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United Football League, Canadian Football League, or Arena Football League

The following is a guest contribution from Martin Fischman, Dynasty’s Football Division Director.

As a football agent, you have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of your clients.  But what happens when a player is either released from an NFL team with no other teams willing to sign the player, or the player is just not good enough for the NFL?

Below are the top options an agent is left with in trying to find the best opportunity for his client:

1.     United Football League

Founded in 2009, the United Football League (UFL) offers one-year contracts worth $40,000 (prorated over its eight game regular season) to the majority of its players. In addition to base salary and performance-based bonuses, the six-team UFL also takes care of the housing expenses for its players.  While the financial incentives to send a player to the UFL are not enticing, the six-team league is run almost entirely by former NFL coaches and front office personnel, and thus, the UFL provides an excellent opportunity for a player to gain more NFL exposure.

Furthermore, while the CFL may pay slightly more on average than the UFL, the UFL plays merely eight regular season games, far less than the 18 game regular season of the CFL.

There are several downsides to sending a client to the UFL.  As mentioned above, the pay is generally less than that of the CFL.  In the past, if an NFL team wanted to sign a UFL player, there was a $150,000 buyout clause that was standard in every UFL player contract.   It is uncertain whether the UFL will include this clause in contracts in the future.  Additionally, the UFL is a newer league and is less stable, having had issues with paying bonuses to its players.

2.     Canadian Football League

The eight-team CFL imposes a league-mandated $4.2 million salary cap for each franchise. The league minimum salary is $41,000 as compensation over a six-month season.  This league minimum is scheduled to go up to $45,000 in 2013.  As with the UFL, only a handful of players command six-figure salaries.

The upside of playing for the CFL is it is a stable league that has been established since 1958.  Its former downside, being paid in Canadian dollars, is now a strength due to the fact that the Canadian dollar is stronger than the US dollar.

The downside of playing for the CFL is that most contracts are 2 years with a 1 year option.  If a player does not have a passport, he will need to get one.  Taxes may also pose an issue for the American citizen playing in the CFL.  The first $80,000US made abroad is exempt from US taxes; anything above that will be taxed in the US.  A common misconception is that Canadian’s taxes are higher, but if the player is making league minimum, he would be taxed at 22% in Canada, whereas in the US he would be taxed at 25%.

Another thing an agent has to keep in mind is his client’s position and unique skill. The CFL plays on a much larger field than those in the U.S.  A Canadian football game is played on a 110 yard by 65 yard field, compared to an American field which is a 100 yard by 53? yard field.  The CFL plays with 12 men on each side, with 1 receiver permitted to go in forward motion at the snap of the ball, similar to a rugby player taking a pitch at full speed.  Because of these differences, undersized, smaller players have a greater chance for success in the CFL.

3.     Arena Football League

The Arena Football League operates in the U.S. as a fast-paced indoor version of the football. Currently, most arena players make $400 per game over an 18-week schedule.  Three players on each of the 15 AFL teams are eligible for designation as a “franchise” player. This designation grants these three players a salary of $1,000 per game. Aside from the flat rate payments, the AFL also offers its players financial aid for housing and meal expenses. The AFL, and IFL (if your player cannot get into the AFL) should be your last options.  While there are unpaid semi-pro leagues and start-up paid leagues such as the Stars Football League, those leagues rarely have NFL scouts in attendance.

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.

3 replies on “United Football League, Canadian Football League, or Arena Football League”

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