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The law in Nigeria and how it affects the clauses in football contracts – Part 2

Photo source : Best choice sports

The NPFL, Plateau United F.C & exorcising the spirit of overreaching contract clauses

The sports industry has grown exponentially, globally. The industry is currently regarded as one of the largest industries globally in terms of employment and revenue.  It is driven by a large worldwide demand.  

The total worth of the sports industry is estimated to be over US$800 billion. Just under half of this amount is generated by the spectator sports sector. So, competitive sports and all the businesses around it, create roughly over 250 billion USD in revenue each year.

The Nigerian sports industry is no exception even though the widely acknowledged challenges of commercialization still dangles over the Nigerian sporting landscape like the sword of Damocles.

Indeed, the Nigerian Professional Football league has been involved in commercial initiatives that seek to generate more revenue for the league and the clubs.

The recent deal with Redstrike TV, therefore, marked a watershed in this gradual commercialization of the football league in Nigeria. Coterminous with the quest for commercialization of the football league is the need to attract quality players who come from beyond the shores of this country, a robust scouting system and careful contract drafting.

Read related articles in this series

The growth of the sports industry invariably throws up a broad spectrum of some interesting contract clauses that have worked their way into sports law practice of law. Understanding the scope and intent of these clauses is necessary to avoid fractious contract wrangles between the club and the player.


Plateau United
Photo source : NPFL

Unfortunately, the quest to play professional football robs the unsuspecting player of the presence of mind to digest the key clauses in the contract often in tiny prints.

Sadly, the player who would have availed himself of the services of a lawyer to break down the clauses in the contract is either in a hurry to sign his professional contract or unbothered about the need to seek some professional opinion on the issue.

The relevant clauses are often a culmination of the interplay among individual employment and sponsorship contracts, league constitutions, tournament rules, and in the collective bargaining agreements between owners and the players where applicable.

Contract clauses have played a significant role in the growth of the sports industry and professional football in particular.

The football club as the employer is often keen to insert exculpatory clauses that would limit its liability as much as possible for the entirety of the contract.

Analyzing contract clauses in sports requires an understanding and appreciation of the interrelationship between judicial decisions arising from the general principles of contract law on the one hand and the ever-evolving employment law principles on the other hand.

Also read

General terms of contract clauses

The legal status of an athlete who earns a living from participating in sport is determined in Nigeria by national legislation and the legal tests outlined in case law. Some athletes will be independent contractors, others will be workers and some will be employees.

Legal status is important because it characterizes the contractual relationship between the athlete and the entity for which he or she provides services; the nature of that contractual relationship will determine the rights and obligations that arise.  A professional athlete will almost always provide services under a contract with a club, competition organizer or national federation.

The atypical nature of the services provided, the environment in which those services are applied and the perception of sport as a past time, entertainment or “fun”, or the view that an athlete is playing for the “honour and glory” of representing a country, team or club, may give the impression that an athlete is not an employee or a worker.

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