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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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April 26, 2001: Sports Agents - A Necessity?

Q: I have heard you speak several times and also read an article by you about how, except for the top picks, most sports drafters waste their money on hiring an agent. Apparently football coaches and players don't read your stuff because it seemed at least in football everyone had an "agent."

A: Even though football coaches and players might not read my "stuff", I am flattered that you did pay attention. In this day and age everyone seems to feel competent to do their own legal work such as writing their own Wills and real estate documents, forming corporations and partnerships, establishing and taking apart living trusts, etc. Yet few seem willing to "negotiate" these kinds of contracts, when in reality they have a much better chance of getting it right with far less downside damage than those other folks.

I won't repeat all of the points I previously made at my speeches or in my articles, but to summarize, the Internet is a wonderful tool for a draftee in any professional sport. Standard contracts, often modified for particular playing positions, along with normal contractual clause variations and modifications, can be downloaded. Important details, such as the average financial offer based upon playing position and where a player was selected in the draft is also available. But I must admit that I am a computer dinosaur so I rely on others to access this information.

In addition to the Internet, a few telephone calls to a players' organization or group and a current player or two will answer remaining questions or concerns.

It has been my experience in this area, as both a participant and an interested observer, that except for the top picks and for the top veteran players, there is not much meaningful wiggle room in contract negotiations. The variations from one contract to another do occur but the question is whether the differences were that significant given the money that was spent to achieve them.

Once the background work is done (and we really are talking hours) then when a contract is offered, it should be taken, along with the information, to an attorney to review and for comment. Yes, there might be negotiations but it will be a lot less expensive paying the lawyer his or her normal hourly rate as opposed to the agent's fee.

Now for a free agent looking to find a team or for a veteran coming up on a resigning, an agent in the "loop" can act as a match-maker and contact particular teams in need of particular kinds of players. But the sports family is a relatively small and closely knit group, so those involved usually are well aware of who is out there, at least at the veteran's level.

What I suggest for fun is for a signed draftee, other than a first round selectee, to go through the process and compare what was signed to what he or she comes up with.

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