Written on the 30 April 2014

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 its 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 another.”

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 says.

“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 legislation.

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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