Dec 8, 2019

The Potential Of Sports In Developing Nigeria | Oluwabukunmi Adeniran


In the words of Beverly Agbakoba-Onyejianya; “There has been an explosion in the Entertainment industry. It is time for the sporting industry to begin to add value. We are a populous country, we have a young population, so there is no reason why sports should not be bigger than it is now”.[1]The introduction of sports law as a field has gained a lot of prominence around the world, especially in Europe. In Nigeria however, it is yet to spread its wings, owing to certain factors, most of which are based on the structure of the sporting associations in the country. Also, It is yet to be realized that sports has gone beyond mere recreational activity and is now a highly lucrative business and a means of making money across the board,  for clubs, sponsors, footballers, agents, and even lawyers.[2]This Article highlights the current issues in the Sports sector and provides an insight to the profitability and potential of sports law in Nigeria and its possible effect on the Nigerian economy if duly exploited.


Sports has the capacity to be one of the most lucrative areas for the Nigerian economy if properly explored. The constant neglect and manipulation in that space has however limited its potential. According to Sport for Development and Peace International Working Group, sport has the potential to promote social integration, gender equality, and social capital development amongst others.[3] Sports Law touches on a variety of matters, including contract, tort, agency, constitutional, labor, trademark, copyright, discrimination based on sex, criminal, and tax issues.[4] These laws vary, depending on the status of the athlete, the kind of sport, and some laws vary for other reasons.

Sports has always been an important part of human social existence. They have been used as forms of exercise, sometimes just for leisure, or as a hobby. They are so ingrained in our lives and have thus become an exciting part of our daily lives. However, in recent time sports has transcended from pure entertainment or leisure and has now gained commercial and economic significance, especially in the United States, the United Kingdom and all through the European Union. Through marketing, promotion, franchising, merchandising and brand building of professional sports teams, teams in these countries have become more economically significant, viable and have assumed the influences associated only with multi- national companies. Sportsmen and women have also become more commercially important surpassing previously existing notions with respect to their financial worth,[5] thereby bringing value to their respective localities or countries, thus inviting investors. There has been an evolution of the most popular sports, such as football, tennis, basketball, cricket, car- racing, and so on into mega international events. They have also evolved into profitable domestic sports events like; Major League Soccer (MLS), the English Premier League (EPL) and the Spanish La Liga. The organizers of these sporting events on the international level have been able to reap immense financial rewards by inter alia exploiting and leveraging on aggressive marketing campaign, taking advantage of the marketable potential resident in these sports.[6]

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the North American sports industry generated $60.5 billion in 2014, and is expected to reach $73.5 billion by 2019. Sources of revenue include merchandizing, sponsorship, media rights and gate receipts, which is the biggest source of revenue. But revenue derived from media rights deals is projected to surpass gate revenues. The industry also provides employment in different areas ranging from the athletes to coaches, scouts, umpires, referees, commentators, amongst others.[7]

In Europe, the data is even more compelling. The sports industry's contribution to the European economy is enormous. The industry contributes more to the European economy than agriculture, forestry and fisheries combined. If other sectors that benefit from sports are included, the share of the continent's sports GVA jumps to 2.98% or 300 billion Euros. 

In terms of jobs, the sports labour market accounts for 2.12% of the total employment in Europe, equivalent to about 4.5 million sports-related jobs. The largest number of sports-related jobs is in Germany, estimated at 1.5 million jobs. Sports and sport-related activities are estimated to supply over 400,000 full-time jobs in England, or 2.3% of the country's jobs market.[8] Nigeria should really tap into the huge prospects of the sports sector.


2.1                          Lack of Sporting and Recreational Facilities

Poor management of facilities and lack of adequate ones are said to be largely responsible for the poor performance of the nation's sports men and women in both continental and world championships, making it difficult to develop and inject fresh blood into Team Nigeria's contingent. It has made a country like Nigeria, with a population of over 167million people, to keep recycling athletes for major international competitions.[9]

2.2                          Lack of Medical Care and Insurance

The unavailability of adequate medical care and insurance packages for athletes on national and club assignments has negatively affected sports in Nigeria. At the Namibian 2014 African Women’s Cup of Nations, Gloria Ofoegbu, a Nigerian player, suffered a career-threatening injury, as reported by the Punch Newspaper, which ruled her out of the game for two years. The player’s club could not afford the cost of the surgery required to ensure she returned to football and Ofoegbu was left on the sidelines for two years until a “Good Samaritan” paid for the surgery in 2016.

