The global sports industry is worth around $600 billion today. With such large figures at stake, legal action of all kinds abounds and the sector requires proper legal support to thrive. In Africa, football is still the top crop but basketball is growing at an exponential rate while sports law is rapidly gaining traction among legal practitioners. Abdulateef Ibrahim investigates this development.
Damilola Sanusi, a Nigerian sports lawyer and postgraduate student at Nottingham Trent University, believes that the possibilities in sports law are limitless. To satisfy his personal interests, Sanusi combines his passion for sports with his legal skillset.
As a lawyer, he expects the field of sports law to grow in the coming years. He feels that more needs to be done in this area to fully realise the industry’s economic potential. “I can’t say sports law is exactly a grey area, but it’s an area that hasn’t been tapped to its full potential.” Sanusi recognises that the sports culture in Africa is going to change tremendously in terms of career decisions. “I want to be a part of the 1% that gets to enjoy these changes and make money off it,” he commented.
Moreover, “Africa has a massive population, and more people (sports fans) opens the avenue to investment opportunities.”
Faithfulness Okom, a sports lawyer at the Real Madrid Graduate School, believes that revamping the sector from the ground up will allow the industry to more effectively capitalise on its commercial opportunities. “As the African sports sector expands, so does the demand for lawyers. I believe that if we address issues such as corruption and credibility, among others, more investment will flow into the sector.”
The practice of sports law has been compared to a salad because it functions as a synthesis of various areas of law, including employment law, contract law, antitrust law, intellectual property law and media law/image rights. This diversity is another reason why the sector holds appeal for several levels of practitioners in the field.
Sesan Mohammed, an undergraduate law student at the University of Ilorin in Nigeria shared similar views of the tremendous opportunities that abound for lawyers and sports enthusiasts like himself in the field of sports law. “There are numerous career opportunities for lawyers and even for the African community in the field. You can work as a private lawyer for sports practitioners, organisations and national sports bodies among others.”
Many individual athletes also become involved in legal disputes which require proper representation. Caster Semenya is just one high profile athlete who has needed legal representation more than once.
According to Mohammed, Nigeria has “various international sports regulations that apply to sports matters in Nigeria, whether or not a national regulation is in place. Thorough implementation, accountability, and enforcement are what is required to facilitate even development of these laws in the industry.”
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