Trout and Landis are not only one of the most wildly successful player-agent combinations in sport, they also have it far simpler that many of their rivals and colleagues. While Landis has hit the jackpot with Trout, many agents must keep large numbers on their books to make a living, often taking calculated gambles on young talent who may or may not hit the big time.
It can be a struggle, even in leagues where money seems endless. A powerful group of NFL agents has found itself at odds with the NFL Players Association, a body it has lobbied for regulatory changes around the way fees are calculated and distributed. The reason? »Nobody’s making money», according to leading agent Peter Schaffer, who referenced a study that suggested agents were banking just $5493 per year from players in the 2015 NFL draft.
Boo hoo, we hear you say. Yet when it comes to those sort of figures, perhaps it’s not quite as big of a leap to the Australian market and the NRL in particular, where agents are now going to come under more scrutiny than ever before following the Cronulla salary-cap affair.
Has that time finally arrived? Perhaps. NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has spoken before about penalties for agents found to be complicit in cap rorts but to little avail. After the Eels had their own cap scandal, as many as 11 were implicated but walked clear as the club imploded.
Agents have been almost untouchable in rugby league circles and wield more influence in the game than many fans would realise, especially in a volatile player market that has tended to capture more headlines in the average season than anything that happens on the field.
Many of the biggest have cosy relationships with particular journalists and are more than happy to leak details when it suits their needs. It gives them powerful public relations capabilities and the ability to massage the message when deals are to be done, or clients have misbehaved.
Whether the new regulations have any impact on the way player managers behave and interact with clients, clubs and third parties remains to be seen. Greenberg has at least been putting the industry on notice:
«In the past, the NRL has had no powers in relation to agents and this has led to unsatisfactory outcomes in several cases. Agents acting professionally have nothing to fear from the revised scheme but it will give us the scope to deal appropriately with those who do not act in the best interests of the players and the game.»
There are some excellent managers in and around the NRL who go above and beyond to ensure their clients are happy, healthy, well-reimbursed and constantly being prepared for life after their relatively fleeting rugby league career has ended.
But it would come as little surprise that others put the best interests of their bank account ahead of both players and the game. Shining a light into those dark corners should be the least the NRL can do if it wants to see cap rorters banished once and for all.