Labour guarantees and remunerations in professional sports: problem identification

Dr.Med., Professor O.S. Kogan1
Dr.Sc.Hist. S.D. Galiullina1
Associate Professor, PhD M.V. Lifanova1
1Ufa State Petroleum Technical University, Ufa

Keywords: professional sports, athletic overexertion, occupational diseases, social protection, social guarantees, labor protection.

Background. According to the valid legislation of the Russian Federation, professional athletes are qualified the contracted personnel with the job responsibilities including trainings and competitions in the vocational sport disciplines. As provided by the Civil Code of the Russian Federation Article 348.1, athletes’ job responsibilities are regulated by the national labor legislation and other relevant legal and regulatory provisions based on the Labor Code, corporate contracts, agreements and the corporate regulatory provisions introduced by the employer in compliance with the valid labor codes and frame standards and requirements of the relevant sport federations, with the provisions being endorsed by the relevant trade unions. Professional athletes serve their employers (sport federations, clubs etc.) with their labor, physical qualities at skills, sometimes at sacrifice of their health [6].

In addition to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation, the labor relationship of an athlete and employer is regulated by multiple regulatory provisions including Federal Law #329 of 04.12.2007 “On Physical Education and Sports in the Russian Federation” (changed and amended version) and service contracts, agreements, corporate statutes, sport rules and regulations. The complexity and inconsistency of the legal and regulatory framework gives rise to multiple legal issues with concern to the professional sport service rights, liabilities, guarantees and remunerations [8]. We fully agree with the analysts arguing that the relevant legal and regulatory framework on the whole needs to be revised to address inconsistencies of the labor codes and specific sport regulations since they are still underexplored and need to be studied on a systemic basis [4].

Objective of the study was to analyze the valid Russian legal and regulatory framework in application to the professional sport service.

Results and discussion. Since the national professional sports were formally recognized in 1999 by the Federal Law ““On Physical Education and Sports”, the recognition gave rise to the fully-fledged national sport industry [9], albeit the national elite sports have been growing in different forms since the first steps of the sport movements in the country. As soon as the professional sports came into being as a notion and reality to evolve into the sport industry, the sport service has been struggling for the equal rights with any other industrial service. The basis for professional sports was further expanded by the Federal Law #13 of 28.02.2008 that introduced Article 54.1 to the Labor Code to regulate the athletic and coaching service.

Furthermore, the new legal framework requires from the employers to include in the sport labor contracts due health/ life insurance provisions and special medical insurance provisions for the athletes beyond the scope of the obligatory medical insurance system, with every insurance service condition and benefit being clearly specified [5]. It should be mentioned that the federal laws are still in need of special insurance and additional medical services to athletes in cases of injuries, sports-related health disorders, disabilities etc.

Since the professional sports were recognized and the Russian legislation took steps to protect the legitimate rights of professional athletes, the professional sport labor conditions have been analyzed to outline the health risks of the professional sport service and offer efficient disease prevention, social security and welfare system to help athletes in case of the sport-specific health disorders and disabilities as is the case in any other industrial service that exposes the laborers to special health risks. On March 30, 2008, the national government put into effect Federal Law #329 of 04.12.2007 that improved the labor rights and health insurance system for professional sports.

It should be emphasized, however, that the valid national legislation is still deficient in many aspects as it fails to fully and specifically regulate and protect the professional athletes’ rights with a special priority to the professional disease/ disability prevention and insurance issues. The legal deficiencies have been confirmed by questionnaire surveys of the professional athletes retired in the period of 2008-2018. Most of the respondents reported having some financial support from the government, with 85% being still unsatisfied by the governmental support system [3, 10]. We believe that the relevant legal system deficiencies need to be addressed in this context.

As was mentioned above, the Labor Code of the Russian Federation requires the employer to enter into a service contract with the professional athlete to offer a life/ health insurance provisions plus a special medical insurance to guarantee special health services beyond the scope of the obligatory medical insurance – in case of a sport-specific health issue or disability; albeit such contracts are not required to specify in detail the minimal health insurance scope nor list specific health services under the insurance. As a result, these highly important contractual provisions are virtually unregulated and left at discretion of the employer. Despite this regulatory deficiency, the national elite sports offer a sound legal protection to the elite athletes for the reason that clubs compete for them and strive to offer them the most favorable contractual provisions; whilst the lower-ranking athletes (who are no less immune to injuries and service-specific health disorders), are poorly protected in fact and have to face multiple problems. As a result, their service contracts may offer some formal health insurance and special medical insurance, but the actual insurance amounts in case of injury, for example, are often too scarce to secure high-quality therapy and full health rehabilitation.

