Bringing Back ARPA

One of the real flaws of traditional agentry is that there is no collegiality to it. Agents are so hyper-critical of each other that they don’t advance it as a profession, because they are so competitive that they are unable to acknowledge that other agents negotiate well or do a good job. They rejoice in the failure or difficulties of each other, and without understanding that it is a profession and the more successful every agent is, the better it is. Too often it’s crabs in a barrel.

Leigh Steinberg (4/27/08)

I have read that section of my interview with Leigh countless times, and every time I look it over, I feel more passionate about giving up some of my time to try to change the landscape of this profession. Leigh and I share many things in common, one of which is the idea that life is not all about money. Happiness is not gained solely through the accumulation of dollars. There is more to it. Enjoying your daily job is one factor, and I believe that we can do something to turn around the sports agent profession to improve the quality of life for all that call athlete representation their occupation.

As I have stated on numerous equations, I created for three purposes: 1) It was a vehicle to get my name out there in an industry that has a high barrier of entry, 2) I would be forced to stay up to date with news in the agent world along and continue to read up on relevant information concerning the industry, and 3) I was upset with the terrible stigma that surrounded the sports agent world and wanted to try to root out some of the false assumptions and bad behavior circulating the profession. I believe that I have done a decent job with the first two elements and would like to start focusing a bit more on the third.

In my interview with Mr. Steinberg, he mentioned an organization that once existed called ARPA. He described it as a large group of supportive agents that did things like giving awards for agent of the year and involved many agents sharing negotiating tips and calling each other for advice on negotiations. I decided to do some research to learn a bit more about the organization.

ARPA stands for Association of Representatives of Professional Athletes. It was created in 1978 as a vehicle to introduce self-regulation into the profession. Much like the American Bar Association (ABA) has created its code of ethics for lawyers in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, ARPA had its own code. The problem is that while the ABA tends to enforce its code from time to time through courts of law, ARPA had no regulatory agency; sanctions were ineffective. Before ARPA was extinguished in 1988, the organization reached up to four hundred members. Since 1988, there has not been any formal group to unify agents under a common code or credo. The only exception may be in the Sports Lawyers Association (SLA), which is catered towards the attorney-agent, which makes up only a fraction of the entire athlete agent profession.

I truly believe that we can bring ARPA back. My goal is to reintroduce ARPA at some point in 2009. With the help from some of the older guard of agents who truly want to see a change and ensure the advancement of sports agentry, I feel that it is possible that we can once again create an organization that encourages the peaceful coexistence between all of us who aim to represent professional athletes.

The idea is to bring sports agents together in a common venue every year. At that point, we will collect membership dues and get the ball rolling once again with ARPA. I believe that ARPA’s purpose should be slightly altered, however. The end goal may remain as self-regulation; however, a lower aim would be just to get the entire sports agent community in one room at least once a year to open up communication lines and put a human story behind each person in the room. Awards may be handed out, but more importantly than making it a competition, it should be an annual gathering of people who truly wish to advance the sports agent profession. It will make us all more cordial toward one another and only yield promising results.

Darren Deloatche’s recent comment just gives all of us agents more of a reason to plan a yearly get-together.  Collective efforts can lead to lower insurance premiums along with a plethora of other advancements for our profession.

If you are currently an agent and would like to help with the implementation of this program, please contact me and let me know how you may be of assistance.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

2 replies on “Bringing Back ARPA”

Excellent article. I think efforts such as these, that can bring together professionals — those that operate on the highest level of professionalism and integrity — will provide innumerable benefits in many areas. Numerous other industries, and related ones as well, have similar groups, organizations, etc. Whether it start as a “think tank” or even “grass-roots” initiative, the first step is the important one.

While I am not a sports agent, from the time I entered this business, I have seen a massive change in “how business is done” and how people conduct their business. I am sure others can add more to this aspect.

Thank you again for the article and good luck.

[…] On October 9, I suggested that we bring back ARPA, an organization that once served some worthy purposes in strengthening the sports agent profession.  ARPA stands for Association of Representatives of Professional Athletes, and was created in 1978 as a vehicle to introduce self-regulation into the profession.  After publishing the post, I received tons of emails from agents across the world, lending a hand in helping re-organize ARPA into a club that may strengthen the image of sports agents, in general.  I believe that before we create a yearly meeting, it is important that we establish a strong framework. […]

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