A sports agent procures and negotiates employment and endorsement contracts for an athlete.
In return, the sports agent generally receives between 4 and 10% of the athlete's playing contract, and 10 to 20% of the athlete's endorsement contract, though these figures vary. An NFL agent is not allowed to receive more than 3% of his client's playing contract, and an NBA agent is not permitted to receive more than 4% of his client's playing contract.
A sports agent helps market athletes or products associated with that athlete to promote an athlete's career. Agents are responsible for communications with team owners, managers, coaches, and other individuals. Primarily, agents are used to broker and negotiate contracts for their clients. Also, they are responsible for making recommendations in regards to the athlete's options. In addition to finding income sources, agents often handle public relations matters for their clients. In some large sports agencies, such as IMG, Creative Artists Agency, and Octagon, agents deal with all aspects of a client's finances, from investment to filing taxes.
Sports agents may be relied upon by their clients for guidance in all business aspects, and sometimes even more broadly. For example, hockey agents start recruiting clients as young as 15, allowing the agent to guide the athlete's career before the NHL draft, which happens usually at 18 years of age.
Due to the length and complexity of contracts, many sports agents are lawyers or have a background in contract law. Agents are expected to be knowledgeable about finance, business management, and financial and risk analysis, as well as sports. It is important for a sports agent to follow trends in sports. Other skills an agent must possess are excellent communication and negotiation skills. Agents must be highly motivated, willing to work long hours, and have the ability to multitask. It is very common for agents to be in negotiations on behalf of several clients at one time.
Some agents are part of large companies, and some are on their own. The number of clients an individual agent can handle and how many clients his or her employing agency can handle in total are interdependent variables.
Before the 1990s, most soccer players did not use agents. In some cases, they used their fathers as agents. Due to most parents' naivete about the football business, these young footballers were often given less-than-stellar contracts by football clubs, which yielded lower salaries than they thought they deserved. In Sweden, there were only three licensed agents in 1995. As of 2002, there were 33. According to FIFA, there were 5,187 licensed association football agents world-wide, with 600 agents in Italy alone. Since 2001, agents have not been licensed by FIFA. Instead, agents are now licensed directly by each association.
The popularity of television shows such as Entourage, which stars a talent agent named Ari Gold, and Arliss, have helped glamorize the profession. Prior to that, movies such as Jerry Maguire, Two for the Money, and Any Given Sunday depicted sports agents. In England, ITV's Footballers' Wives put a new spin on sports agents by casting a no-holds-barred female agent Hazel Bailey.
Due to the popularity of these works, there has been increase of attention in the profession. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's son decided to become a football agent.
Notable sports agents
- Tom Condon: co-head of Creative Artists Agency (CAA) Football. Clients include Peyton Manning and Tony Romo.
- James "Bus" Cook: Clients include Brett Favre, Jay Cutler, and Calvin Johnson.
- Ben Dogra: co-head of CAA Football. Clients include Adrian Peterson, Patrick Willis, and Joseph Addai.
- Jason Fletcher: former player turned agent. Clients include Antonio Cromartie, Jamar Fletcher, Clinton Portis, and Fabian Washington.
- Bob LaMonte: founder and president of Professional Sports Representation. Clients include Mike Holmgren, Brad Childress, and Josh McDaniels.
- Eugene E. Parker: negotiated the highest signing bonuses in NFL history for Emmitt Smith and Deion Sanders. Real-life inspiration for flamboyant character "Rod Tidwell" in the film Jerry Maguire.
- John "JR" Rickert: Clients include Joshua Cribbs, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Kevin Burnett, and Mike Patterson.
- Drew Rosenhaus: Clients include Plaxico Burress and Trae Adidas Day.
- Joel Segal: president of BEST Football. Clients include Reggie Bush, Santonio Holmes, and Chris Johnson.
- Leigh Steinberg: Clients include Troy Aikman and Ben Roethlisberger. Real-life inspiration for fictional sports agent Jerry Maguire in the film of the same name (he has a cameo appearance in the movie).
- Jeff Austin is head of Octagon's Basketball division, and was ranked 11th in the "12 Best Sport Agents in the World" in 2010 according to Business Insider. His clients include David Robinson, Moses Malone, Kirk Hinrich, Stephen Curry, and Jimmer Fredette.
- Mark Bartelstein (see also Priority Sports and Entertainment): Basketball and football agent. Clients have included Kurt Warner and Gordon Hayward.
- Bill Duffy: Clients include Rajon Rondo, Brandon Jennings, Greg Oden, Yao Ming, Baron Davis, and Steve Nash.
- David Falk: Currently semi-retired. Past clients have included Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, and Dikembe Mutombo. In the 1990s he was generally considered the most influential player agent in the NBA.
- Dan Fegan: Noted for creating several nuances in the most recently expired NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Clients include John Wall, Dwight Howard, and Ricky Rubio.
- Aaron Goodwin: Terminated by LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Al Horford, Jamal Crawford. Goodwin now represents Candace Parker.
