What to know before signing a sports contract


Every year, greater emphasis is being placed on the desire to excel in sport, not only at a national level, but also at provincial, club and even school level. A natural product of this desire to succeed is that more and more money and resource is being pumped into sport at every level within our communities. 

Examples of some common contract scenarios in sport are:

  • schools that offer sports scholarships to talented children in an attempt to strengthen their chances of winning nationals;
  • clubs that obtain high profile players, not only in an attempt to strengthen the club’s top side but also to attract other talented individuals to come and play at the same club as that high profile player;
  • clubs that offer to waive fees or provide gear and equipment to certain individuals to secure that individual for the upcoming season;
  • this year marked the first time that New Zealand Cricket offered retainer contracts to female players, taking us into “semi-professional” territory, now similar to the provincial and national netballers; and
  • sporting brands that offer sponsorship deals directly to athletes, an offer of free gear and sometimes cash in exchange for promoting and being an ambassador for the brand.

The financial opportunities for young sportspeople today are increasing at a rapid pace and the likelihood of having a professional sporting career is becoming a lot more realistic and is no longer just the idyllic childhood dream it used to be.

As resources and therefore, competition increases, so does each individual athlete’s “value” – both their commercial value and their playing value, which is why it is so important that you protect that.

As mentioned above, contracts need not be for cash consideration, but may provide for benefits such as waiving club fees or providing sporting gear, equipment and clothing. Even providing specialist coaching opportunities may also be considered a form of “payment”.

If asked to sign a contract, be wary before you do so as the terms may be legally binding on you (or your child). Enforcement is a separate issue. Whether or not the schools or clubs would actually pursue an athlete if they breached a contract would probably depend on the value of the consideration that the schools or clubs had provided and the value of that athlete.

If presented with a contract there are a number of questions you should ask:

  1. What is the term of the contract? How long are you locked in for?
  2. What are your obligations under the contract? What do you have to do?
  3. Are you realistically going to be able to meet those obligations? Are they reasonable?
  4. Is the consideration offered fair? Does the value of the consideration match your obligations?
  5. Are there any restrictions placed on you? What are you not allowed to do?
  6. Do you have an out? Is there a way for you to terminate the contract?
  7. What happens if either party breaches the contract?

Unfortunately, nothing comes for free in this world. If you are being offered something, undoubtedly you will have to give something in return. You should be 100% clear on the expectations before you enter into any contract and a contract in an “amateur” sporting context is no different.

Hopefully this article has identified some of the relevant issues that you or your child may face in their sport. If you have any queries about any contract, we strongly recommend that you get in touch with us and we can advise you on all of the potential issues specific to you, your sport and your contract.

To discuss a sports contract or any other Business Law matter, please contact Smith and Partners on 09 836 0939 and one of our friendly team will be happy to help you.