2.3                          Poor Remuneration

Most football clubs take on players from academies without the proper contractual agreements between the clubs and the players, thus meaning that the clubs do not own the players and can therefore lay no claim to the profits whenever a player is being sold. By virtue of section 9(4) of the Nigeria Labour Act: “No contract shall provide for the payment of wages at intervals exceeding one month unless the written consent of the State Authority has been previously obtained.”

Also following is the issue of professional footballers being owed months/years of salaries without being able to enforce payment of their salaries, as agreed initially. One of the reasons would be their inability to acquire the services of a lawyer, who would be able to secure a favorable contract on their behalf, with Nigerian football clubs.

Similarly, the reluctance of clubs to pay off players whose contracts have been terminated is also a bug wonder.  The Labour Act provides in section 11(7) that: “All wages payable in money shall be paid on or before the expiry of any period of notice”. However, in Nigeria, most players are rarely paid their wages after being offloaded by their clubs and that is due to their inability to make sure they signed enforceable contracts. This has become a major problem for Nigerian players, who are thus unable to make ends meet.[10]

2.4                          Recycling of Old Athletes

It is not a surprise that the country’s habit of recycling old and past athletes contributes to the lack of improvement and growth in the Sports sector. This recycling results from the lack of recreational and sporting facilities in primary and  secondary schools which stifles talent discovery. It can also be as a result of the poor remuneration thereby discouraging the youths from the consideration of participating in sports within the country. Hence, the reason we see natives of the country playing for other countries is attributable to the fact that it is more secure and profitable for them. The Government should show interest and encourage the youths by providing the necessary training facilities and opportunities and select new athletes or players, thereby refreshing the sporting  community and expelling the aged among them so as to enhance quality performance and create a more competitive team.

2.5                          Insufficient Policy Regulations

The National Sports Commission (NSC), established in 2007,[11] is the apex Federal Government Agency charged with the responsibility of implementing the policy and programs of the Federal Government with respect to sports administration, management and  facilities development, with a vision statement; “To Develop Sports Sector to a World Class Level”.

As a commission, it has its primary objectives enshrined in the National Sports Policy of 1989, but the sports management structure suffered some setbacks as a result of poor or non-implementation of the 1989 policies. Since 2007, an Executive Bill has been put to the National Assembly for an Act in respect of the establishment of the N.S.C. Up to this moment, this Bill has not been passed into law. The impact of the non-passage of this Bill into law is weighty and ramifying and does not make the NSC to be as strong as it would have been with its enabling law is in place.[12] It has been argued that the Nigerian National Sports Policy is a richly crafted document which, if followed to the letter, could catapult the country into being a sports giant. Some of the key aspects of the policy include the co-ordination of sports development programs at all levels of government. For instance, the Federal Government, through the National Sports Commission, is expected to initiate programs aimed at identifying, nurturing and developing talents through a national elite development program. This is to be done through state sports festivals, the national sports festival, national youth games, etc. 

2.6                          Poor Funding/ Corruption:

Poor funding is one of the problems inhibiting the growth of Nigerian sports.

And most times, when funds are even made available, officials siphon the

money, leaving the athletes underfed, underpaid and under motivated.[13]


Fairly speaking, Sports has had an appreciable impact on national development in Nigeria.[14] However, there is no denying the fact that there is still more to be done in terms of administration and providing the enabling environment for sports to thrive. As the saying goes; Rome was not built in a day.

From the investment in sporting facilities in the wake of the oil boom to the African Nations Cup successes in 1980 and 1994, Olympic gold medals in 1996, sport has frequently been regarded as perhaps the most potent unifying factor in the multi-ethnic country.[15] With the recent failures in sports competitions, there have been calls for a revamp of sports administration.

As of 2017, the Nigerian population was estimated to be 190.9 million.[16] For both males and females, the median age of the country is 18.4 years of age.[17] Agreeably, a high percentage of the population is of sport-able age. Considering that Nigeria is ranked 7th most populous country in the world, it is clear that with provision and maintenance of more sporting and recreational facilities, with improved technical competence and a clear cut and enforceable government policy on sports development as well as government policies encouraging parents , the sporting sector will flourish.

