2005. Procedimiento para autorizar la residencia y el desarrollo de actividades laborales deportivas profesionales por extranjeros. Extraído de: https://www.boe.es/boe/dias/2005/08/22/pdfs/A29164-29166.pdf