A gentlemen's agreement
is an informal agreement
between two or more parties. It may be written, oral, or simply understood as part of an unspoken agreement by convention or through mutually beneficial etiquette. The essence of a gentleman's agreement is that it relies upon the honor of the parties for its fulfilment, rather than being in any way enforceable. It is, therefore, distinct from a legal agreement or contract
, which can be enforced if necessary. The phrase's first recorded use was in 1888 in the Report of the Railway Accounting Officers published by the Association of American Railroads Accounting Division (page 337).
- Professional Wrestling often relies on a "handshake agreement" between the performer and the promoter in regard to money and work dates. This is usually used in independent promotions that don't have the resources to draft legal agreements.
- In Major League Baseball, there was a gentlemen's agreement which lasted for 60 years that barred African-Americans from Major League Baseball. This ban was finally broken by the Brooklyn Dodgers' signing of Jackie Robinson in 1945.
- In association football, there is an unwritten rule that, in the case of an injury, if a player on the team opposite the injured player's team has possession, he/she will put the ball out of play (thus "giving it up" to the opposition) so that the injured player may be treated. Upon resuming play, the injured player's team is expected to return the ball to the opposing team, allowing both teams to resume play as normal. The rule, though not officially imposed, is normally followed dutifully. However, occasions where the rule is not observed have been known to lead to great animosity between the teams (and thus a more physical game). The most well known example of this is a FIFA World Cup 2006 match between Portugal and the Netherlands. In a 2005 Dutch cup match between Cambuur Leeuwarden and the B-team of Ajax Amsterdam, when 2-0 up, Ajax midfielder Jan Vertonghen saw his return, a long shot from the midfield line, much to his own surprise, accidentally land in the opposite goal, causing great upheaval among the Cambuur players. To settle the situation, Ajax trainer John van der Brom summoned his players to refrain from defending and allowing Cambuur a free passage to the goal, to 'give back' the goal scored, thus 'equalling' the score to 3-1.
- In amateur (public) "E-Sports" leagues or ladders, teams will often have agreements to allow or disallow players, rules or equipment that would otherwise be allowed or prohibited (depending on what is being agreed to) from use. An example would be a team allowing their opponents to include a new team member in the match, even if the rules of the competition say they are only allowed to play after a set time period or not until their team has completed one match with the new player on the roster.
- The City of Philadelphia maintained a gentleman's agreement, enforced by long time City Planning Director Edmund Bacon, regarding the height of all buildings within Center City. The agreement maintained that no building be built higher than the shoe buckles on the statue of William Penn atop City Hall. This agreement was broken with the groundbreaking of One Liberty Place in 1985.
In the game of billiards, when one player breaks up a troublesome group of balls during the middle of play (to the benefit of both players), this is called a "gentlemen's break," after the break that begins the game. Such a move is one of goodwill.