I start this piece paying homage to someone I refer to as an icon, a reference, an’’idolo’’. The recently deceased Italian ‘super-agent’ Mino Raiola. He may have been seen as a bane to some clubs and supporters, but at the end of the day, Mino was the man players gravitated towards. Mino was the man clubs call at 2 AM to have players transferred or help get short term fixes. The theme here is, hate or love them, agents are an essential part of the sports industry.

THE SPORTS LAWYER AGENTS AND LAWYER

A sports agent has the principal duty to ‘take care and ‘protect’ their clients. The two words should be interpreted to the widest scope as this could involve anything from booking hotels, holidays, managing PR scandals, attending clients’ games, data/video analysis, well-being and nutrition, being a confidant, nights out, all forms of media appearances, phone calls, negotiating sponsorship/endorsement contracts and any lucrative step to further client’s career and managing their life. It could also include pushing for transfer for contract renewal/better pay. 

Under the FIFA rules, Agents are now referred to as intermediaries. FIFA have stated that they would introduce new regulations later this year, under which, intermediaries will be entitled to a commission, which is capped at 3% of a player’s salary when representing the player, 3% of a player’s salary when representing the buyer and 6% when the same agent represents both the buyer and player. The maximum an agent representing the selling club can obtain is 10% of transfer figure. Questions such as the objective reasonability of this despite the time, effort and work of agents, and whether it should be increased have been asked. Regardless, commissions are typically charged on a contingency basis, they differ subject to the type of contract and cash involved. If an intermediary is involved in the negotiation of a contract, he shall be named in that contract for reasons of transparency. Although you find some failing to do that to pocket a bit more cash than giving the taxman.

A Sports agent could render service to clubs in certain circumstances. For instance, in cases where the agent has firsthand knowledge of a certain market (Jorge Mendes in Portugal), or where the agent is a perfect cost solution for a specific deal due to a chain of strong connections of human relationships and adequate network. More likely to broker a deal for the right price, payment structure and manner for the club as opposed to the staff. Agents via their knowledge of the various nuances of the industry could be used to trigger, ‘chain transactions’ which could be beneficial to multiple parties.

Agents are generally good networkers and have a good business network, they are well abreast of the market they operate in. A sports agent must be able to communicate effectively and be ready to network at any place and time as he may be required to be in contact with people ranging from club presidents of the biggest sporting teams in the world to local children scout. He/she must also possess respectable talent identification, quality public relation skills, disciplined in managing resources and excellent negotiators knowing when to push hard or push back. Astute problem-solving skills are vital making you a go-to man. The modern agency requires adaptability to various technological advancements and techniques for talent evaluation and valuation. With these skills, finding, engaging and promoting talent would be seamless. 

Becoming a Sports Agent in Nigeria would require:

  • Writing an application letter to that effect, addressed to the General Secretary and attach your CV.
  • Certificate of Police character
  • Means of identification
  • Four passport photographs
  • Pay the registration fee (N450, 000) (This is a one-time payment). 

Whilst many agents have a law background, agents and lawyers are not the same. Agents can be lawyers, lawyers can be agents. The criteria for becoming an agent and a sports lawyer are different. However, the journey and roles of both professions are very divergent. 

THE SPORT LAWYER 

Whereas a Sports Lawyer is someone with a sports law background. Not every lawyer is a sports lawyer. Respectfully, the current judiciary system in Nigeria does not have the range to deal with sporting issues despite being the institution saddled with jurisdiction. Hence the barrage of issues we have in the Nigerian sports industry. A sports lawyer requires specialized, sophisticated, high technical proficiency and expertise in the area of commercial and intellectual property law. As well as a vast knowledge of various legislature and governance within the industry. Sports lawyers usually work with sporting bodies, organizations, teams, federations etc.

A Sports Lawyer would typically represent pro leagues/teams in various commercial transactions such as media deals, sale of the club or naming rights broadcasting deals, lawsuits, protection of intellectual property rights, collective bargaining agreements, data protection, and drafting of several commercial contracts, negotiations.

Becoming a Sports Lawyer will require:

  • Obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in Law from any accredited university, with distinctions in Commercial, Contract and Intellectual Property Law
  • Being called to the Nigerian Bar 
  • A master’s degree in Sports Law is paramount as it sensitizes the individual to the hypothetical nuances of the industry 

The Sports Industry is a multibillion dollar industry and with more money, comes more responsibilities and expectations. This industry is no different. Despite the fiduciary nature, it can be unforgiving. Major deals collapsing has a potential to tarnish lifelong relationships, after years of investing time, effort and resources a talent may not be as successful as envisaged or not successful at all for whatever reason, or may be very successful and dissert his agent. Sports agents and lawyers are perceived as those who gain fame and fortune from ‘just’ knowing elite talent, however, the fact is only a few outliers get to this position. It is a tough reality; however, this industry cannot exist without the work of the middlemen.

Subscribe for latest Videos

Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.