The duty of the player towards his agent

Whether or not to appoint an agent – that is the question…

In all sports, the relationship between a player (or athlete) and his agent is more often than not only viewed from one angle:  What can the agent do for the player?  This outlook negates the fact that a player also has certain duties towards his agent.

The legal relationship between a player and his agent is that of a principal (i.e. the player) and agent.  In essence it is the same legal relationship that exists between for example someone who wishes to sell his house (i.e. the principal) and an estate agent (i.e. the agent), or an investor (i.e. the prinicipal) and a stockbroker (i.e. the agent).

In South Africa, as in most countries, the principles governing the law of principal and agent are well established.  The principal and agent both have certain unchangeable duties towards the other.

The scope of an agent’s duties is much wider than that of the principal.  This is only logical since the agent is the one who is going to do all the work.  These duties include among others always acting in the best interest of the principal, discharging his duties with appropriate care and diligence, and promptly handing over to the principal all payments collected on the principal’s behalf.  Textbooks on this topic will list many more duties.

The principal on the other hand basically only has one duty:  To compensate the agent as agreed in their contract.

For any player, whether or not to appoint an agent should be one of the most important decisions he makes in his career.  There are many factors to consider in making this decision.  Do I need someone to help me plan my career?  Do I need someone to help me find playing opportunities and sponsorships?  Once the playing opportunities and sponsorships have been identified, do I need someone to negotiate the contracts for me?  Do I need someone to help me with all my cricket administration (entering tournaments, travel arrangements, invoicing, etc.)?  Do I need someone to help me with my tax?

However, once a player has made the decision to employ an agent, he has then assumed the duty and obligation to pay the agent.  This principle was recently highlighted in England in the case of the Ivorian soccer player Emmanuel Eboué.

In his heyday, Eboué played for the English super-club Arsenal from 2004 to 2011.  In the twilight of his career, Eboué was transferred to the English third tier club Sunderland.  For some murky reason, Eboué refused to pay his agent his rightful commission for the transfer to Sunderland.  The agent reported it to the world governing body FIFA,  who gave him a one-year ban from playing football.  The ban resulted in Sunderland terminating his playing contract and Eboué never played professional football again.

A few factors were listed above which a player should consider in deciding whether or not to have an agent.  The willingness in assuming the duty to pay your agent should be added to the list.  If you are not prepared to pay someone to be your agent, then don’t appoint an agent.


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