Athletes, be wary of fake agents!
A Portuguese version of this article was published at Lei Em Campo on 28 November 2019
The prospect of playing football in Europe is alluring for many Brazilian athletes. It is not only an athlete’s dream, but it’s a dream for anyone involved in the industry, including agents who can potentially capitalise from the international transfer of an aspiring football superstar.
The prestige of playing in Europe is so great, that sometimes it is easy to forget the need to question the veracity of offers or any given opportunity. Last year, we were consulted about a try-out opportunity at a European club. The athlete, from a Brazilian middle class background, in his tireless efforts (on and off the pitch) to find an opportunity outside Brazil, came across a try-out ‘offer’ promoted by a website. The scheme was quite simple: the athlete would have to pay for the airfare to Europe and another fee (which was not cheap) that was allegedly charged by the European club. In other words, the athlete would have to pay to come to Europe and to try-out at the club.
How many times have we heard stories like this? Or worse, how many times will we continue to hear stories like this?
The reality can be harsh but quite straight forward: when a European club becomes interested in a player in Brazil, the club goes after said player. They do not ask the athlete to come to Europe, except for rare exceptions, and they certainly do not ask the athlete to pay the expenses. The market itself is responsible for filtering out hundreds of thousands of aspiring professional footballers. It is not easy to be an elite professional footballer (i.e. one who is paid millions). And it is especially not easy to be a successful professional footballer in Brazil: as if their daily life struggle was not pressure enough, prospective players must also circumvent their studying and family commitments. And of course, they have to train. And train a lot.
If the aspiring player is a minor, then greater attention and care is required. In Brazil, Lei Pelé (Pelé Act) provides that the first professional contract can only be signed when the player turns 16. In England the age is also 16 (in fact, from 1 January of the year in which the athlete turns 16) as long as the contract is ratified by the player’s parents.
We must always be vigilant in preserving and protecting the rights of minors, even informally. As law practitioners, we must always help them choose the most appropriate agent (when appropriate). Lawyers and agents play important roles in the career management of athletes; these are distinct roles that complement each other. Fortunately, after our advice, the athlete in question did not proceed with accepting the “offer” from the website. Mission Accomplished. Bring on the next challenge!
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.
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