Arena Football League Players Union Criticized For Withholding Information From Player Agents
The Standard Player Contract provided to players who will play in the Arena Football League (AFL) in 2013 contains an addendum titled, “Authorization for Deduction of Union Dues or Agency Fees.” It allows the AFL or agent of AFL to deduct from a player’s weekly compensation the amount equal to the “initiation fee, dues and assessments” required for membership in the AFL players union (AFLPU).
One agent informed Sports Agent Blog that he is hearing the “Initiation Fee” will be $275, which is a sizable amount considering the extremely low salaries earned in Arena Football (most players earn less than $800 per game). Further, dues are predicted to be roughly $50 per game. However, neither the amount of the Initiation Fee nor the union dues have been set forth in the AFL Standard Player Contract, which leaves agents guessing as to the true amounts that will have to be taken out of their clients’ paychecks.
That same agent told Sports Agent Blog that he has been advising his AFL clients to only play for teams in the Right to Work states, where they cannot be compelled to join the players’ union. The Right to Work states that have AFL teams are: Texas, Utah, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana and Arizona. Playing in one of these states, and refusing to join the AFLPU, can make a big difference to an AFL player’s bottom line.
In addition to the concern of basically creating a situation where players are agreeing to sign a blank check to the union for currently undisclosed Initiation Fees and union dues, there was rumor circulating that the AFLPU will establish an Agent Certification Program for agents interested in representing AFL players, and that the union will charge a fee of $700 to become a registered agent with the AFLPU. That rumor was partially correct. Ivan F. Soto, Executive Director of the AFLPU, confirmed that a certification program will be implemented, but that the agent fee will be $500 per year instead of the $700 that was being floated by agents. However, there will also be a $250 initial application fee. Yearly fees will be reduced if the agent is also certified by the NFLPA and/or the CFLPA.
Any fee would likely prove to be very harmful to players, as a large number of agents representing AFL players refuse to charge a commission to their clients for services rendered (it is too hard for them to justify when their clients are earning so little money from the league). If forced to pay an initial and yearly fee, agents may determine it is not worth their while to represent players in the AFL.
On November 15, a public debate between football agent Mook Williams of Symmetry Sports and Executive Director Soto was held on Twitter. If you have some time, I highly suggest you comb through the entire Twitter transcript. The main takeaway is that Williams persistently (and professionally) pressed Soto to reveal the “initiation fee, dues and assessments” contemplated by the 2013 Standard Player Contract to no avail. Soto refused to provide the information after a lengthy back-and-forth. Other agents and interested parties chimed in, but the conclusion to the conversation was a non-disclosure of such information.