Culture, Featured, Opinion

Unlocking The Potential – Addressing The Challenges and Pursuing Growth in The Nigerian Sports Industry

Nmesoma Okwudili


April 1, 2023

The Nigerian sports industry is a promising one with limitless potential, but it is also fraught with difficulties.

It has seen significant achievements, with many people of Nigerian ancestry excelling in various sports around the world. Notably, at least 80 Nigerian-born athletes have achieved prominence in professional football, soccer, basketball, and auto racing.

In 1957, Hogan Bassey became the first Nigerian to win the world boxing title. In addition, the Nigerian amputee football team competed in the 2018 Amputee World Cup in Mexico. These achievements in the sports industry attest to Nigerians’ talent and dedication.

The Nigerian sports industry had an exciting year in 2018. As a result, sports fans were optimistic that the momentum would continue. According to them, Nigeria has made a name for itself in global sports competitions by fielding one of the world’s best national teams, the Super Eagles.

Nigeria has hosted several sporting events, including the African Cup of Nations in 1980 and 2000, the African Championships in Athletics in 1989, the 2003 All-Africa Games, and the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2009. In addition, the ancient city of Benin, Edo State, hosted the 20th edition of the Nigerian National Sports Festival.

The 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, which took place in Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, and Enugu, was a watershed moment in Nigerian sports history.

In addition, the 21st National Sports Festival in Delta State in 2022 was a memorable experience for Nigerian youths because it featured many athletes, coaches, and sports administrators.

Nigeria has previously expressed interest in hosting other sporting events in addition to the National Sports Festival. The states of Kaduna and Oyo were reported to be interested in hosting Nigeria’s version of the Olympic Games.

Despite these accomplishments, the sports industry faces significant challenges. One of the industry’s major stumbling blocks is a lack of investment. The global sports market was worth $489 billion in 2018, up more than four percent year on year since 2014. According to The Guardian, there are few resources available to support sports development in the country because many sports organisations are struggling to secure adequate funding for their activities. As a result, the industry’s upswing has been unprogressive, prompting many talented individuals to seek opportunities abroad.

Corruption is another issue confronting Nigeria’s sports industry. It has been a significant impediment to the industry’s growth and development. For many years, corruption has been rampant in the Nigerian sports industry. It has prevented many talented people from reaching their full potential. In order to determine who represents the country in international competitions, indefensible practises such as bribery and favouritism are used. This has consistently resulted in an environment in which only a select few individuals can compete in international events, while many other talented athletes are left behind.

Some famous Nigerians in the sports industry include:

  • Tammy Abraham is an English Premier League footballer who currently plays for Chelsea and has represented England at the international level.
  • Bukayo Saka is an English Premier League footballer who currently plays for Arsenal and has represented England at the international level.
  • Fikayo Tomori is a Canadian footballer who currently plays for AC Milan in Serie A and has represented his country on several occasions.
  • Noah Lyles is a track and field athlete for the United States who has won numerous world championships and Olympic medals.
  • Somtochukwu Achebo is a former college football player who spent two seasons as a linebacker for the Southern Utah Thunderbirds from 2018 to 2020.
  • Anthony Joshua is a boxer from the United Kingdom. He won the Olympic heavyweight title in London in 2012, and he made his professional debut in 2013.
  • Chiney Ogwumike is a Nigerian-American professional basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Sparks.
  • Chioma Ajunwa: a Nigerian former track and field athlete and football player who became the first Nigerian to win gold in a field event at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, as well as the first black African woman to do so.
  • Blessing Okagbare: Nigerian track and field athlete who has won multiple international gold medals and holds the African record in the 200m sprint.
  • Funke Oshonaike is a Nigerian table tennis player who has competed in multiple Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
  • Chika Chukwumerije is a Nigerian taekwondo athlete who has won numerous gold medals in international competitions and has represented Nigeria at the Olympics.
  • Esther Oyema is a Nigerian powerlifter who has multiple Paralympic medals and holds the world record in the women’s -55 kg category.

Another major issue confronting the Nigerian sports industry is a lack of infrastructure. Despite the industry’s potential, this has prevented it from growing and developing. According to The Daily Nigerian, the country lacks many adequate facilities for modern sports training and competition. As a result, the quality of sporting events has declined, limiting the opportunities available to athletes and fans alike.

