Michael Ede, Entrepreneur, Football Agent, MD/CEO of Uplift11 Sports, U.K.’s fastest-growing sports management agency.
Talent on the field is not enough to build a sterling career; star athletes need star agents behind them to act as promoters, negotiators and advisors. While each competitor is a brand, each agent is a brand manager. You’ll need to be a scout, marketer, negotiator, counselor and friend simultaneously—and that’s just for one client! A career as a sports agent is challenging, fast-paced, high-pressure and immensely rewarding. If you’re a business leader looking to switch careers or you’re already in the world of athletics and are considering managing athletes, here’s what you should know first.
Successful sports agents can earn big.
Sports is big money—especially for the star players. Agents generally work on commission, so the more their clients earn, the more they make. In most international sports, the agents and clients negotiate a rate between 1% and 10%. Some sports associations cap the maximum rates agents can earn, while others do not. For example, FIFA plans to limit earnings to 3% of the player’s salary and 10% of the transfer fee starting in 2023.
Many Duties In Different Fields
Like many high-pressure jobs, being a sports agent comes with its share of perks, but it requires tremendous work. Agents perform various tasks to represent their clients in business, legal and PR matters. Everything they do aims at helping the players in their charge advance their careers. Here are a few of the responsibilities an agent will likely need to perform.
• Act as talent scout, marketing manager and press director. Agents often act as scouts and travel to academies, high schools and universities to find up-and-coming players. They need a sharp eye for talent and a thorough understanding of their sport to sign quality players. The press can be challenging to manage, but great agents can market their clients well. This often requires fielding inquiries and arranging interviews. Depending on the client, some agents also monitor or manage social media accounts on behalf of their players.
• Always seek new opportunities. Opportunities live around every corner, and successful agents must seek them out. Even if your client is already at a club, it is your responsibility to find alternatives to help build their career and achieve their goals. Lucrative endorsements await skilled players and the agents who know how to land them.
• Mediate disputes. Agents advise, speak for and negotiate on behalf of their clients whenever they are involved in a disagreement. These disputes can arise between players and the brands that endorse them or even their clubs. As a result, the best agents have strong negotiation skills and an understanding of contract law.
• Become a hard-nosed negotiator. Contracts are legally binding documents; therefore, agents must understand how they work. While they do not need to be solicitors, they must ensure that contracts are appropriately formatted and meet all relevant legal guidelines.
• Listen. As a trusted advisor, your athletes need to rely on you, but many people forget this. Agents must see the person behind the stats and media portrayals. They need to listen to their clients and give the best, most thoughtful advice.
• Be an organized communicator. The essential skill for a sports agent is communication: Communication and networking can provide alternatives even if an agent’s other skills are lacking. Sports agents need to manage their clients’ finances, contracts, assets and more. In the fast-paced world of sports, they may need to move quickly from one client’s need to another’s—an impossible task without organization and communication skills.
6 Steps To Becoming A Sports Agent
While the exact procedure for becoming an agent differs from one association to the next, the general process is relatively uniform worldwide. You can start building the requisite skills early as a fan of the sport. Aspiring agents typically find that, even in associations that require no formal education, knowledge is key—and that takes hard work and dedication.
1. Know the sport inside and out.
In the abstract, an agent’s job is to place his clients at the clubs that will pay the most. To do this, you must know how to assess a team’s strategic outlook, their current roster’s skillset and whether your client can fill an unmet need at the club.
2. Consider obtaining legal experience.
You don’t need a law degree (though many sports agents have them), but you do need to be conversant in all the appropriate terminology and conventions of sports contracts. If you’re not a solicitor or lawyer, you can’t give legal advice, so you’ll be working with qualified professionals during negotiations or in the event of allegations.
3. Get a formal education.
Most sports associations require a bachelor’s degree. The typical undergraduate degrees for agents include business management and sports management. Even in associations that do not require formal education, many agents achieve graduate degrees before entering the profession.
4. Get industry experience.
Beginning any career is difficult, and being a sports agent is no different. Most agents get their start as interns, either under an experienced independent agent or at an agency. Formal education in the business or legal requirements can help, but nothing can replace on-the-job training and seeing agents in action as an intern.
5. Obtain a license, certification or registration.
Each association has its own requirements for registration, and there is almost always a fee, exam and criminal background check. For example, the FA charges £500 ($615) and requires you to pass a “test of good character and reputation.” MLB requires a £1600 ($2,000) fee and an exam on the league’s many rules and regulations, for which they offer a preparatory course.
6. Get in the game.
Agents need clients. Any lead on a good prospect can be valuable, so use your professional network, browse online job boards, talk to other agents, send your resume to agencies—whatever will get you out there.