Contract Negotiation NFL Players Sports Agents

The Future of the Sports Agent Business

In today’s business you see more and more people who are trying to break into the sports agent world and sign that big time athlete that can set off a career of fortune. It is too bad that the majority of agents never reach those lofty goals they set fourth. In fact, as of 2001 there were 1,112 agents in the NFL, of that number only 30% of them actually had a client in the league [The Business of Sports Agents, By Kenneth Shropshire and Timothy Davis].

But enough about facts. I have a vision for the future that may actually help the newer agents. You see today’s superstar agents like Scott Boras, Drew Rosenhaus, Tom Condon, and Bill Duffy represent a slew of superstar athletes, which in return brings in a few million dollars per year for each.

I find it hard to believe that big time athletes like to be shared. There are not enough hours in a day or days in a month for Scott Boras to give each of his clients the attention they deserve. Most of you may be thinking, hey he gets them the money they want and that’s all that matters. This is true, but I feel that the superstar athletes out there want the individual attention that these big time agents with over 30 clients can not provide. My view may not hold true for those athletes who sign agents solely to represent them in a contract signing. Athletes who want the whole package: endorsements, post-career counseling, outside business endeavors, etc, may need to look elsewhere. I find it hard to believe that one agent can adequately handle every superstar client like a superstar client deserves to be treated.

At a recent symposium held at Manhattanville College, law professor Marc Edelman Esq. shared a story about Matt Leinart that further reinforces my view. Professor Edelman who works close to athletes and agents in the NFL, NBA and MLB said that when it came time for Matt Leinart to select an agent, the main factor was to choose a different agent as Heisman winner and teammate Reggie Bush. Matt’s father thought it would be a very bad idea to hire the same agent as someone who was thought to be the number 1 pick in the draft. He feared that he wouldn’t get the attention he needed. I cannot you disagree with that sentiment. To close out this discussion, let me ask you a question: Do you ever see a time where athletes and agents sign contracts where a clause will limit the amount of clients one agent can have? For example, if I sign Jimmy Clausen in 3 years is there a chance that he puts in a clause stating that as long as he is a starter in the NFL, I can not represent more than 5 clients?

-Paul Schackman

12 replies on “The Future of the Sports Agent Business”

I agree with what you’re saying. Make a promise, that can be backed by a contract, telling you’re client that you will devote a large amount of your time to him, he will be more likely to sign with you because his overall benefits will (should) increase, and the agent-client relationship will be better in the long term.

Absolutely not! To think that an agent should have a limit on the amount of clients he can represent is absurd. As with any other business, there are so many variables that go into client representation that the amount of clients you represent in the end plays a very small factor in the quality of that representation. Theres a reason why CAA can have so many great players, because they have an incredibly huge support staff. On the other hand Rosenhaus has a ton of players and because he focuses more on contracts than things such as marketing or full service representation. This is what allows him to be able to handle such a huge client base.

Don not forget that not everyone is signing 1st rounders either. Try making a legitimate living recruiting and then financing combine training for 5 players only to have them drop to the 7th round or sign as a undrafted free agent. You might as well take your money and burn it to save yourself the time.

The same goes for conflict of interest in representing more then one player from the same position in the same draft, or more then one player in close draft proximity to another. An agent will never ever be able to legitimately alter a teams decision as to what player they should draft and where. Player scouting and draft preparation is such a deep process that the last thing a front office considers is an agents attempts to sell his client. It depends 100% on the quality and character of the player.

There is no loyalty in the sports agent business, its kill or be killed. The players association, who has the only jurisdiction to limit the amount of players an individual can represent, would never ever institute such a rule.

Sign as many players as you can, and never look back. You do your job and your players (no matter how many you have) will stick with you.

Jay I think you misunderstood what I was saying, I wasn’t saying it would be a rule, that is way far off from what I meant. But a clause can be put in when representing big time players, 1st rounders not low tier or even middle tier talent.

You said it best there is no loyalty in this business, so why not try your hardest to keep your players happy, and it is easier to do that when you can put all your focus on a small number of clients.

