What is Sports Management?
To understand the profession, we need to explore the management aspect. Sport(s) management deals with the function of the sport from a business perspective. Therefore, it involves marketing, finance, economics, health, and communications. The sport manager may represent a professional team, organization, college team, or a professional athlete.
What is a Sports Agent?
The agent acts as the legal representative of a professional (in most cases) athlete or coach. However, there are instances when agents recruit prospective athletes years before their professional eligibility. In hockey, for example, a sports agent may guide a future National Hockey League (NHL) talent at the age of fifteen. Players must be 18 years old as of September 15 in the year in which the draft takes place.
The profession receives publicity when a sports agent signs or resigns a professional athlete to a massively lucrative contract. Some sports agencies have multiple clients whose contracts and fees catapult the firm into the stratosphere of wealth. For example, the London-based Stellar Group negotiated more than $1.28 billion in contracts, mostly with European soccer players. The possible commissions exceeded $128 million, according to a Forbes Magazine article of October 2019.
In the sports world of lucrative multi-year contracts in the $200 million range, such as football and baseball, the commissions are a windfall for a top sports agent. Major League Baseball (MLB) allows agents to charge a commission of 5%. For comparison, the NHL and NBA allow 4%. In professional tennis and golf, sports agents do not make commissions from their clients’ on-court or tournament earnings, only from the marketing dollars the agents help generate. This commission averages 20%. Team players, in the major sports, can produce millions of dollars in endorsements. The agent could earn as much as 15% to 20% of this revenue also.
The above figures illustrate the pinnacle of a sports agency. Not all agents will represent clients whose annual earnings are in double-digit millions or have triple-digit contracts. It is primarily a commission dependent occupation, the same as a realtor. Therefore, it is difficult to establish an average salary for sports agents. It is an easier task to arrive at an average income for a sports manager. The employment site, Glassdoor, states that the average salary for sports management is $69,239 per year. Payscale lists the average wage at $55,000. However, a sports manager on a professional team (NFL, NBA, or MLB) may earn $500,000 to several million.
The academic path to both professions has more similarities than differences. Future sports managers and agents may enroll in a sports management or sports marketing degree. Many of these degrees are available online. For example, the University of Florida’s College of Health and Human Performance offers a Bachelor of Science in Sport Management online.
A quick online search for sport management programs reveals numerous choices at the undergraduate level. There is also an array of specialties and courses available depending on your career aspirations. Some of the classes include sports promotion, labor relations, legal aspects, marketing, contracts, negotiations, and sports psychology, sociology of sport, and many more.
Other options exist in a business degree with a concentration in sports business. Courses in law are beneficial as this teaches contract law and related legal issues. A law background or degree is a possibility for sports management or agent. Many sports agents have a law degree, although successful agents may advise against it. Some have completed law school but never passed the bar exam. Instead, a degree where you learn about marketing, promotion, and public relations bode well for agents.
At the graduate level, there are degree choices in sports marketing, management, professional studies in the sports industry, finance, and sports psychology. All would be advantageous to managers and agents.
Typical Work Life
As illustrated above, the agent represents clients in a one-on-one relationship. A sports manager may work for a team, working behind the scenes on business affairs. The manager may have contact with the agent who brings his client to the negotiation table to procure a contract with the team. In this case, the team manager is aware of the financial arrangements of the team. In other words, the manager knows how much the team or organization is willing to pay the prospective player.
As a manager or sports agent, you may start with small and work your way into the big leagues. As an agent, you may legally represent higher-priced talent. As a sports manager, you may start in the minor leagues or college-level teams before progressing to professional sports. College teams employ managers to scout and recruit high school players across the United States. The role may also involve organizing fundraisers, addressing athletes’ concerns, and conducting marketing events.