Sports should be part of Nige­ria’s eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion

The sports in­dus­try con­trib­utes more to the European econ­omy than agri­cul­ture, forestry and fish­eries com­bined.

Financial Nigeria Magazine - - Contents - Ola­jide Olu­tuyi, a Fi­nan­cial Nige­ria Guest Writer, is a grad­u­ate in Man­age­ment from the Uni­ver­sity of Leth­bridge, Canada. He is Found­ing Part­ner, Green­touch Con­sult­ing Inc. Canada, Co­founder/ceo Top-Olax En­ergy Ltd. He is on the Board of Calgary Quest Sch

Dur­ing my child­hood and teenage years, my younger broth­ers and I were very fond of soc­cer. From Bar­nawa Hous­ing Es­tate, Kaduna to Air­port Road, Kano and Oku­magba Es­tate, Warri where we lived, soc­cer was the most pop­u­lar and the most en­joy­able game amongst our peers. My younger brother was a tal­ented goal­keeper, and I was good with my left foot. Like most Nige­rian kids, no one taught us how to play soc­cer. We watched other peo­ple play, we un­der­stood the rules and then we started play­ing.

But sadly, our par­ents – much like other par­ents – would have none of it. I still re­mem­ber vividly how the sight of the nanny, walk­ing to­wards the neigh­bor­hood field, not only meant it was time to go home; we also knew we were in trou­ble. This was the case for many other kids, too.

I am not cer­tain my par­ents ever got to know how good my brother was as a goal­keeper, or how good I was with my left foot. They didn't ap­pre­ci­ate the im­por­tance of sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in build­ing so­cial co­he­sion in com­mu­ni­ties; nor did they know the role of sport in so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. To com­pound our is­sues, there were no gov­ern­ment poli­cies or ad­vo­ca­cies en­cour­ag­ing par­ents to al­low their kids to par­tic­i­pate in sports.

Decades later, I now live in Canada, and I have seen a com­pletely dif­fer­ent world­view. I prac­ti­cally strug­gle to get my son en­rolled into the ju­nior soc­cer league in our neigh­bour­hood. De­spite the fact that the en­rol­ment is not cheap, it is still so hard to get a spot for your child. Dur­ing the sum­mer months, most neigh­bour­hood fields are filled with kids and their par­ents who come to drop them off and watch them play. It is well or­gan­ised. Hockey, which is Canada's most pop­u­lar game, is even more or­gan­ised and so­phis­ti­cated, cost­ing par­ents thou­sands of dol­lars just to kit their kids.

The fact is, dif­fer­ent par­ents go through the pains for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. But no mat­ter what those rea­sons are, gov­ern­ment sup­port and com­mu­nity vol­un­teer­ing cre­ate the en­abling en­vi­ron­ment. Over­all, the im­pact on com­mu­ni­ties and the econ­omy is ev­i­dently sig­nif­i­cant.

Sport can be a tool for eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. It can also sup­port the de­vel­op­ment of so­cial skills and fu­ture job skills. Ac­cord­ing to the Sport for De­vel­op­ment and Peace In­ter­na­tional Work­ing Group (SDP IWG) – an in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal pol­icy ini­tia­tive hosted by the United Na­tions Of­fice on Sport for De­vel­op­ment and Peace (UNOSDP) be­tween 2009-2015 – sport has the po­ten­tial to pro­mote so­cial in­te­gra­tion, gen­der equal­ity, so­cial cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment, peace build­ing and con­flict pre­ven­tion, amongst other ben­e­fits.

There is a lot Nige­ria can ben­e­fit from sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. Un­for­tu­nately, the coun­try has a his­tory of check­ered com­mit­ment to sports. Our sport poli­cies are tied to par­tic­i­pa­tions in re­gional and global com­pe­ti­tions. To bet­ter har­ness the coun­try's sport­ing po­ten­tial and pro­duce bet­ter out­comes in sports, we will need a par­a­digm shift in pol­icy. A rec­om­mended pol­icy must have a bot­tom-up ap­proach, in­volv­ing long-term plan­ning, and in­te­grat­ing grass­root com­mu­ni­ties.

