Sports: Green Oil as Diversification Strategy for Nigeria Socio-economic Development

Sport, as noted in our earlier write up, is not easy to define in a jiffy; yet an academic definition which everyone would agree on is that sport is a form of involvement. It’s a recreational activity; a social institution and a cultural product.

Wuest and Bucher (1999) defined sport as recreation, a socially acceptable and non-profit oriented activity performed during leisure hours which provide immediate and inherent satisfactions to participants, while the United Nations (in 2003) defined sport as all forms of physical activities that contribute to physical fitness, mental well-being and social interaction.  Therefore, sport is an important part of the value system for individuals because it constitutes a distinct kind of social organization, represents a unique form of social activity, provides a basis for social identity and acts as an agent of social control. In summary, sport is a social phenomenon that brings together people and nations under unity, patriotism and moral values.

Furthermore, sport can also be seen by researchers as the industry that houses the new ‘Green oil’ that lubricates and facilitates the socio-economic development of many advanced countries of the world. Indeed, it is true that there are various oils in the world like the ones found in the oil and gas industry which for example supports millions of jobs, provides lower energy costs for consumers, and ensures our energy security. Crude Oil and its derivatives remain one of the main sources of energy for the world and that is why research on its role in the economy is very important. However, the new ‘Green oil’ emanating from the sport industry is unquantifiable in terms of its end value compared to the aforementioned.

In relation to our subject matter, ‘Green oil’ simply refers to those talented, hidden and budding sportsmen and women in our various communities seeking to be discovered, such that their God-given talents could be horned or harnessed by professionals to become our future megastars in their chosen field of sports. In addition, the various sporting activities if properly developed will contribute significantly to the development of the economy, impacting on all sectors of the society.

We have this category of athletes in our hamlets, villages, towns and cities around the world (Nigeria inclusive). They have brought and are still bringing honours and glory to their various nations in major international competitions like the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, All Africa Games, etc. Nigeria as a sport-loving nation has a lot of these untapped ‘Green oil’ flowing in every nook and cranny of the country, hoping to be the next big thing that can also be used to promote the socio-economic development of the country.

From the foregoing, an effective implementation of the ‘Green oil’ strategy of going back to the grassroots to discover hidden talents in sports for socio-economic development of the country, is what Nigeria needs now to further diversify its mono dependent economy. The government needs to reduce the over dependence on Crude oil and accelerate the diversification process by also investing in our sport-loving youths who consist of 70% of the population of Nigeria. Sport as tool for economic development can also support the development of social skills and future job skills.

Nigeria can benefit a lot more from sporting activities, although the country has a history of checkered commitment to sports. Our sport policies are tied to participations in regional and global competitions. However, 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. Their sources of revenue include merchandising, sponsorship, media rights and gate receipts, which is the biggest source of revenue. However, revenue derived from media rights deals, in recent times, has surpassed 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 sport accounts for 1.76% – or about 175 billion Euros – of European Gross Value Added (which is Gross Domestic Product plus 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 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 full-time 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 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 sport presents, and as 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 watch sporting activities in Europe and America. However, part of these funds accrues to those countries, meaning Nigerians are contributing to the growth of those economies.

A ‘Green oil’ Strategy or grassroots approach to sports development is key to unleashing the potential of the sport industry in Nigeria. Just like hockey is the dominant sport in Canada, Nigerians are passionate about football. Therefore, football pitches should be part of our landscape. It is pertinent to develop the infrastructure as a crucial enabling factor for the industry to thrive in the country. Football Fans are not attracted to the stadium to watch games of soccer in Nigeria because many of the facilities are shabby and they are not properly secured. Therefore, providing fully-equipped stadium in various communities will facilitate the development of the sports ecosystem.

Just as 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 needs 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 ‘Green oil’ policy to reduce unemployment as well as curb agitations.

The administration of sport also requires trained professionals. The capacity building structures should be properly enhanced by the government in partnership with the tertiary institutions and organized private sector. It will greatly assist in the training of individuals to work professionally in coaching, administration, management, as well as business of sports.

In view of the prevailing circumstances, it is regrettable that athletes leave Nigeria mostly due to the lack of opportunities and facilities to develop themselves. Current British and world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua would have been nurtured and groomed in Nigeria if there were appropriate facilities and enviable sport policies for his professional career. However, he went on to win a gold medal for Britain in the 2012 edition held in London because the environment and facilities were adequate for his development to achieve that feat. Today, he is world heavyweight champion. Similarly, in the just concluded Olympics 2020 in Tokyo there were several athletes of Nigeria descent representing various countries and winning medals for them while the country won only 2 medals (A Silver and Bronze Medals).

