Starting a sports agency anywhere is a compelling prospect. Players at the top level of many sports make large amounts of money, and agents’ fees can reflect this. While the competition is cutthroat in many countries, France has opted to keep a closer eye on the industry. This can feel like it presents more barriers, but it provides greater structure and support than anywhere else.
In most countries, agents’ activities are only overseen by league associations, outside of the general application of the law. France is one of half a dozen EU countries to have developed specific laws pertaining to sports agents, and has comfortably the most comprehensive legislation. You will know exactly where you stand when starting a sports agency in France, and have an unparalleled network of support.
Choose a sport
With most of the money in European sport being poured into association football, that might seem like the obvious choice. But almost every major sport is a viable route for a new agency, with France ranking highly among all of them when it comes to agent registration. You may even benefit from starting out in a sport that has less obvious traction or public appeal.
France has the widest range of sports with registered professional agents, racking up 17 different disciplines. Football and rugby are the most popular, and France boasts two of the most established league systems in Europe, with teams like Paris Saint-Germain and Toulon among the best teams in Europe. France also exports more footballers to other parts of Europe than any other European nation, with many of them going to the major English leagues.
However, there is representation across the board. France has more registered athletics agents than any other European nation, and boasts representatives in everything from basketball to judo. Of course, this does not count the fields for which there is no official governing body or registration process, or the agents acting in an unofficial capacity. It’s wise to go where your knowledge takes you, but when starting a sports agency in France, there’s free reign to pick the field that suits you best.
Brush up on the law
As well as being one of the more popular destinations for starting a sports agency, France also has some of the most comprehensive legislation for them. This isn’t necessarily a coincidence. While such a strong legal framework could be seen as limiting, it also presents a clear set of guidelines on what you can and cannot do. This can be helpful when setting up in a field that has often seemed slightly shady and secretive from the outside.
Unlike many other nations, all sports agents must be licensed in France. The responsibility for managing this is delegated to the governing body for each sport. Grounds for suspensions and revocations include criminal convictions, breaches of contract and seeking remuneration from minors. You can be an agent for individuals under the age of 18, but you are not allowed to be compensated, or to receive any extra recompense in future contracts.
There are also certain laws surrounding potential conflicts of interest with past roles when starting a sports agency in France. Anyone involved with the business at any level (owner, agents, investors etc.) cannot have been involved in a company that pays athletes or sets up events, and cannot have experienced personal bankruptcy. However France is fairly unique in having the stipulation that former lawyers can become agents, as they feel this gives them a fair advantage in supporting their clients.
Foreign-born citizens cannot apply to become an agent through the French Football Federation. However, individuals with licenses from other European Union or EEA nations may now request a right to practice from the Commission of Sports Agents for the FFF. Agents in France cannot be paid in excess of 10% of the value of a professional contract, and must pay for personal liability insurance, although this represents a fairly nominal yearly fee.
Hedge your bets
More than most businesses, starting a sports agency in France involves a degree of gambling. The potential rewards are great because supporting an athlete through their career is as much down to luck as skill. You might find a brilliant rising star whose career ends up being blighted by injuries, or one whose bumper contract - brilliantly negotiated by you - causes them to become complacent.
This is doubly true given France’s laws on signing underage athletes. Signing young talent is famously where much of the money is made, as the cost and barrier for entry is lower. Jorge Mendes, perhaps the world’s most famous agent, got his start by meeting a young player in a bar, and went on to dominate Portugal by talent spotting the likes of Ronaldo at youth games. But as you can receive no compensation as long as they are a minor, each client is a risk.
It doesn’t hurt to aim low at the start, perhaps aiming to pick up players who have recently dropped out of the league structure or become a ‘free agent’, and helping to find them a home. But it’s also important to help all of your clients realise what they want from their careers, and lay out a roadmap. All sports careers are short lived. Find out what else they are good at, and provide training and guidance to give them another option. If they become a successful coach or TV pundit while still on your books, that could be just as lucrative - and even more satisfying.
Network, network, network
One of the great benefits of having more licensed agents than any other country is that it makes them easier to find. Between websites, unofficial groups on social media and official representative bodies for each sport, you should be able to connect with agents in every field. It’s likely that you will already have some experience in the field before you move into becoming a sports agent in France. But if not, look for an internship or other experience at a local agency.
Although the industry is a competitive one, the scale of the business is such that there are more players across the divisions who need representing than there can ever be individual agents to give them the utmost attention. But even if this bothers you, why not get in touch with agents in other sports? The principles are almost identical across the board, and you will represent less competition.
Build relationships at the club level too by interacting with officials and ground staff. A background in sports journalism can do wonders in talent spotting and contacts, and is easier to break into at the bottom level than you might think. A one-year accredited sports journalism course can get you into major press conferences, and you can build from here. As long as you’re mindful of the laws around conflicts of interest, there are numerous ways you can build a body of contacts and knowledge that will give you a headstart in the agency business.
If you need more information on how to open a company or registering a new business in France or for issues relating to opening a bank account, accountancy in France or Immigration & Visas, please download our free guide below and either contact us directly by calling 0033 (0)1 53 57 49 10 or emailing us from our contact page and we’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.