For the first time since October 1, 2010, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) has enacted a series of amendments to its regulations governing player agents. Approved during the MLBPA’s recent annual Executive Board meeting in Orlando, the amendments address the union’s ongoing effort to improve the quality and knowledge of agent applicants. Each applicant must possess basic knowledge about the terms and conditions in the Basic Agreement (the collective bargaining agreement), the Major League Rules, the Joint Drug Agreement, and the MLBPA Agent Regulations prior to being approved to become a member of the MLBPA’s certified agent pool.

All agent applicants must pass a written exam before they can be certified. In addition, agent applicants will be subject to a detailed background check. The background investigation will focus on the applicant’s conduct relevant to the fiduciary duties of an Agent and the additional responsibilities required by the MLBPA to bargain on behalf of players. The MLBPA’s introduction of the written testing procedure prior to certification is similar to the process utilized by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).

The MLBPA has stated that it will offer a preparatory course for the test. Applicants will be able to take the certification test in either January or August of each year, depending upon when the applicant’s formal application is submitted.

Additionally, the MLBPA Executive Board adopted stricter reporting requirements and increased fees for both agent applicants and current MLBPA-certified agents. Current certified agents will be exempt from the written exam requirement and will not be subject to a background check as long as they maintain their certification. However, an annual fee of $1,500 will be imposed on current certified agents, a drastic increase from the current bi-annual fee of $250.  The MLBPA also increased fees for new applicants seeking certification to $2,000 (a $1,500 increase). The increased fees will offset the new anticipated costs to perform background checks on each applicant and the costs of administration for all certified agents.

The amendments also created a Certification as an Expert Agent Advisor. Previously, an individual could be certified as an agent with General Certification or Limited Certification.

A General Certified Agent may represent, assist, or advise a Player in negotiating terms to be included in a Major League contract or “side letter” concerning terms to be included in a Major League contract, and represent that Player in dealings with any Major League Club or the Commissioner’s Office concerning the administration or enforcement of that Player’s Uniform Player’s Contract, the Basic Agreement or the Major League Rules. A Limited Certified Agent is permitted to recruit or provide client maintenance services on behalf of a General Certified Agent, but may not communicate with a Major League Club on behalf of a Player. The new certification of Expert Agent Advisor may represent, assist, and advise a General Certified Agent on behalf of a Player.

An Expert Agent Advisor is an individual designated by at least one General Certified Agent to engage in the representation, assistance, or advising of that Agent, on behalf of a Player, in the negotiations of terms to be included in a Major League Uniform Player Contract or in any other agreement. An Expert Agent Advisor is prohibited from engaging in recruiting or Client Maintenance Services, as defined by the Agent Regulations.  

An individual is eligible to be certified as an Expert Agent Advisor if he or she (i) is a member, partner or employee of a business entity that is not a sports agency and does not include other General or Limited Certified Agents, (ii) has not been designated on a Player Agent Designation form from a Player who satisfies the definition in §2(B) of the regulations, and (iii) has an undergraduate degree from an accredited four-year college or university, and either a post-graduate degree from an accredited college or university or at least four years of appropriate negotiating experience.


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Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.