Going down memory lane, sport is not just about partaking in competitions; it also benefits the individual and the society at large. When we recognize this fact, and fully 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. Considering its importance in the society, sport needs to be incorporated as part of the economic diversification strategy of the Nigerian government.

A successful competition leads to wider benefits to the UK, from tax contributions to the Treasury, to creating employment and attracting international tourism. An EY Economic Impact Assessment estimates that the Premier League and the 20 clubs contributed £3.3billion in taxes to the UK economy in Season 2016/17 alone. In 2019-2020 Season, the 20 elite clubs paid out £3.6 billion to the government in tax, including £1.4 billion from the players alone. The Premier League contributed £7.6 billion to UK economy and supported 94,000 jobs during a single season, despite the impact of Coronavirus.

The sports sector contributes to the economy in many ways: by supporting employment and adding to the economic output due to commercial activities. Frankly, sport has a huge role to play when it comes to nation-building and the same is evident in elevating qualities like discipline, determination, teamwork and a passion for fitness in the psyche of a nation.

The National Football League (NFL) is the most profitable professional sports league in the United States. The total revenue of all 32 NFL teams has constantly increased over the past 15 years, rising from about 4 billion U.S. dollars in 2001 to over 15 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, the highest figure to date.

Sport impacts positively to the society by teaching participants and fans many important values which can reshape the foundation of such human society. By participating in sport, one can learn that there are no barriers in terms of social, political and ethnic aspects. Sport plays a crucial role at an individual level also as it encourages healthy lifestyle to be physically active. Back home, the way forward and time for the development of Nigeria’s sporting ecosystem in order to reap the full benefits of the new ‘Green oil’ is now.

On record, Nigeria government has been identified as being the major proprietor of sports in terms of funding and administration which is not good enough. Policies have been formulated by the government that is aimed at making the sport sector a contributory sector to her economy base. However, the policies which seek to use the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model in the sector have not been fully implemented. Sport marketing in Nigeria depicts the marketing of sports products and services directly to consumers of sports and on the other hand, entails the marketing of other consumer and industrial products or services through sports promotions.

Sport marketing would be effective in Nigeria if sports activities are designed to meet the sport needs and wants of sports consumers through exchange processes that are aimed at generating revenue that would develop sports and boost the Nigerian economy. We need to adopt and implement the sports market mix with the active involvement of public and private organizations as well as other stakeholders.

The National Sports Policy (2009) also identifies governments’ understanding that facilities are major considerations and determinants of sports developments as they provide standard settings for fitness, recreation and competition programmes. Towards this end, the government in conjunction with stakeholders shall provide standard sports facilities and equipment at national, state and local government levels as well as ensure availability of sporting facilities in schools, communities and mass housing arena.

Almost all the major sporting facilities in Nigeria are owned by the government and maintaining them is a recurring problem that has left them in deplorable states. The impact of sports facilities in sports marketing cannot be underestimated.

Adeyanju (1986), Ojeme (1999) and Jeroh (2005) espoused that the provision of good and well-equipped facilities is among the essential factors that are necessary for effective sports organization and administration in Nigeria. Studies have however revealed that most of the existing stadia in Nigeria are owned by governments just as the funding and administration have also been the prerogatives of government.

In view of the fact that the average Nigerian has a passion for sports whether for recreation or as competition, Akarah’s (2012) conceptual model for effective sports marketing in Nigeria notes that, in order to improve the Nigeria economy base through the sports sector, government should provide an appropriate legal and regulatory environment for private capital investment as well as cultivate an effective technology transfer programme to fast-track local production of sports, recreation and entertainment equipment/facilities.

The Vision 20:20 blueprint states that Nigeria currently ranks 158 out of 177 economies on the Human Development Index (HDR) despite her rich cultural endowment and abundant natural resources. It will therefore be apt for Nigeria to incorporate sports marketing into her economic development mix (Akarah, 2010a, 2010b) to take the industry to the Promised Land.

Mining the “Green Oil” will require adequate funding to compliment appropriate legal framework being put in place by the proposed National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) for the sports sector. In addition to government funding which is not adequate, it is therefore important to devise various ways of raising substantial funds through collective collaboration by individuals as well as Public and Private institutions both home and abroad. In conclusion, the shared benefits mined and harvested locally will contribute significantly to the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and proportionate distribution of income to the citizens.