Sports Business

Are NFL Agents Really Doing Away With Training Riders?

Every so often, I log in to Neil Stratton’s Inside The League website to check in on the latest news and rumors in the football business. Today, I decided to do just that and I was surprised by a new “phenomenon” that Stratton says is “concerning” with regard to signing NFL prospects.

Stratton says that he has heard some agents are now resorting to removing what is referred to as a “training rider” from the signing process.

First, some background. A training rider comes in different shapes and sizes but is commonly attached as an addendum to the Standard Representation Agreement (SRA) that is executed between a player and a Contract Advisor. If the agent is going to be covering the pre-Draft training expenses of the player, which commonly includes things such as the actual Combine/Pro Day training, housing, meals, and perhaps a stipend, then the agent is going to want an assurance that the money being laid out is reimbursable if the player decides to make a change of representation.

Now, the reimbursement of these expenses is oftentimes not on the table if the agent ends up negotiating an NFL team contract for a player and that player pays the SRA fees agreed upon by the parties. But if the player leaves that agent before the agent ever had the opportunity to negotiate an NFL contract, then the agent is going to want contractual protection to be made whole. These training riders historically have included such protection.

Apparently, some agents have become so desperate to sign players that they are willing to do away with the reimbursement clause.

I agree with the anonymous agents who were quoted by Stratton, who allegedly said, “I would never sign a player without one, under any circumstance,” “That’s just stupid,” and “That is non-negotiable for us.”

I can’t imagine operating in an industry where you are supposed to show off you are a savvy negotiator while doing away with the protection of reimbursement in case your client leaves you. But this is the same industry in a race to the bottom on SRA fees (which are capped at 3%, but many agents will take less to compete for top talent) and which has made marketing advances in the 6-figure range commonplace.

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.