It's been 18 years since Oscar-winning movie Jerry Maguire
threw the spotlight on the world of sports management.
Since then, the industry has exploded exponentially with sports
agents holding vast influence and, despite industry accreditation
systems attempting to control the profession, morally-challenged
Maguire types still exist.
According to McInnes Wilson corporate and commercial lawyer Tim
Fuller, the misconduct lurks in dark shadows and, when exposed, is
often dealt with by way of a minor sanction, or figurative slap on
the wrist. He says it's time sports agents were held
accountable to a higher authority and he has suggested federal
legislation with a uniform set of regulations for all sports agents
and a register of all those operating under the scheme.
"Let's be blunt - the integrity of sport in general is
under genuine assault," warns Fuller.
"These guys play a pretty powerful position as an agent, they
have significant influence."
"In business, company directors are liable for civil and
occasionally criminal sanctions for illegal activity.
"In the world of a sports agent, very little happens. It
cannot be stressed enough that a legal relationship is created when
an athlete engages a sports agent to act in his or her best
interest with a third party.
"This role and profession needs to be brought under one
umbrella through the administration of a national scheme."
Fuller says different sports have different accreditation schemes
with varying standards of competency and accountability.
"It is an ad hoc approach at best," he laments.
"What might constitute a breach of a code of conduct in one
sport may not even qualify as a slap on the wrist in
He says if the government is serious about protecting the
integrity of sport, reform is necessary and the major sports may
need to be dragged kicking and screaming as a few were when the
Federal Government required them to adopt the WADA Code.
"The government should be looking at implementing a
national uniform scheme requiring all sports and professional
leagues to become an active participant. If it takes tough love
from the government and funding threats are part of it, so be it.
This is essentially what happened with the implementation of the
WADA Code and drugs in sport."
Fuller warns minors are most at risk of exploitation which
necessitates a higher standard of care. "The agents need to be
aware of their responsibilities under the law in dealing with
minors. Whilst there are accreditation differences across
respective sports, the law when dealing with minors is essentially
the same for all jurisdictions across the nation," he
"It is in the best interests of everybody represented by an
agent in this country, whatever sport they play, to have uniform
rules and consistent standards apply to those that purportedly
represent their best interests. "It is time to bring this
profession out of the dark shadows and compel sports agents to play
by the same rules."
An administrative body would be required to ensure the laws and
regulations are consistently updated and enforced. Fuller says
athletes under the legislation should be provided with a statutory
right to sue their agents for breaches of any sport agent specific
He says as it is today, it is almost impossible for an athlete
to consider any course of action against their agent for misconduct
or breach of fiduciary duty. "We expect quality performance
from our athletes on the field; it's time to raise the
standards set for those who play an instrumental role in their
careers," he says.
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