Regardless of the industry’s existing potential, a lack of infrastructure has prevented it from growing and developing. This highlights the sports industry’s underdevelopment, which results in inadequate facilities and infrastructure for its development.

Despite being plagued by significant challenges over the years, numerous opportunities exist for the sector to become more significant and valuable to the economy. The Nigerian sports industry is one of the country’s most promising economic sectors. Nigeria, with a population of over 200 million people, has a large pool of talented athletes with the potential to excel on the global stage.

However, the industry is experiencing a talent drain. Due to a lack of funding, many talented athletes have sought opportunities abroad. This is especially noticeable in football, where many Nigerian players play in Europe’s top leagues. While this has increased exposure for the Nigerian football brand, it has also depleted the industry of top talent that could have contributed to the sector’s development at the grassroots level.

Despite the obvious challenges that the industry faces, there are numerous opportunities within the sector. The advancement of digital technology is one of the industry’s most significant opportunities. According to The Guardian, social media and other digital platforms can help raise awareness of sporting events and connect fans to their favourite teams and athletes.

The year 2019 presented an opportunity for the Nigerian sports industry to gain prominence and boost economic growth. The reason for this is that digital technology opens up new avenues for the industry to grow and develop. The development of social media, in particular, allows the industry to reach a broader audience and engage with fans in new and innovative ways.

The rise of E-sports provides a clear opportunity for the expansion of Nigeria’s sports industry. While traditional sports continue to be popular in the country, E-sports is quickly gaining popularity, particularly among younger audiences. According to The Daily Nigerian, the Nigerian Esports market will expand significantly in the coming years, creating new opportunities for investors, athletes, and fans alike.

The hosting of major international events provides the country with an additional opportunity to explore its potential. Nigeria has previously hosted a number of major sporting events, including the African Cup of Nations and the FIFA U-17 World Cup. With increased tourism and investment, these events have resulted in significant economic benefits for the country. In the future, hosting more critical events could help showcase the country’s sporting talent and attract investment to the industry.

The National Sports Industry Policy (NSIP) has long sought to capitalise on Nigeria’s extraordinary sporting talent, passion, interest, and excellence in order to advance and navigate diplomatic relations, generate employment, create jobs, increase government revenue, and strengthen the economy.

The industry has significant economic and employment potential, but it faces challenges that must be addressed. Reform and investment in the sector could lead to its growth and development, as well as the creation of new opportunities for Nigerians. Its goal should be to supplement the government’s national and sub-national development efforts. This can be accomplished by leveraging the potential and opportunities provided by the sports industrialisation agenda to successfully develop a thriving industry that contributes significantly to the Nigerian economy.


  • “Despite the many challenges that the Nigerian sports industry faced in 2018, the year 2019 offers yet another opportunity to try to become larger and more economically impactful.” URL:
  • “Sports fans believe that the sports industry’s performance in 2018 was exciting and should be maintained. According to them, Nigeria has made its mark in global sports competition, with the national team — the Super Eagles — remaining one of the world’s top ten.” URL:
  • “Nigeria’s economy has been stagnant, growing at less than 1% per year over the last six years, far below the 2.6% population growth rate. It also has roughly 40% of the population of about 200 people…” URL:
  • “The 2012 Study of the Contribution of Sport to Economic Growth and Employment in the European Union (EU) 3 highlighted sport as both an important economic sector and a labor-intensive growth industry, emphasising the immense and vastly untapped economic potentials of sports in Nigeria. The sport alone generated an Overall Gross…” Website:
  • “Sport is currently difficult to assess in terms of its impact on Nigeria’s GDP because it is not one of the key sectors considered by statisticians when estimating GDP. However, it is calculated as part of the entertainment and recreation sector, which contributed 0.19, 0.31, and 0.33 percent of Nigerian GDP in 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively…” URL:
  • “Incentives for Sports Investment in Nigeria: Reforming the Nigerian Sports Industry. Introduction. The global sports market was valued at $489 billion in 2018, having grown at a rate of more than 4% per year since 2014, and is expected to grow at a rate of about 6% per year to nearly $614 billion by 2022.” URL:

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