the sports business - the spark youth empowerment platforms in nigeria

The Sports Business – Challenges and Prospects


Nigeria is a country of over 180 Million citizens with a burgeoning middle class and a young population, 65% of who are between the ages of 15 and 30 years. Sport offers a prospect for the Nigerian society as a whole because nothing galvanizes Nigerians more than sports. It is the only national endeavour which every Nigerian supports without thought to tribal, ethnic, regional or political sentiments.

– By Nkechi Obi

Since sport enjoys the attention and devotion of Nigerians like nothing else, any platform that can tap into the passions of Nigerians for sports will win the hearts of Nigerians, and corporate organisations and governments realising how much impact sports has on the lives of ordinary citizens, have tapped into the promise of sports by sponsoring and promoting various aspects of the sports industry.

Sports development in Nigeria is still largely government dominated, and corporate involvement in sports is seen largely from the standpoints of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), despite the phenomenal growth in global sports financing and the centrality of sports business and marketing that forces corporate organizations in developed countries to compete for sports properties and investments in other countries.

The potentials of the sports sector to drive future economic growth and youth development has been hampered by lack of investment funds and structures to the extent that sports in Nigeria has been reduced to a footnote, with emphasis been placed on participation at events, as opposed to its business and revenue generating potentials

In accordance with one of the rules of growth and consolidation by corporate citizenry the world over, a key strategy has always been to seek for major problems in the society and provide solutions to them using business models. Sports provides such a platform but the challenge has always been how to engage the interest of the private sector from a business point of view whilst also tapping into the business side to perform a social development function geared towards developing the potentials of the youth of the country.

A private sector driven sports industry would ensure the commitment to the required investment to deliver on the potentials of the sports industry to add value to the Nigerian economy, whilst also assisting the government in its core objectives of social integration, economic empowerment and youth engagement.

With the right policies as deployed in developed and developing countries to drive social engagement and inclusion as well as economic development, the sports industry in Nigeria is capable of harnessing the economic power of the youth through engagement in sports.

The resultant effect is an increased participation in sporting activities among all Nigerians, thus providing opportunities for discerning investors to tap into the community spirit engendered by sports and maximize the commercial opportunities and platforms for economic development and growth.

The 2009 National Sports Policy, the latest Policy document guiding Nigeria’s sports development established its philosophy as “To encourage participation in Sport as avenue for enhancement of health, exhibition of innate physical attribute, expression of talents, skills and alleviation of poverty”, with the Vision “To establish a technically efficient institution equipped with the desired professional manpower, resources, right equipment and well maintained facilities for sports development and participation”, and a Mission “To develop the sports sector to a world class level where it would provide continuous improvement of quality of life for the entire citizenry to the extent that Nigeria would be recognised as one of the leading sporting countries in the world.”

The Sports Policy arose from the Vision 2020 Technical Committee on Sports 2009 Report which stated that “In the course of their work, a review of past policies, panel reports and other relevant documents on sports development showed huge gaps between policies and implementation, absence of clear strategies that recognized critical linkages between sports, education, foreign policy, tourism, urban development, human capacity development, science, technology and innovations, special groups (women, youth, physically challenged persons), manufacturing, private sector participation and timely funding, to tackle the long term planning sports development requires. This contrasts with practices in the leading sports countries where legislation, entrenchment of sports in the school system, application of sports science and private sector involvement are recognized as essential to sports, and governments and the private sector promote sports optimally as a key sector for social and economic development.”


