Governance Law Sport Business

Sports & The Law


The Sports Industry is fast becoming a growing industry which accommodates various professional from all works of life. It is very pertinent to note that due to the growing nature, it has become paramount to find a medium to regulate the activities within the sector. Owing to this fact, legal professionals within the industry have developed the legal framework that pertains to sports and the developing issues that evolve from the sector.

The immense development of sports around the world cannot be over emphasized; talk more of its impact in the progress of a nation. Football,for example is the  first team sport in Spain by number of practitioners, has become an important phenomenon that involves cultural, social, economic and even political factors. Although it sounds like a cliché, football is much more than two teams of eleven people running after a ball.[1]Sports has been recognized as the only event which bring together all personalities; whether Black, Asian, White or Australoid.

Historically, sports was generally seen as a past time that didn’t require serious formalization and regulation. For instance, when the ancient Olympic Games started, there were limited rules and regulations binding the athletes and the organizers. In the past few decades however, we have seen sporting activities and tournaments become much more complex. These days there are events like the World Cup and Olympic Games, African Cup of Nations (AFCON), sporting federations like Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), Confederation of African Football (CAF) and the American National Basket Ball Association (NBA), players and agents all involved in complex web of organizing, hosting and playing of games and tournaments. These days players sign contracts, teams have relationships with the governing federations and the governing federations have connections with the governments of each country. These complexities have led to the growth and emergence of sports law and practice[2]around the world without excluding Africa.

A distinct Forbes list just for highest paid athletes evidences the rising popularity of the sports industry in the past few decades. The history of sports extends as far back as the existence of people as purposive and competitive. It simultaneously portrays how the beliefs of the society have changed and what changes have been brought in the rules and regulations. The most eminent legal scholars have always unanimously held that law is essential for a society because it serves as norms of the code of conduct. It keeps the community running. Without law, there would be a state of chaos where only the fittest will survive. Similarly, even though law and sports often get considered as “separate realms”; sports laws form the backbone of the sports industry regulating the myriad of interlinking legal issues ranging from anti-doping, gambling, and match-fixing to the choice of legal structure for sporting organisations. Sports without the governance of a body of law can be comparable to a football match without a referee; havoc.  These laws have an unusually well-developed pattern of globalised regulation and overlap substantially with multitude areas of other distinct laws.[3]

One of the major sports that emerged in Africa and has stood the test of time is Football which has been evidenced in the great African players who have also made their marks not just in Africa but in Europe. Amongst them are Austin Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, Rasheed Yekini et al.

The development in African football has over the years been astonishing and rather controversial. For the sports lawyer and other interested parties, this is a remarkable opportunity to examine and critically analyse further the perennial battle between state regulation and self-regulation. It is a well-established fact that FIFA and CAF regulations prohibits attempts to seek remedies before national courts in matters which is of purely sporting nature and by pursuing this one risks violating specific FIFA regulations. The general position is that national courts are usually reluctant to interfere with cases of a sporting nature as the sports associations are private bodies as opposed to public bodies. Courts cannot intervene in matters conducted by private associations, however when a matter is presented in court against a private association the courts will nevertheless go ahead with the hearing of the matter.[4]

[1] last accessed on 2nd August, 2019.

[2] last accessed on 2nd August, 2019.

[3] last accessed on 3rd August 2019.

[4] last accessed on 3rd August, 2019.

About the author


Ayomide Adesemowo

Ayomide Oluwatobiloba Adesemowo is a sports lawyer with keen interest in sports governance and administration. He is the business and management strategist at Lagos Tigers Football Academy in Lagos Nigeria. During his leisure, Tobi loves to research on sports related issues.

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