Even contracts with no money involved can create entitlements for you but it can also restrict your rights. The most obvious example is clubs requiring you to play for them exclusively, and attend training and games.
However, contracts can also include restrictions on things outside your sport – such as playing other sports or competitions, the types of sponsors you can engage, your social media content, and even your hobbies if they carry a risk of injury. Clubs may also impose requirements that you fulfil duties outside your playing role such as promotional, coaching or fundraising work.
Any expectations or restrictions of athletes should be reasonable & proportionate to the athlete, the sport and the level of competition, and reflective of the entitlements the club are providing you in return.
In turn, contracts can also create entitlements for the athlete such as physio and massage, travel or accommodation costs, equipment, or bonuses for finals or personal awards.
You also need to know your rights in the event of injury, pregnancy or events such as COVID.
It is really important to understand these entitlements and requirements before signing your contract, as they become enforceable once signed. And remember – you can always negotiate!
Negotiating my contract
Once you understand the rights and restrictions your contract sets out, it’s then time to consider whether you think you’re getting a fair deal.
We’re a big fan of the “if you don’t ask, the answer will always be no”, however you need to ensure your requests take into account things like salary cap, the financial position of your club, the strength of the program and your own performance.
If you want to negotiate more money, strengthen your bargaining position by knowing the salary cap, estimates of what other players are earning within your team and other teams in the league, and the costs you output by playing the sport (think travel, sporting equipment, injury and performance management such as physio, chiro, massage).
Take time to go through your statistics from the previous season and specifically relate them to why your playing style is valuable to that particular team. And don’t forget the value you may provide off the playing arena – such as leadership, club culture, and/or community engagement.
If your club aren’t able to offer you more money, consider asking them to include non-financial incentives to add value to your contract. This might include game tickets, equipment, leadership or other team roles, complimentary or discounted physio or massage sessions, or employment opportunities through the club or their sponsor.
You can also use your player power to ask your club about their stance or policies on certain issues, for example: what are they doing as a club to promote womens sport or other issues you care about? Do they have fair (or any) policies in place for female specific issues, such as pregnancy and sexual harassment? Are there enough women in decision making roles within the club? These factors are becoming increasingly important to players with athletes more likely to sign or stay with a club they believe share and promote their values.
Remember – negotiation doesn’t have to be aggressive or adversarial. Equip yourself with relevant knowledge about the team and the league, and communicate with your club in a respectful way. A club is more likely to take you seriously if you come to a meeting prepared with this information, rather than an email just asking for a higher sum.
How can an agent/manager help me?
Contracts can be lengthy and detailed, especially when sports use standard form contracts. You may have even been told “don’t worry about that, just sign at the back”.
Having an experienced set of eyes to sit and read over your contract before you sign comes with many benefits. Here are just a few:
Ensuring everything you have agreed verbally is written in the final contract. Remember the 4 corners rule? It has to be put into writing to make it enforceable.
Having a third party can help maintain the professional relationship between the athlete and the club/coaches, to avoid any awkwardness of direct negotiations;
Checking for inconsistencies. It can be easy to miss any obligations or rights contained in one part of the contract that might contradict another part of the contract or a policy that you need to comply with.
Assessing what is fair and reasonable. This is particularly important if you are juggling other employment commitments.
Asking questions on certain terms rather than skipping over them. Knowing what could be an issue in the future means we know what questions to ask and double check before you sign on the dotted line!
We hope you found these pointers helpful! Visit our website or contact us by email or Instagram to hear about how we can support your sporting career.