In the U.S., sports are more than just games — they're also a business. Athletes who grow up playing sports may harness enough ability and talent to take it to the professional level. Those athletes typically need the assistance of an agent. Sports agents negotiate players' contracts and market them to hiring sports organizations. They also typically handle details related to endorsements, public appearances and general financial decisions. The amount of money a sports agent can make in a year varies greatly due to various influences.
Methods of Charging for Representation
Agents typically choose one of four ways to earn their salaries. Taking a percentage of the player's contract value is common and usually amounts to anywhere from 3 percent to 5 percent. Certain agents, specifically those who act as lawyers, charge by the hour; $400 an hour is standard for this method of representation. Services may also be provided for a flat fee, which is sometimes the case when an athlete only needs short-term representation. The final option is to use a combination of these three methods. For example, an agent may charge a standard percentage of the contract value for the base wage, and an hourly fee or flat fee for auxiliary services such as endorsement or public appearance negotiation.
According to a 2009 report by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, agents of performers and athletes made $87,430 a year on average. Those who worked specifically in the spectator sports industry averaged $67,700 a year. The level and perceived value of the player, as well as the reputation of the agent, can affect wages drastically.
Highs and Lows of National Sports Organizations
Agents working in the arena of national level professional sports usually garner wages through commission. In the National Football League, players may get contracts worth $225,000 to $20 million, so the agent has the chance to earn anywhere from $6,750 to $600,000 for one contract negotiation. Less lucrative sports organizations include Major League Soccer: Players in this league are typically paid $15,000 to $500,000 for a contract, bringing $600 to $20,000 to the agent. The highest-paying organized sport in the U.S. is the National Basketball Association: Agents in this league can make anywhere from $15,400 to $1,120,000 for a single contract, according to Sports Management Worldwide.
Path to the Career
Sports agents may begin their career as former athletes, coaches or enthusiasts and simply develop a reputation for success. However, sports agents may also be business savvy, with degrees or education in marketing, business administration and sports administration. Attorneys can also specialize in athlete contract negotiations.