Apart from en­rich­ing the so­cial and cul­tural fabrics of com­mu­ni­ties, de­vel­op­ing the na­tion's sports in­dus­try can boost Nige­ria's for­eign ex­change earn­ings by at­tract­ing for­eign in­vestors and tourists. Ac­cord­ing to Price­wa­ter­house­Coop­ers, the North Amer­i­can sports in­dus­try gen­er­ated $60.5 bil­lion in 2014, and is ex­pected to reach $73.5 bil­lion by 2019. Sources of rev­enue in­clude mer­chan­dis­ing, spon­sor­ship, me­dia rights and gate re­ceipts, which is the big­gest source of rev­enue. But rev­enue de­rived from me­dia rights deals is pro­jected to sur­pass gate rev­enues. The in­dus­try also pro­vides em­ploy­ment in dif­fer­ent ar­eas rang­ing from the ath­letes to coaches, scouts, um­pires, ref­er­ees, com­men­ta­tors, amongst oth­ers.

In Europe, the data is even more com­pelling. The sports in­dus­try's con­tri­bu­tion to the European econ­omy is enor­mous. The fig­ures show that sports ac­counts for 1.76% – or about 175 bil­lion Eu­ros – of European Gross Value Added (which is Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct + sub­si­dies – (di­rect, sales) taxes), ac­cord­ing to Sportyjob, the on­line job mar­ket for sport jobs in Europe. This means the in­dus­try con­trib­utes more to the European econ­omy than agri­cul­ture, forestry and fish­eries com­bined. If other sec­tors that ben­e­fit from sports are in­cluded, the share of the con­ti­nent's sports GVA jumps to 2.98% or 300 bil­lion Eu­ros.

In terms of jobs, the sports labour mar­ket ac­counts for 2.12% of the to­tal

Sport has the po­ten­tial to pro­mote so­cial in­te­gra­tion, gen­der equal­ity, so­cial cap­i­tal de­vel­op­ment, peace build­ing and con­flict pre­ven­tion, amongst other ben­e­fits.

em­ploy­ment in Europe, equiv­a­lent to about 4.5 mil­lion sports-re­lated jobs. The largest num­ber of sports-re­lated jobs is in Germany, es­ti­mated at 1.5 mil­lion jobs. Sports and sport-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties are es­ti­mated to sup­ply over 400,000 full­time jobs in Eng­land, or 2.3% of the coun­try's jobs mar­ket.

Cana­dian sports busi­ness re­searcher, Norm O'Reilly, led other re­searchers in a study of hockey, Canada's favourite game. The re­search, “Ice Hockey in Canada, 2015 Im­pact Study,” finds that hockey watch sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Europe and Amer­ica. Part of these funds ac­crue to those coun­tries, mean­ing Nige­ri­ans are con­tribut­ing to grow­ing those economies.

Re­flect­ing again on my teenage years, my sib­lings and I were great sup­port­ers of Nige­rian foot­ball clubs. While I was a fan of IICC Shoot­ing Stars of Ibadan, my younger brother was an avid fan of New Nige­rian Bank Foot­ball Club of Benin City. Al­though we never had the op­por­tu­nity to watch our favourite teams live, we never missed their games on TV. Lo­cal foot­ball clubs and other sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the coun­try can still gen­er­ate such fol­low­er­ship – which the in­dus­try's en­trepreneurs can lever­age – with the en­abling poli­cies.

