Future Strategy For Fitness and Outdoor Sectors Decided at London Summit

DIAL Meeting - London

The plenary meeting of the DIAL Project in social dialogue convened at the UK Trades Union head office on 17th September. 60 employers and employers organisations from 20 different EU Member States attended the congress to hear of the latest European initiatives and proposals that will affect the progress in social dialogue, mobility and education, representation of the sector at a European level, some new sector definitions and the establishing of a skills council for fitness and outdoor sectors.

With the appointment of the new EU Commissioners and with a priority placed on skills issues, recognition of qualifications and removing barriers to mobility, there is new significance for actions across the active leisure sector – which is the new European title for fitness and outdoor sectors. The delegates in London gave support and recognition for the work that the European Health and Fitness Association (EHFA) and European Confederation of Outdoor Employers (EC-OE) have been doing in the past year, which has been greatly aided by the EU-funded DIAL Project.

DIAL Meeting - London

The European Commission, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and UNI-Europa all gave their views and visions of how good industrial relations can support growth and entrepreneurship of the sector. Fitness alone has over 46,000,000 users across Europe, and is the largest participation “sport” according to the Eurobarometer. The delegates in London were asked to comment on the priorities of a future strategy which concluded that EHFA and EC-OE should continue the work in social dialogue, but with an emphasis to now also help employees to establish better representation, and to focus on some main issues of training, mobility, and to improve levels of good practice in safety. The final point of confirmation was that based on the existing work of EHFA and EC-OE, and with just some minor adjustments in their existing cooperation, they can be easily extended to effectively become a sector skills council for active leisure.

DIAL Meeting - London

In economic and employment terms the active leisure sector is four times larger than “sport” and with a new agreement on sector definitions, the recognition and representation of active leisure can now be fully realised. Commenting on the proceedings Cliff Collins, EHFA Programmes Director said “the DIAL Project results and especially the London meeting have surpassed our expectations and outcomes. We have had a tremendously high-level of buy-in from employers all across Europe who have now helped us to be confident in the way that we can proceed and that is based on a solid mandate.” Herman Smulders, President of EC-OE added “there cannot be any mistake now about which organisations have the real representation of employers in the active leisure sector.

EHFA and EC-OE have established a pre-eminence in so many areas of EU policy, and through DIAL have also managed to increase theirmembership with employers, that means we have excellent EU coverage.”

DIAL Meeting - LondonThe DIAL Project outcomes and findings will be reported to the Commission in October, and will include further plans for how social dialogue and a sector skills council for active leisure can be pursued

The powerpoint presentation for the meeting may be downloaded here


For the past 2 years EHFA and EC-OE have been working with an expert group that is re-classifying sectors of economic activities through a new process called European Skills Competencies and Occupations (ESCO). This is a joint initiative at the EU Commission between DG Education and Culture and DG Employment and the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training– further details are available at:

ESCO is the multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations and is part of the Europe 2020 strategy. The EU Commission services launched the project in 2010 with an open stakeholder consultation. The ESCO classification identifies and categorises skills, competences, qualifications and occupations relevant for the EU labour market and education and training. It systematically shows the relationships between the different concepts. ESCO has been developed in an open IT format, is available for use free of charge by everyone and can be accessed via the ESCO portal.

In the expert group covering cultural arts, entertainment, sport and active leisure EHFA and EC-OE have helped to develop an organogram that positions the main occupations for the active leisure sector – as shown overleaf. Some new definitions for active leisure, fitness and the outdoor sectors have been agreed.

Active leisure is a combination of fitness and outdoor-based activities that are generally unstructured and non-competitive. They promote active, healthy lifestyles through activities, events and exercise. They are commonly provided under the direction of qualified animators or instructors so that the activities are tailored to match the abilities of the participants and meet their needs in an enjoyable and safe way.

The fitness sector uses qualified instructors and trainers to deliver diverse, structured exercise programmes that help people of all ages and abilities to improve their health, muscle and cardiovascular endurance, coordination, balance, agility and flexibility. Fitness programmes also build a feeling of individual wellbeing that establishes and helps to maintain a healthy balance of mind, body and spirit.

The outdoor sector uses outdoor related activities (canoe, rafting, horse riding, … etc.) as the basis of delivery of a recreational or personal development service.  Outdoor providers do not generally offer competitions.  The outdoor sector uses qualified animators or instructors to deliver these outdoor activities in a context of fun, recreation, tourism, outdoor learning or engagement with the natural environment.

The Sport & Active Leisure Organogram (below) can be downloaded here

Sport & Active Leisure Organogram