Athletes have several means by which they can seek recourse for abuses by their agents. Just as teams and players may seek judicial and nonjudicial solutions to breaches of the standard player’s contract, industry stakeholders have created methods by which players can obtain relief from breaches of the standard representation contract. Typically player-agent disputes are treated like disputes involving other principal-agent service contracts. In one high-profile case two football agents in the United States were convicted by invocation of the mail fraud statute.
In response to widespread claims of agent abuses in sports in the United States, individual states during the early 1980s began examining the possibilities of creating agent certification programs. In large part the motive for state involvement was the desire to address recruiting problems occurring on college campuses. Thus, a goal was to protect athletes and the collegiate athletic programs within a state’s jurisdiction. Most state certification programs require agents to register and to post a bond. Registration fees vary widely from state to state, and several are contingent upon enforcement of the NCAA.
Because most athletes in North American professional sports receive their amateur training at U.S. colleges, the NCAA has also explored its own means of policing agents. In 1984 the NCAA created an annual registration for agents, often working in concert with state regulations. Obviously a motive for intervention by the NCAA was to prevent its member institutions from losing the eligibility of their high-profile athletes.
Other industry parties were concerned by agent abuses during the 1970s, and the agents themselves also expressed a desire to reduce agent abuses. As the agent profession developed a reputation as being unscrupulous, many competent, trustworthy agents recognized that the behavior of a few agents was hurting the image of the profession as a whole. Thus, the agents themselves sought to control and monitor behavior within their own ranks by creating a code of ethics for agents. The result was formation in 1978 of the Association of Representatives of Professional Athletes (ARPA), which grew to four hundred members by 1988. However, ARPA lacked the ability to sanction agents and folded.
Just as ARPA was created by agents to foster trustworthy behavior, lend credibility to their profession, and set standards of competency, other professions have developed similar codes of conduct. As a result some agents are influenced by codes of conduct of other professions in which they have been trained.When an agent has been trained and practices in another profession, such as law or accounting, that agent must also adhere to the standards of that profession. Other professions, such as financial advising, also have codes of conduct. Lawyers face additional constraints through their own professional standards; in the United States lawyers are bound by the code of the American Bar Association, which sets standards of professional ethics. If a lawyer engages in conduct that violates such a code, the lawyer risks being disbarred—a sanction that provides an additional means of deterring sports agent opportunism.
Finally, as a result of concern over agent opportunism, players’ associations created their own agent certification programs. These programs remove the burden of regulation from other industry parties. In North America MLB, the NHL, National Football League (NFL), and National Basketball Association (NBA) have developed agent certification programs that establish the terms of the SRC, fees, and forms of dispute resolution.