Economic Opportunities and Benefits of Sports to Nigeria

  1. A population of 180 Million, 65% are between 15 and 35 years, thus guaranteeing a long term market for sports goods and services.
  2. TV and media audience of between 25 and 50 million – capable of attracting a fair share of the over N400 Billion advertising spend on sports content and events.
  3. Mobile and Internet growth projections for Africa of 10% annually till 2020.
  4. Nigerian sports sector has an estimated size of between N400 and N500 billion primarily from Government and Corporate Media Spend as well as revenues from sports betting and merchandising activities. The creation and development of SMSEs in the sports ancillary sectors such as merchandising, equipment manufacture as well as investment in venues and facilities construction and content development, management and broadcast, is capable of adding considerably to the size of the industry.
  5. Football is the No 1 sport with over 20,000 league and non league, professional and amateur clubs:
    1. Over 3,000 football matches per season.
    2. Combined direct target of approximately 50,000 players, officials, administrators.
    3. Over 250,000 people directly employed in football administration and management.
    4. Stadium audience of between 5 and 8 million visitors across all leagues per season.
    5. Combined turnover of between N18 and 22 Billion across all leagues per season.
    6. Sports activities revenues of between N3 and N4 billion per season (N375 per stadium visitor).
  6. Sport is an effective tool for job creation. By developing new activities based on sport or by more effectively using existing sports facilities, sports- and community-based programmes can create jobs, particularly for young people, and especially where unmet demand is identified.
  7. In addition sport adds to economic development by providing a cheap method of improving employability especially among young people. By teaching core skills essential for the workplace such as teamwork, leadership, discipline and the value of effort, sport provides young people with a constructive activity that helps reduce levels of juvenile crime and antisocial behaviour and, in instances of child labour, provides a meaningful substitute for work.
  8. The estimated potential of the industry is projected as being able to contribute about 7-2% of the GDP of the country i.e. US$3.5 to US$5 Billion locally, in areas such as:
    1. Facilities (Real Estate) Development
    2. Merchandising and Retail Marketing
    3. Content and Media Development
    4. Athletes Development and Management
    5. Sports Tourism (Events Development and Management)
    6. Job Creation and Employment (Projected at between 2 Million and 5 Million jobs over a 5 year period of massive investment and development of the sector).


The Way Forward for a Viable, Profitable Nigerian Sports Industry

Certain drivers specific to Nigeria are viewed as opportunities to drive growth of Sports as a Business. This includes:

  1. High youth population
  2. Growing adoption of social media and technology
  3. Growing sports betting market; In Nigeria, people spend approx. N1.8 billion on sports betting weekly etc.

Countries that have effectively harnessed the full potentials of sport as a contributor to the economy, and as a social and community development platform, achieved these objectives through a PPP combination that saw the Public (Government) as the developer of Policies and legislation that promoted the economic opportunities which the private sector leveraged to deliver economic development, sports programmes, and social inclusion.

The current trend in developed societies is for the Private sector to partner with the Public sector in tapping into the business potentials of a sector with economic potentials such as the Sports Sector and develop policies, strategies and interventions to ensure economic growth and prosperity in that sector, which in turn, guarantees social and community development across all spheres.

This trend requires a framework for tapping into the business potentials of sports development and its commercialization, and is generally achieved through a robust National Sports Industry Policy as the guide post for overall national sports development; the promotion of a healthier society and the strengthening of appropriate regulations and legislations that support and facilitate sporting initiatives and activities.

It is imperative that the National Sports Industry Policy Document is tailored to reach a mutual understanding, vision, policy and targets in the field of sports and provide coordination and cooperation in the services and activities of the relevant public institutions and organizations and non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders. Relating to the youth and sports in their programs, projects and practices, and serve as the platform to develop the complete sports ecosystem and engage with the young people who are the primary targets of sporting activities

The National Sports Industry Policy should be one part of the National Sports Sector framework that seeks to create an inclusive, facilitating and empowering environment for the delivery and practice of sports and physical activity. The Policy is a roadmap towards the achievement of national development goals related to healthy living, economic growth and sustainability, promotion of equity and excellence, and is informed by robust national consultations that have identified national development priorities as well as global development trends and best practice models.

These consultations will aid in ensuring that the approach to the delivery of quality sports and physical activity experiences would seek to contribute to the development of nationhood. The National Sports Industry Policy calls on all stakeholders to understand their roles and to willingly participate within the existing local context to find novel solutions. Citizens are encouraged to collaborate and cooperate in order to maximize opportunities for the successful realization of these goals.

The success of a National Sports Policy in contributing to national development goals is intrinsically linked to the degree to which the policy could be harmonized with policies in other government departments and its strategies integrated with other approaches towards achieving similar national objectives. The policy therefore must not only be adopted into the national legislative framework but must be understood in such a manner that it’s tenets could be integrated and built upon in complementary spheres of governance.

The participation of young people in economic and social areas has a great significance for any country’s development and improvement. The existence of a dynamic young population is a great opportunity and wealth for countries such as Nigeria for the continuity of a multidimensional development move which centers on the individual. Therefore, it is necessary to support the personal and social development of young people, to create opportunities and to provide ground for them to truly reveal their potentials and to help them participate actively in every aspect of social life. Sport is therefore a platform to aid such development, and a coherent National Policy for a Sports Industry driven by the private sector, would go a long way in addressing these objectives.


Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.


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