Way forward for Sports Development in Nigeria

Way forward for Sports Development in Nigeria

There is no doubt that sports is a major unifying factor amongst Nigerians. However, despite the massive talents in the country and the palpable love of the people for sports; it is quite unfortunate that the industry is still very much under-developed. This is the reason Nigeria only records success in international competitions once in a while; rather than replicating it on a constant basis.

Sports development around the world is hinged on a number of factors which include: Sports management and administration; Facilities and equipment; Sports personnel; Funding/Sponsorship; Institutional sport development; Sports competitions and festivals. That said, to experience the desired growth in the Nigerian sports industry, there has to be an encompassing National Sports Policy which directly addresses the improvement of the above listed factors. But here’s the unfortunate Nigerian reality: majority (if not all) of the different Nigerian sports federations have no sports policy at federation, state and local government level. There is no clearly spelt-out blueprint or long-term development plan whatsoever to develop sports at all levels in the country. Thankfully, there is the 2009 National Sports Policy document which is still very much relevant and largely un-implemented just like the first document in 1989 and this lack of implementation has hindered the growth of the industry.

In 2013, a study was conducted by Mr Samuel Ovenseri Aibueku and Mr Solomon Ogbouma  of the Department of Health, Environmental Education and Human Kinetics, University of Benin on ‘The extent to which the 2009 National Sports Policy of Nigeria is being implemented with regards to sports science and sport medicine.’ The research which was conducted using a sample size of 41 sports officials randomly drawn from Edo State Sports Council and Delta State Sports Council, revealed that majority (61%) of sports stakeholders such as sports administrators and coaches are not even aware of the existence of the policy document. This points to the fact that there was no extensive consultation of sports stakeholders in Nigeria during the design, publication and presentation of the policy, thus eliminating the vital inputs of these stakeholders who are expected to be key actors in the implementation process of the policy. However, of the remaining 39% who claimed to be aware of the document, only 26.8% seemed to have seen and studied it; this suggests a publicity gap.

In the end, the following recommendations were made:

  • Given the relevance of sports stakeholders to the successful implementation of any sports policy, government should ensure that any policy formulation process should involve all sports stakeholders at every stage of such policy development.
  • Attempt should be made henceforth to as much as possible, publicize the design, publication and presentation of the policy mandates via all available medium as this will help to ensure that all that are concerned with the implementation of the policy are well informed of its existence and its characterization.

The 2009 National Sports Policy provides a detailed blueprint of the various duties of the 3 tiers of government and sports governing bodies regarding sports administration and management. One of the major functions of the federal government through the Ministry of Sports/National Sports Commission is to provide the right legislation that will enable growth. This legislation should include but not be limited to:

  • Laws that ensure that prospective sport administrators/board members at all tiers of government must henceforth be elected to office based on academic qualification in sports administration and management; and knowledge of sports (international and local). A track record of active participation in sports should be an added advantage.
  • Each federation must at all levels have a blueprint for development and any administrator that attempts to deviate from this development policy stands the risk of being impeached from office.
  • There should be standard electoral guidelines for federation elections
  • Laws enforcing: disclosure and verification of assets before and after tenure; board members/administrators must be limited to two terms of 4 years and subject to recall by stakeholders on confidence motion; yearly audit of federation, state and LGA accounts; a particular age limit for sports administrators; serious penalties for those involved in poaching of talented sports men and women and offenders flouting federation and other association laws at all 3 levels of government.
  • Laws addressing ambiguity in the different sports associations. Every sport association in the country at all levels must know their duties and irrelevant ones must be scrapped.

In order for these laws to transform the sports industry, those involved in the drafting of the law must be people of unquestionable character, who have proven to have integrity and are passionate about the growth of the industry.

Another important aspect of sports development talked about in the policy document is funding/sponsorship. Sports is a capital intensive venture that has grown in recent times beyond what the government alone can shudder. Everything in sports like personnel recruitment, purchase and maintenance of training facilities and equipment, organizing competitions, camping and training, coaches and athlete welfare etc requires huge amounts of money. This is where federations and other associations need to employ the services of professional sports marketers who would through aggressive marketing bring in private and corporate investors to partner them and invest in sports. As a matter of fact, the National Sports Policy (2009) particularly recognizes the need for Public-Private Partnership (PPP) as a major way of funding sports development.

Unlike the other indicators of sports development, institutional sports development is directly aimed at producing better athletes. It involves inculcating and encouraging sporting activities across all institutions with the most important of all these institutions being the schools. All over the world, it is a universal concept that children’s skills and abilities in sports are harnessed from early school days for better development. According to Athletics Canada Long Term Athletics Development (LTAD) model, research has shown that it takes between 8-12 years of training for a talented athlete to reach elite performance levels. Also, the US Olympic Committee in 2001 surveyed US Olympic athletes from 1988 to 1996 and concluded that it took between 10-13 years of practice or training just to make the Olympic team and between 13-15 years for those athletes who won a medal.

These findings explain why it is absolutely important to start the long-term result yielding process of talent development at an early age, usually as early as 5 or 6 years. The good news is: there is a Nigeria Schools Sports Federation (NSSF) for the young students. But, the question is: what talent development plan/policy asides organizing competitions does this association have? And if it has one, to what extent has it been implemented?

For the other markers of sports development like facilities and equipment; its purchase and maintenance is solely dependent on funding and maintenance policy by the administrators. While for Sports personnel such as coaches, facility managers, referees, medical experts, athletes, etc. There has to be up to date training workshops and seminars for the trainers, coaches, and all forms of instructors by the National Institute of Sport (NIS) on a constant basis. There should be insurance policies for the athletes and instructors and their welfare should be paramount. These reforms are hinged on the quality of administrators and sponsorship.

It is quite evident that the most critical aspects of sports development in Nigeria includes: Administration and Management; Funding/Sponsorship. The 2009 National Sports Policy is the second sports policy document in Nigeria after the 1989 document; which was hampered by poor and in some cases non-implementation. 20 years on, the 2009 sports policy document was formulated but is still largely un-implemented 8 years later. If the Nigerian Sports industry would be developed and attain its potentials, the industry needs determined administrators who would through great administration and management attract good sponsorship and drive the development of the industry.

Photo Credit:  Ventures Africa.

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