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 develop to the level it can be, owing to certain factors, most of which are based on the structure of the sporting associations in the country. It is also yet to be realized that sports has gone beyond a recreational activity. It is now a business – a means of making money across board – for clubs, sponsors, footballers, agents, and even lawyers.
The focus of this article, is to state what students, as well as aspiring sports lawyers need to understand about Sports Law in Nigeria.
- It is developing: This, is an important fact most people should understand. The saying “Rome was not built in a day” can be used to describe Nigerian sports. For a developing field, it would definitely take patience and a lot of persistence to develop sports law in Nigeria. There is a lot of potential in sports law practice, regarding sponsorship deals, transfer deals for athletes, and also drafting of contracts between clubs and players. Apart from being in private practice, one can serve as an In-house Counsel to clubs and also represent them in various dealings.
- Know your field: This is also an important aspect people should know about. It is no surprise that football is the most followed sport in Nigeria, however there are various sports in Nigeria one can focus on, and also gain a lot of knowledge in that field. Even where the choice of sport is football, it is also important to have a particular aspect to focus on. For example, are you interested in drafting player contracts? In this regard, you would need to have a good grasp of the law of contract, and also need to study certain FIFA rules as regards drafting a proper player contract. Are you interested in players’ transfer? You would also need to understand various FIFA rules as regards player transfers, keeping in mind your clients’ best interest. There are also many fields in football, although most are yet to be focused on Nigeria. Some others include sports governance and compliance, anti-doping, sports marketing and sponsorship, etc.
- Arbitration might be the new way: Arbitration is an important aspect in law, as a field. However, it has become an important aspect in sports, due to the particularly short lifespan of the career of athletes, and the effectiveness of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS)- an institution which serves as the Supreme Court for sports disputes. Thus, it is possible to be an Arbitrator for the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS). Apart from CAS, FIFA also has the Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC) and Players Status Committee(PSC) which makes rulings on disputes between players, coaches, clubs, football associations, etc.
- Find a mentor: Personally, I feel this is an important factor in developing as a sports lawyer. It is important to learn and interact with various sports lawyers, to understand their perspective and also gain some needed experience in the Sports law field. The truth is, you cannot know everything in sports law, just like in general law practice. This is partly due to the fact that it evolves, and new developments emerge regularly. As such, it is important to endeavour to follow sports lawyers on Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant platforms. Build your connections.
- Be able to read wide and be up-to-date: This is also another important fact a lot of students have to understand. Various issues arise daily, in sports. For example, the issue of Caster Semanya, the dispute between Cardiff and Nantes as regards the payment of transfer fee for Emiliano Sala, among others. Thus, it is important to constantly read and interact with sport lawyers on various platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. It is important to strive to be better at what you do, and have knowledge on various topics of discuss.
The impact of sports law practice to the sports industry, cannot be underestimated. Sports law practice is critical to the development of sports, and must therefore be taken with all seriousness, and passion. While the points of what to know might not be limited to the ones stated above, I believe with the right push and focus, it can only get better, and YOU CAN ALSO GET BETTER AT SPORTS LAW.
Ayomide ‘Toba Eribake is a Sports Law enthusiast, and also has interests in Human Rights and ADR. He also loves researching and reading various subjects of interest.