SBJ/July 1-7, 2013/Labor and Agents

International Tennis Federation hires firm to advise players on agent selection, contracts

Unlike team sports that have unions overseeing agents, tennis has never kept oversight of those individuals who represent its players.

The International Tennis Federation is taking a small step in that direction, though, hiring London law firm Couchmans to advise junior players on agent selection and commercial contracts.

The program is entirely voluntary and will not rate agents.

Agents have long had strong influence in tennis, sitting on the boards of the ATP and WTA, managing TV contracts, and owning events, positions that have led to charges of conflicts of interest.

One agent thought the ITF move was a needed one.

“I think this is great,” said John Tobias, head of tennis at Lagardère Unlimited. “There is no formal certification of agents in tennis. The ATP and WTA have never established any guidelines that restrict unqualified agents from representing players. Maybe this will help to start weeding out some of these agents that represent tennis players as a part-time job.”

The ITF is considered the global governing body of the sport, overseeing team competitions like the Davis Cup and setting rules and requirements for Olympic play.

The ITF’s effort will start on a trial basis, running between July and December. It will be open to the 10 highest-ranked players, boys and girls, in each of the six age groups ascending from ages 13 to 18 as they stand in the ITF Junior World Rankings. Also eligible are junior players who are nominated to represent their countries at the 2013 World Junior Tennis Finals and the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas finals.

Each player can request a free, independent one-hour review from a Couchmans attorney of a proposed commercial or representation contract. Players will get an overview of the proposed contract that outlines key terms and consequences. Players also can obtain follow-up advice.

Agents often sign promising tennis players in their early to mid-teens, so by the time they reach the WTA or ATP tours, they have already signed their first agent and commercial contracts.

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