A grass­roots ap­proach to sports de­vel­op­ment is key to un­leash­ing the po­ten­tial of the in­dus­try. Just like hokey is the dom­i­nant sport in Canada, Nige­ri­ans are pas­sion­ate about foot­ball. There­fore, foot­ball pitches should be part of our land­scape. De­vel­op­ing the in­fra­struc­ture for the in­dus­try to thrive be­comes a gen­er­ates over $11 bil­lion an­nu­ally with more than $1 bil­lion in tourism rev­enue. The study also finds that ice hockey rinks are part of the land­scape in Canada with nearly 2,500 rinks across the coun­try.

As a coun­try, Nige­ria needs to be­gin to tap into the enor­mous op­por­tu­ni­ties that sports present. And as a sport-lov­ing peo­ple and coun­try, we have a lot to gain if the in­dus­try is prop­erly de­vel­oped. Nige­ri­ans spend a lot of money ac­quir­ing for­eign club jer­seys and sou­venirs. A lot is also spent on cable TV sub­scrip­tions to cru­cial en­abling fac­tor. Today, I can con­vince my friends to go with me to the shop­ping mall but I can­not con­vince them to go the sta­dium to watch a game of soc­cer be­cause many of the fa­cil­i­ties are shabby and they are not prop­erly se­cured. There is no rea­son ev­ery com­mu­nity should not boast of a fully-equipped sta­dium.

Like the cur­rent made-in-Nige­ria cam­paign geared to­wards pro­mot­ing do­mes­tic cottage in­dus­tries and pa­tron­age of lo­cally-pro­duced goods, lo­cal

foot­ball clubs should be en­cour­aged and sup­ported to build their proudly Nige­rian brands. The gov­ern­ment should be­gin to un­der­stand that aside from the eco­nomic im­pact from pro­mot­ing such a pol­icy, sport can also be a tool for fos­ter­ing peace and se­cu­rity. A coun­try be­dev­iled by un­em­ploy­ment and youth restive­ness ur­gently needs a well-oiled sport pol­icy to re­duce un­em­ploy­ment as well as curb the ag­i­ta­tions.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion of sports also re­quires trained pro­fes­sion­als. The gov­ern­ment can part­ner with ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to in­tro­duce aca­demic pro­grammes in sports man­age­ment and mar­ket­ing. Un­der­grad­u­ate and post­grad­u­ate de­grees in sports pre­pare in­di­vid­u­als to work pro­fes­sion­ally in coach­ing, ad­min­is­tra­tion, man­age­ment, as well as know the busi­ness of sports.

As a mat­ter of fact, the pres­i­dent and state gov­er­nors can be­gin to eval­u­ate the per­for­mances of their sports min­istries by the amount of suc­cess­ful and mean­ing­ful sport­ing events they have launched, and how many Nige­ri­ans they have em­pow­ered. Once such a pol­icy be­comes op­er­a­tional, we will be­gin to see some im­pact. This will also slow down the 'mus­cle drain,' which has been deemed com­pa­ra­ble to brain drain. Ath­letes leave our coun­try mostly due to lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties and fa­cil­i­ties to de­velop them­selves. An­thony Joshua, who re­cently de­feated Wladimir Kl­itschko in a heavy­weight boxing ti­tle fight wanted to

In terms of jobs, the sports labour mar­ket ac­counts for 2.12% of the to­tal em­ploy­ment in Europe, equiv­a­lent to about 4.5 mil­lion sports-re­lated jobs.

rep­re­sent Nige­ria in the 2008 Olympic Games in Bei­jing but he was re­jected. He went on to win a gold medal for Bri­tain in 2012. Today, he is world heavy­weight cham­pion.

As a coun­try, we need to start rec­og­niz­ing that sport is not just about par­tak­ing in com­pe­ti­tions. It ben­e­fits the in­di­vid­ual and the so­ci­ety at large. When we rec­og­nize this fact, and in­te­grate sport into the fabric of our so­ci­ety, it will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the na­tional econ­omy and im­prove the im­age of the coun­try in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. There­fore, sport and al­lied ac­tiv­i­ties need to be con­sid­ered as part of the eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion strat­egy of the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment.

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