The Sports Player’s Gatekeeper: The Sports Agent
Sports professionals have become increasingly popular. From their contracts with sports teams to their advertising deals, they often earn impressive salaries. Forbes ranked the top 25 athletes by income, and FIFA soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo earned the top spot with $88 million in income. The number 25 spot went to soccer professional Gareth Bale, who earned slightly under $40 million.
However, sports players don’t negotiate contracts themselves. Instead, they rely on the industry’s unofficial gatekeepers: sports agents.
Sports Agents Develop Reputations That Can Lead to High Earning Potential
Image via Flickr by Ludovic_P
As the Forbes list indicates, many sports players earn millions of dollars. These professionals share their earnings with their sports agents, who can have multiple clients. Forbes also ranked the highest-paid sports agents. Scott Boras — whose clients include Prince Fielder, Matt Holliday, and other major stars — has an impressive $2.3 billion in open contracts.
Second on the list, Jorge Mendez, serves as Cristiano Ronaldo’s agent. In line with Ronaldo’s 2016 salary, his agent has slightly more than $950 million in open contracts.
According to Forbes, Mendez started his career as a soccer player, and then moved on to work as a DJ after an injury ended his professional sports possibilities. Mendez’s road to sports agent success demonstrates that professionals with any background may pursue a career as a sports agent if they choose the right educational program.
Writing for the website TheRichest, Anteneh Belayneh profiled some of the most powerful sports agents in the world. He revealed that sports agents could earn between 4 and 10 percent of an athlete’s contractual revenue and up to 20 percent of the client’s endorsement income. However, he also noted that industry standards for agents’ incomes can vary depending on the sport, so prospective sports agents may want to consider income potential when deciding what sport to pursue in an agent capacity.
A Sports Agent Can Work Alone or With a Firm
Some of the top sports agents, such as Boras, work for themselves. Others choose to form teams or join firms. According to Belayneh, baseball sports agent Dan Lozano founded MVP sports group and manages many agents who report to him.
Many of the other sports agents Belayneh highlighted serve as vice chairmen, co-founder, or president of their own sports agencies. However, they did not all start out at the top. Starting with a sport management degree online could help you launch your career. You may join another sports agency or create your own agency, then progress to increasingly larger contracts as you prove yourself in the industry.
Common threads found in both the Forbes and Belayneh lists include multiple contracts and excellent discernment. For example, Ben Dogra of the Creative Artists Agency has “represented more first round picks in the NFL than any other agent since 2004.” This accomplishment could suggest that agents serve as gatekeepers by selecting only the most promising talent for representation.
Many Sports Agents Serve as Counselors and Advocates
Sports agents’ jobs don’t simply involve only dollars and cents in a contract. In an interview for Cosmopolitan, Kelli Masters, a successful sports agent who started her career in sports journalism, stated that much of her job revolves around caring for her clients. She often signs professional athletes out of college, and she finds herself counseling them through difficult decisions and helping them adjust to their new lifestyles.
According to Masters, who has received certification through the NFL, she often meets with prospective clients in their living rooms. She also spends time at games watching key players and getting to know their styles. She uses her law degree as well as her sports agent education to help her clients set up nonprofit foundations, decide where they want to play, and guide players toward their specific career goals.
Ultimately, Masters serves as a gatekeeper for her clients. She advocates for their needs and counsels them throughout their careers, helping them decide whether offers or opportunities make sense for their career visions. Her devotion to her clients led her to become the first woman to represent a number-one NFL pick.
Sports Agents Stand Between the Athlete and the Public
While advocacy and negotiation serve as two primary roles for sports agents, professionals in the sports agent industry have many other duties. According to sports journalist Frank Angst, writing for the website The Balance, “Sports agents represent the interests of athletes.”
Angst listed several responsibilities that place sports agents directly between the athletes and others. For example, an agent may help clients with financial planning. From investments and savings to charitable gifts, agents can help their clients make smart financial decisions.
Additionally, Angst mentioned that sports agents often serve as public relations liaisons. They may arrange interviews with journalists or protect athletes from unwanted public exposure. Angst also noted that agents must know exactly what their clients need. One athlete may want the highest possible salary, while another may weigh location, bonuses, or other factors ahead of income potential.
The career of a sports agent can prove stressful. According to Kelli Masters, NFL-certified agents must land three clients within the first year. Otherwise, they lose their licenses. However, the earning potential and the potential for notoriety often drive prospective agents forward in this career.
Serving as a gatekeeper for sports professionals could offer the job satisfaction you may seek. If you’re thinking about a career in this field, Adelphi University offers individuals interested in this career path an opportunity to earn a Master of Science in Sport Management degree through its online degree program. You can earn your master’s degree in as few as 24 months, at which point you can pursue licensure and begin your career.