Pure and simple a clause (and most defiantly an official rule) would never work. There are just to many holes and it in of itself would undermine the agent. There is a handful of agents out there whom sign top draft picks year in and year out. The reason is because most highly rated players choose to go with agents whom have experience with top pick contract negotiation as well as a legitimately established client base. These agents ( i.e. Rosenhaus, Dogra, Condone, France) have no reason to ever put in such a clause. Furthermore, for an agent trying to make the leap in representing a first rounder what would be the benefit… you get the one great guy and then you cant represent anyone else? Your first rounder shatters his leg 10 weeks in, you pick up your guaranteed commission and now your screwed cause you just lost your key player, your client base is almost nonexistent, and you haven’t been recruiting anyone because of your ‘clause’.

In a business like this, nobody is going to limit there client base… ever.

I never want to overwhelm myself with more clients than I can handle, but I also would never agree to a binding clause that limits the amount of players that I can represent.

This is certainly an interesting idea, Paul. A quick way to make a name for yourself as an agent is to create new, unique, and effective contract clauses that benefit your clients. I can certainly see a “clients clause” similar to the one you describe being placed into a contract in the future. Of course, this clause would have to be full of contigencies to protect the agent’s livelihood if certain events took place (injury, cut from team for disciplinary problems, etc). As of right now though, I feel the same way Darren does. I personally would want to be able to give a personalized experience to each and every one of the clients I would have. However, I would probably never sign such a clause because of the myriad of variables involved.

Are clauses like that even enforceable? I know that for attorneys under the Model Rules of Professional Conduct that one cannot contractually limit whom one may represent in the future. But not every “agent” is a licensed attorney, obviously.

I think the key here is to realize that most of the big time sports agents have a very large support staff. Bill Duffy does not represent all of the clients at BDA, just as Arn Tellem doesn’t represent all of the players at WMG. A lot of times they are just the brand name in front of these big agencies. For instance, anyone that knows the basketball sports agent scene can tell you that Bob Myers runs basketball for Tellem. Over the last few years he’s been the guy doing most of the recruiting and management of Tellem’s new basketball clients. Tellem probably shows up to close big deals and throw around his power when necessary. But from what I understand, Myers is the point man for WMG basketball. As well, these big firms have individuals to handle marketing, P.R., Finances, and post career planning. The big agents are kind of like CEO’s that just manage the entire process and deligate a lot of things to experts within their organization that they’ve hired to handle certain processes.

*I’m speaking from a basketball perspective. I really only have a cursory understanding of business transactions in other leagues. So things might be completely different for agents in the NFL or MLB.

Jason: The Model Rules of Professional Conduct also have sections concerning conflicts of interest and solicitation of clients, which are both largely ignored by agent-lawyers. Not to say that a “clients clause” could or could not be enforced, but that is just something to think about…

Putting aside the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, you could analyze this situation from the employment law schema. If the agent were considered an employee of the athlete this “clients clause” would in effect be a non-compete clause. A non-compete clause tends to only hold up in courts for a very short period of time, for a very select region, or not at all. Regardless, I think it would be a stretch to argue that the agent is an employee — especially an agent-lawyer. Most attorneys advocate and serve clients. They tend not to be the personal employee of an individual (unless of course you are Tom Hagan [Robert Duval] in Coppola’s The Godfather).

Andy: No doubt. I even wrote a mini-thesis paper on just that subject (the plethora of ethical problems facing an attorney-agent). But for as many technical aspects of the Rules that most attorney-agents seem to breach on a daily basis, I wonder how many cases there of repercussions (loss or suspension of license, etc.?) I also know of at least one court decision whereby an attorney-agent’s behavior was scrutinized depending on the nature of the business conducted, i.e., the court asked was the attorney acting as an attorney per se, or more like an advisor/negotiator/agent, whereby a somewhat more lenient set of “rules” could be theoretically adhered to.

Jason: That is a very interesting question and I may have to do a little legal research this summer to find out if there is any precedent in case law. Does anyone else know if there has been many legal decisions based on breaches of the Model Rules by agent-lawyers? As I understand it, one of the current positions for sports agency reform deals with the fact that there is very little regulation in the industry, as a whole. I have even read that regulation of the UAAA is sorely lacking. If there isn’t much precedent set by the courts, maybe now is the time to do so. However, where will this leave agent-lawyers who will be unlikely to follow the full Model Rules? I have heard petitions for amending certain chapters to make exceptions for agents, but those amendments are not likely to ever see the light of day. Very interesting topic indeed…

Found an intesting post at the “Athlete Agent / Sports Agent Regulation” blog that states as of January 24, 2007, approximately 77% of agents in the state of California are in violation of Section 18896 of the California Business and Professions code [].

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