We constantly hear about child prodigies signing large deals with sporting organisations and global brands. Lewis Hamilton, now 7-time world F1 champion, signed his first contract with McLaren’s Young Driver Development programme at 13 years of age. As such, the way in which contract law affects underage athletes is an important area.
The general contact rule comes from the Family Law Reform Act 1969. This states that the age of capacity for the purposes of contract law is 18 years old. This makes any contract entered into by an athlete under the age of 18 voidable at the minor’s discretion. Anyone who enters into an agreement with a minor must be aware that they are not granted the same discretion. The contract will be binding on the alternative party and they will only be able to get out of the agreement subject to the terms of the contract.
There are exceptions to the general rule. The minor will be bound by the contract if it is for “necessities” and therefore is for the benefit of the minor. Necessities include employment, education or training, food, clothing or lodging. This was considered in Proform Sports Management Ltd v. Proactive Sports Management Ltd and Paul Stretford. This case concerned 15 year old Wayne Rooney changing his agent. The court had to decide whether an agent’s representation agreement fit within the criteria of the exception. The court held that an agent’s representation agreement is not essential to the athlete’s ability to do their job. Instead, this agreement is a trading contract and as such, it is voidable.
It is worth noting, when an athlete becomes 18 years old, they should ratify the contract. This can be done by physically re-signing the agreement or by simply continuing to act in accordance with the contract.
For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email email@example.com or visit our Linkedin page at https://www.linkedin.com/company/audley-chaucer-solicitors/ or website at www.audleychaucer.com
This information was correct as of February 2023