- Roger Montgomery: Managed Desmond Mason, Maurice Evans, and Jeremy Lin.
- Rob Pelinka: Former basketball player at the University of Michigan. Clients include Kobe Bryant and Carlos Boozer.
- Leon Rose: Agent of LeBron James.
- Arn Tellem: Clients include Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal, Pau Gasol, and Joe Johnson. His clients' total salaries in 2007–08 season added up to more than $210 million.
Alex Robinson: son of former England & Nottinghamshire batsmen, Tim Robinson, is Managing Director of Target Sports Management who deal with a number of cricketers on the professional circuit
- Craig McKenzie: American basketball agent. Worked for Eugene E. Parker on Deion Sanders. Clients included three-sport athlete Charlie Ward, Marcus Brown, JR Bremer, and Mire Chatman.
- Miško Ražnatović: Serbian agent. Through his agency (BeoBasket), he mostly represents European basketball players and coaches as well as American players playing in Europe. His notable clients include Nikola Peković, Mirza Teletović, coach Dušan Ivković, Vassilis Spanoulis, Duško Savanović, Pero Antić, Aleksandar Ćapin, Marko Kešelj, Nihad Đedović, Novica Veličković, Milenko Tepić, İlkan Karaman, Emir Preldžić, etc. Ražnatović was additionally involved in the Deron Williams' transfer to Beşiktaş during the 2011 NBA lockout and owns a basketball club KK Mega Vizura that competes in the Basketball League of Serbia.
- Jorge Mendes: Portuguese agent. Founder of GestiFute. Clients include Falcao, Anderson, Quaresma, Deco, Nani, Cristiano Ronaldo, and José Mourinho.
- Paul Stretford: English agent. Clients include Wayne Rooney. Set up Triple S Sports Entertainment Group in 2009 after leaving Proactive Sports, which he originally established.
- Pini Zahavi: Israeli agent. Handled deals involving the transfers of Tevez, Yakubu, and Rio Ferdinand.
- Mino Raiola: Dutch-based Italian agent. His notable clients are Zlatan Ibrahimović and Mario Balotelli, and previously Pavel Nedvěd.
- Milan Ćalasan: Serbian agent. His agency (Mondialvas) represented Christian Karembeu, manager Arsène Wenger, and Nikola Žigić.
- Claes Elefalk: Swedish agent. Clients include Freddie Ljungberg, Pontus Farnerud, and Nils-Eric Johansson, plus several NHL ice hockey players.
- Roger Ljung: Former Swedish International player, owns his own agency (Roger Ljung Promotion AB). Represented Freddie Ljungberg until 2006. Clients include Marcus Allbäck, Daniel Andersson, Patrik Andersson, Erik Edman, Andreas Isaksson, Kim Källström, Marcus Lantz, and Teddy Lučić.
- Martin Dahlin: Former Swedish international player; works for Roger Ljung Promotion AB
- Dan Segal: US agent. Clients include Landon Donovan, Freddy Adu, Tim Howard, and Bobby Convey.
Notable former sports agents
Sports agency groups
There have been some efforts to transform the sports agency business from an individual, entrepreneurial business, to more of a corporate structure. These experiments met with varying degrees of longevity and success.
Formerly active agencies
Some sports agency firms were once prominent, but are now gone or reorganized:
- Assante Corporation – Canadian public company that acquired the Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn agency, then acquired other agencies including Dan Fegan & Associates and Maximum Sports Management in an unsuccessful effort to build multi-sport corporate agency.
- SFX Entertainment (now Live Nation, a publicly traded company) – in 1998 SFX agreed to pay up to $150 million in cash, stock, and bonuses for F.A.M.E., the sports agency run by David Falk, the agent for basketball players Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing. SFX also acquired two other major sports agencies, Arn Tellem's agency (Tellem & Associates) and the baseball-oriented firm run by Randy Hendricks and Allan Hendricks. SFX would later reverse course, and sell off the pieces of its large sports agency business.
- Steinberg, Moorad & Dunn ("SMD") – a multi-sport agency sold in October 1999 for reported $120 million to Canadian financial firm. Defections of principals, and litigation, followed. Originally led by entrepreneurial agents Leigh Steinberg and Jeff Moorad.
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- ^ "Crash Landing"- ESPN , by Peter Keating, article about Leigh Steinberg
- The Business of Sports Agents, by Kenneth L. Shropshire, Timothy Davis, 2008, University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 978-0-8122-4084-9
- License to Deal: A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent, by Jerry Crasnick, 2005, Rodale Books, ISBN 978-1-59486-024-9
- An Athlete's Guide to Agents: 5th Edition, by Bob Ruxin with Darren Heitner, 2009, Jones and Bartlett, ISBN 978-0-7637-7611-4
- How To Be A Sports Agent, by Mel Stein, 2008, High Stakes Publishing, ISBN 978-1-84344-045-1