The Legal Framework for Sports Development in Nigeria

Article published on African Sports Law and Business Journal – AFRICAN SPORTS LAW AND BUSINESS BULLETIN 1/2013 – 




Sports literature usually commence with an allusion to the extent to which sport has grown in the past few decades. This growth is obvious and it has heralded the development of sports as a commercial brand. Sporting events and programmes have now become huge brands wielding significant economic interest. Consequently, many persons who engage in sporting activity do so not merely for leisure or the physical wellbeing it portends but as a full-fledged career or with this aim. There is no escape from the fact that the huge commercial significance that sport has amassed over the years brings with it heightened legal interests and concerns, especially for stakeholders who invest resources in the industry. Apart from those who seek to protect their legal and commercial interests in sports, there is also the government interest – promoting social ideals in an atmosphere of law and order. Governments all over the world have acknowledged sport as a veritable tool in the attainment of governmental objectives both at internal and international levels. This is why proactive governments have taken concrete steps to fashion, adopt and implement a policy aimed at the development of sports. Perhaps it may be of value at this point to acknowledge the varying contexts in which the terms ‘sport’ and ‘recreation’ are sometimes used. Sport generally embodies different forms of physical activity which may be practiced for leisure or as an amateur, distinct from the practice of it as an income-yielding profession; on the other hand, recreation basically refers to the practice of sport for non-professional purposes and includes other forms of leisure apart from sport. The separate use of both terms is a common feature in many sports policy documents. The term ‘sport’ is used herein in a very broad context.

In Nigeria, sport has had an appreciable impact on national development and there is the unquenchable desire to keep up with past successes. The national narrative however, is that a lot more needs to be done in terms of administration and providing the enabling environment for sport to thrive. With population growth and lapse of time, there is the need for provision and maintenance of more sporting and recreational facilities. Also, with the global advancement in professional sport, there is the need for improved technical competence. 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. With the recent failures in sports competitions, there have been calls for a revamp of sports administration. This includes a clear-cut government policy on sports development. This article takes a look at the South African and the European Union examples, and then analyzes the position in Nigeria before concluding with recommendations, all from a legal perspective.

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