Commonly, the terms 'sports agent', 'player agent', 'sports or contract representative' and 'contract advisor' are used interchangeably (vill.edu). Each term, whether identifying a lawyer or a non-lawyer, depicts a delegate who performs basically the same service (vill.edu). It is the duty of these professionals to represent, counsel, advise and assist a professional athlete in the negotiation, execution and enforcement of the player's contract (vill.edu). As of April 1993, two hundred seventy three major league baseball players earned a salary of one million dollars or more and agents usually receive four percent of the player's salary as their fee (vill.edu). This has caused a dramatic growth in the number of persons desiring to represent athletes (vill.edu).
There are countless definitions of athlete representatives, but the bottom line is this, to be a good sports lawyer, one must first be a good lawyer (vill.edu). A sports lawyer is frequently a business or corporate lawyer who adds the zealous ingredient of sports law to the lawyer's area of expertise (vill.edu). Sports law is an astonishing combination of many legal specialties (vill.edu). Contract negotiations is one particularly prominent and profitable subset of sports law (vill.edu). Some sports lawyers specialize in negotiating contracts in the interest of a player, while others may represent a team in player contract negotiations (vill.edu). The services granted by law firms that are primarily involved in contract negotiation vary greatly in range (vill.edu). These services extend from the singular act of negotiating a contract to a full-range package involving negotiating, legal counseling, securing endorsements, financial planning, career planning and counseling, marketing the athlete and resolving disputes over employment contracts (vill.edu).
Becoming a Respected Player Agent -- What Does It Take?
The key to being a highly regarded player agent is to ascertain the client's best interests and to endeavor to achieve those objectives (vill.edu). There are numerous factors, which determine an agent's distinction: integrity, background, experience, expertise and preparation (vill.edu). Even though it is not a requirement for an agent to also be an attorney, the athlete would be best served (and generally is) by an attorney-agent because of the added security of the attorney's code of professional responsibility (vill.edu). Also, the professional athlete is better served by an agent who upholds a low public profile, rather than by an agent with a reputation for confrontational, public negotiation or by an agent with a reputed as causing clients to miss preseason training (vill.edu). This is not to lessen the substantial value of favorable publicity, for there are some successful confrontational agents (vill.edu). There are, however, hazards to negotiating in the media, rather than directly with the team (vill.edu). For example, a marginal player in danger of losing a job, might be placed in particular danger by a confrontational agent (vill.edu). Additionally, a team faced with a choice between ten players of comparable ability who are competing for two or three slots may lean toward those with less confrontational agents (vill.edu). It is very easy for management to decide to keep players represented by a low-profile agent rather than those represented by a confrontational agent (vill.edu).
Registration and Certification Requirements
Registration with or certification by the various players' unions is a prerequisite to entering the field of representation (vill.edu). Certification may not be granted if the agent cannot be reasonably expected to perform the responsibilities of representation (vill.edu). The unions mandate that all agents attend annual seminars on current updates relevant to the agent's duties (vill.edu). A benefit that certified agents enjoy is that they have access to the valuable salary information of union members, as well as access to the scouting information on college seniors (vill.edu).
An athlete's representative may have to register, pay a registration fee and post a bond. This can be expensive, as posting bonds of up to $100,000 in various states requires substantial resources (vill.edu). A representative should carefully ponder the number of states in which to register balancing the facts that registering in too few states will result in limiting the states in which the representative can work, while registering in too many may place an undue financial burden on the representative (vill.edu).
There is no sure-fire proven method to successfully negotiate a contract because each negotiation varies in particulars and in contexts (vill.edu). However, there are three vital characteristics, which are shared by successful negotiators (vill.edu). First, the representative must be fully conversant about the negotiations. Second, the representative must determine the client's needs and objectives (vill.edu). Third, the representative must select an effective strategy and negotiate industrious to achieve the client's goals (vill.edu). It is often easier to negotiate a sports contract than most other contracts because there is extended data available to the negotiator (vill.edu). This information is accessible from a number of sources including the union, other players and agents, the media and from the team (vill.edu). Such information will include salary data, which is compared by tenure and position and players' statistics (vill.edu). The agent must assimilate and integrate the information from these sources to understand the sport and its organizational structure (vill.edu). Familiarity with the basics of the particular sport in question is also essential (vill.edu). The agent must be familiar with the teams, the players, the injury propensities of the players, the minor league prospects, the attitude of the drafting team's fans surrounding the desire to sign a blue chip player, the economic state of the teams and the teams' requirements (vill.edu). Moreover, the agent needs many levels of knowledge concerning a variety of league and NCAA governing documents, regulations and operating manuals (vill.edu).
Despite the quantity of information available to the representative, the most important data does not come from the written page (vill.edu). The representative must become familiar with the athlete's needs, objectives in life and economic discretion or extravagance from the athlete him or herself (vill.edu). The representative's first priority is the athlete's economic needs as it is commonly the client's most urgent worry (vill.edu). For example, if the client requires money promptly, the agent may endeavor to negotiate a large signing bonus or a front-loaded contract (vill.edu). If the player is either injury-prone or older, there is incentive for the representative to seek a guaranteed or a no-cut, long-term contract with injury insurance (vill.edu). The agent should be conscious of the fact that guaranteed contracts are extremely rare in the NFL, but somewhat common in the NBA (vill.edu). The agent must also reflect on the use of incentives, particularly in light of the player's physical and psychological ability to meet those goals (vill.edu). Finally, the agent must cautiously consider the effective marketing of the athlete, particularly in the area of endorsements (vill.edu).
Despite the abundant information available, the agent must understand the art of negotiation in order to be an effective representative (vill.edu). An agent should understand how to support a player's salary objective with statistical and other relevant data to "package" a planned contract and classify not only the needs and objectives of the player, but also the tax implications of a successful negotiation (vill.edu). A keen agent will recognize the impact of those needs and objectives on management, on the tax strategy of the owners and on the other players (vill.edu). The hallmark of a successful agent is designing contracts that conciliate the needs of both parties (vill.edu). That kind of business vision can expeditiously build substantial respect for the agent by management and players (vill.edu).
One of the first commandments of being a sports agent is, 'Thou Shalt Communicate with Thy Client' (vill.edu). A sports agent must endeavor to formulate a merited reputation for credibility and integrity (vill.edu). A reputation for credibility and integrity may arise through friendship, personal contacts or by recommendation from players, management or coaches (vill.edu). Further, a representative's reputation may arise by virtue of knowing reliable people in the sports field (vill.edu). A sports lawyer must learn how to keep clients content and informed (vill.edu). Communication is, therefore, very of the utmost essence. Further, treating each player/client, as a respected and intelligent individual is also important (vill.edu). While some player-clients may be very smart and sophisticated, others may be poorly educated and inexperienced. However, all clients deserve respectful treatment (vill.edu). Informing clients as to the particulars of their contract is also important, as some players may not fully understand some of the standard provisions of the contract (vill.edu). Without appropriate communication the representative-client relationship is at risk, with the client suffering the adverse consequences (vill.edu). An ever-growing number of states are regulating agents in contract negotiation (vill.edu). An issue raised by these statutes is whether they are unconstitutional and whether proposed federal laws will constitutionally preempt the field (vill.edu).
How To Enter Into the Field of Sports Agent frequently asked question is how does a lawyer become involved in the field of sports law and athlete representation (vill.edu)? A variety of firm or individual contacts may offer inroads into the field (vill.edu). Connections arise from a number of sources, including representing parents of…