We believe that the above problems may be solved by the minimal standard requirements to the life/ health insurance and extra medical insurance system in the national professional sport contracts that need to be set forth by the relevant federal laws to apply to every professional sport discipline. Such proposals have been made by the national research community. Thus V.A. Makarova argues in her analysis of the Russian and foreign sport injury statistics that the national professional sports urgently need an obligatory and fair insurance system [4]. M.G. Bulakh recommends introducing an obligatory state insurance system for professional sports [2], and this recommendation is supported by A.M. Avakyan who offers to amend the obligatory state insurance system to cover the professional sports related disabilities and deaths by penalties for the violating employers (sport clubs etc.) [1].

As provided by the Labor Code of the Russian Federation Article 212 part 1, the employer is responsible for the personnel’s labor safety, and this provision fully applies to the sport institutions (sport federations, clubs etc.) that contract professional athletes. Employers are obliged to meet the best labor safety standards to protect the contracted athletes from injuries and sports-related health disorders, with the labor safety system being subject to regular audits as required by the relevant legal and regulatory provisions in effect [7]. Should the corporate labor safety found substandard i.e. associated with health risks the employees shall be entitled for the relevant guarantees and benefits as provided by the Labor Code.

These guarantees will include limitations of the work hours (Labor Code, Articles 92, 94); yearly payable vacations (Labor Code, Article 117); and special bonuses/ risk compensations in addition to the salaries (Labor Code, Articles 146, 147). It should be emphasized, however, that when the labor environment is qualified unsafe for health, the social safety problems in professional sports cannot be considered successfully solved even when every due guarantee and compensation is put in place – for the reason that the guarantees and compensations provided by the Labor Code are still insufficient in many cases to cover the actual health losses from sport injuries and effectively prevent the sports-related diseases.

Based on the above, we recommend that the provisions of the Labor Code of the Russian Federation (Article 54.1) and the relevant insurance laws and regulations for industrial labor safety in application to the professional sports associated with high risks of injuries and other health disorders should be complemented by special provisions for the medical health/ life insurance in the national professional sport system; with special pensions provided to the professional athletes forced to retire due to the sport-related injuries, disabilities and health disorders.

Furthermore, the national legislators shall revise the provisions for ‘hazardous jobs’ in application to professional sports, to offer special social benefits for the hazardous/ unhealthy labor conditions – like the ones applied to the ballet dancers, for instance. A special attention in these provisions shall be given to the female/ junior elite athletes and the issues of motherhood/ childhood safety – with due contribution from the relevant trade unions that are traditionally and highly sensitive to every matter of unhealthy labor conditions, guarantees and remunerations. Positive experience of the trade unions could be beneficial for the labor safety and insurance system amendment in the national professional sport system, in the efforts to improve the social safety of professional athletes by a versatile and efficient system of social guarantees and insurances against sports-related injuries, health disorders and disabilities. 

Conclusion. Based on the study data, we recommend that the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation in cooperation with the Bashkortostan Republican Ministry of Youth Policies and Sports should take efforts to develop an industrial labor safety standards and provisions for the professional sports system. These standards and provisions could be applied to establish a uniform legal framework for obligatory certification of the physical education, sport and health services provided by the mass sports system.


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Issues of labor regulations at every career stage and domain of professional sports have long been in top priority for the leading experts in law, psychology and medicine. Any professional athlete’s labor, regardless of the individual ranking, may be interpreted as the individual activity designed to secure spiritual and physical progress via the highest determination, high-intensity physical trainings and personal sacrifices – since neither professional athlete may succeed unless mobilizes the personal resource in full to makes his/her best and excel on a persistent basis. Such high-intensity labor is undoubtedly detrimental for health and, hence, the relevant special guarantees and remunerations need to be provided by the government. The article analyzes the history of recognition of the notions and meanings of professional sports and professional athletes by the national legislation; highlights some of the multiple legislative problems with concern to the labor rights, guarantees and remunerations in the modern professional sports; overviews some special aspects of the guarantees and remunerations in the modern professional sports; raises the issues of sports-related health disorders including pathologies, injuries and disabilities; and demonstrates the need for the labor conditions in modern professional sports being improved and fairly rated to offer more efficient and sensitive health insurance system to the national professional athletic community.