banquetbear hit it right on!
I shoot youth sports team & individual photos. In addition, photography is a part-time job for me.
In my area, the leagues don't contract with any individual photographer. They have in the past and they don't like being in the position to 1) tell coaches which photographer they have to use & 2) tell other photographers they aren't allowed on site.
So, instead, they will recommend a photographer to the coaches. Believe me... this recommendation is as close to a contract as you can get in this area. I've seen leagues recommend low quality photographers in the past (before I started my business and actually the reason I started my business) and yes, they got the vast majority of the teams.
Do I give them "free" stuff in return for them recommending me? You bet I do! It's called a business relationship... I do for them, they do for me. Without that relationship, I would miss out on thousands of dollars per year.