It becomes imperative that professional sports clubs and sports events organizers within Nigeria not only join this highly profitable global bandwagon but also take into consideration the various areas of Law that have a nexus with Sports. The role of skilled lawyers in the media, sports and entertainment sector in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. The most eminent legal scholars have always unanimously held that law is necessary to keep the world running. Without law, there would be a state of chaos. In the same vein, Sports without the governance of a body of laws can be comparable to a football match without a referee; havoc.[18]

It would be important for professional players, as well as clubs in Nigeria, to acquire the services of lawyers, in order to make the footballing environment comfortable for  clubs and players as well.[19]

The National Assembly should revisit the National Sports Commission Act, giving it the necessary organizational empowerment to exercise discretion on matters concerning it, allowing it exercise creativity and initiative as sports operations demand without any unnecessary encumbrance. It is however important to note that Sports law does not control the rules within games, this is left to the internal governing bodies to make rules for enforcement. For example, FIFA(  stands for Federation Internationale de Football Association, in French...put this in the footnote....use the full English name) makes the majority of rules and regulations for football.[20]

It is argued that Nigeria would be better served by the introduction of a sui generis intellectual property law that will solely protect aspects of intellectual property in Nigerian sports. This Law would be in the shape of a unique sports proprietary rights to protect innovation and creativity in Nigerian sports. This would ensure that Nigerian sports associations, sports events organizers, as well as sports professionals would have a one-stop-shop for the protection of their intellectual property rights and innovations rather than having to rely on piecemeal protection.[21]


Nelson Mandela’s speech in 2000, that “Sport has the power to change the world … to inspire … to unite people … create hope … is more powerful than governments …[22] is reflective of the immense potential of sport in the modern day.

From a football club making profit from commercial partnerships, sale of match day tickets, players, and other sources of club revenue, to the kit and sporting goods manufacturers making profit from the sale of replica kits, down to the match day steward who earns income with his back to the game, it can be seen that the economic benefits of commercialization of sport reach beyond the athlete and the sports club only.[23]

[1] B. Agbakoba-Onyejianya, "Why I am Passionate About Sports Law" (2019) Available at: (Accessed 5th December, 2019)
[2] O. A. Eribake, “What Students And Aspiring Sports Lawyers Need To Know About Sports Law In Nigeria”  (2019) Available at: (Accessed 5th December, 2019)
[3] H. O. Oloko, "Sports Law in Nigeria and its Prospects"
[4] 5th December, 2019)
[5] U.J. Amadi, "Intellectual Property Rights In Sports: A Trick Or Two Nigeria Can Learn From The Global Game" (201...)  LLM [Leeds Beckett University]
[6] P. Kandiah, "Sports and Intellectual Property", (201...) Available at: (Acessed on 4th December, 2019)
[7] Olajide Olutuyi, Sports should be part of Nigeria’s economic diversification. (Published on  15 June, 2017).
[8] Olajide Olutuyi, Sports should be part of Nigeria’s economic diversification. (Published on  15 June, 2017).

[9] Salifu Usman, Mike Ubani and Phillips Adefioye, Nigeria: State of Sports Facilities in Nigeria (2012). Available at: (Accessed 4th December, 2019)
[10]Eribake Ayomide Oloruntoba,  "Sports Law in Nigeria; The Need for Enforceable Contracts For Footballers" (201...) Available at: (insert website) (Accessed 5th December, 2019) (Accessed 5th December, 2019)
[12] Has sports development suffered setback in the National Assembly? By Professor Emmanuel Ojeme
[13] U. Jeremiah, "Nigeria sport:Falling standards, result of leadership vacuum" (2017l Available at: (insert website link) (Accessed 5th December, 2019)
[14] K.C. Omuojine, "The Legal Framework For Sports Development In Nigeria" (201..) Available at (insert website link) (Accessed 5th December, 2019)
[15] Ibid.
[16] Sources include: World Bank, United States Census Bureau.
[17] World Population Review, "Nigeria Population 2019 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs)" (201...) Available at: (Accessed 5th December, 2019)
[18] Worldwide: Global Overview Of The Sports  by George SK and Smriti Ganotra. Last updated: 21 March 2018.
[19] Ayomide 'Toba Eribake, Sports Law in Nigeria; The Need for Enforceable Contracts For Footballers.
[20] Sports Law by Richard Ubah, May 19, 2015
[21] African Sports Law and Business Bulletin. Issue 3/2017
[22] Nelson Mandela, “Speech by Nelson Mandela at the Inaugural Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award, Monaco 2000”, World Laureus Sports Awards Limited, 25 May 2000, viewed on 07 November 2018,
[23] Why Africa urgently needs to commercialize its sports sector. Published 29 November 2018 By: Kelvin C. Omuojine