In my last article I provided insight into what a soccer player in his formative years should accomplish before making the decision to engage the services of an Agent. This article will focus on what takes place immediately preceding the execution of the document and certain obligations both parties have following the coming into force of the contract. This is not intended to read as a dry legal article so there will be plenty of practical soccer-specific examples to keep the fans interested!
The first point to clarify is that engaging the services of an Agent is no light decision. It requires research which should involve speaking to people who know about soccer. The world of soccer is a small one and most people who are seriously involved will have heard of most of the other people who are working in the field; or at the very least, can put you in touch with someone else who will have some information on that particular Agent.
Once you have thoroughly researched the Agent’s company and professional background, it is time to contact the Agent. I always try and develop a rapport or chemistry with any prospective and indeed established clients. It’s my experience that if the player and Agent do not get on well, then the relationship is unlikely to work effectively. It’s just like any other relationship in life – you wouldn’t stay with a girlfriend if there wasn’t some kind of mutual understanding as to why you are with eachother; likewise you wouldn’t remain in a job if your boss was constantly singling you out for opprobrium and you certainly don’t want to be stuck with an Agent in whom you have little faith. From my standpoint, I also don’t want any players in my portfolio who do not implicitly believe that I’m the best person to assist their career development. This belief comes over time and with action; by showing the player via strong client care skills, encouragement, guidance and of course the end product of actually securing a good contract, better endorsement deals or simply keeping him grounded at his present club. Sometimes the best thing for a player is to remain where he is, work hard and force his way back into his Manager’s reckoning with a dedicated attitude. These are all examples of the Agent/Player relationship working well together.
Having got ahead of myself slightly in the preceding paragraph, it is time to get back on track with a discussion of the Representation Contract. This is the mechanism that defines the relationship between the Agent and player. Execution of such a document is a serious matter and creates a legal relationship. Hence, I always advise new clients to seek independent legal advice prior to signing the document.
A further point to bear in mind is that if the player is young, then it is essential to ensure that his parents are part of the entire process. Building up a solid working relationship with the player will, in many cases, involve getting to know the immediate family as well. They will be concerned that their son is in safe hands and it is important to listen to, and allay where possible, any fears they may have.
The Representation Contract covers many aspects, but this is not the correct forum to examine them in their entirety. Instead, I have selected 3 main areas of consideration which I believe would benefit readers the most since they generally comprise the central point of the negotiations:
- Length of the agreement;
- Exclusive or non-exclusive; and
- Amount of commission.
The length or term of the Representation Contract can last up to 2 years and can only be renewed thereafter if both parties agree.
Exclusivity is also relevant because if a player of mine has signed a non-exclusive Representation Contract with me then he is entitled to approach other Agents and likewise they can also speak to him. However, if the player signs an exclusive agreement, then I am the only Agent who can work for him. Any approach by a player under an exclusive arrangement to another Agent or indeed by another Agent to the player is, generally speaking, a breach of the Regulations.
The amount of commission. Agents usually charge an agreed percentage of the player’s gross annual basic salary (i.e. pre-tax). There is no set amount by law and it comes down to the agreement made between the player and the Agent. From my standpoint, the points I take into account when negotiating percentage are the age of the player, experience, his likely earnings and prevailing market factors such as the country; for example, I can say that the generally accepted commission rate in the USA is significantly less than in England. Clearly this is an important point and must be handled with sensitivity and a strong degree of realism from both parties.
Once the negotiations have been completed and both parties are content, the Agent and the player sign the Representation Contract and it is then sent off to the USSF, if the player is American, for approval. Then the hard work begins!
Max Eppel is the Owner/Manager of Max Eppel Soccer Agency LLC, based in Newport Beach, CA. He is a Players’ Agent Licensed by The FA (England) as well as being an English-qualified lawyer. For more information please visit www.maxeppelsocceragency.com.