How blockchain technology can help sports development in Nigeria

There is a certain buzz around blockchain technology largely due to bitcoin, a cryptocurrency which is exchangeable from peer to peer without a trustworthy third party. Although the cryptocurrency bitcoin was viewed as speculative. Blockchain being its fundamental technology proceeded to become useful in areas such as logistics and insurance.

Simply put, the blockchain technology enables two individuals unknown to each other to trade value by reconsidering the role of a trustworthy third party, thus opening up new range of possibilities for intermediary models involving value circulation and a huge number of stakeholders.

The transformation of consumer habits and the ubiquity of digital technology have given rise to a stream of innovations ranging from virtual reality and data analytics to connected objects. They offer new sources of growth for sports industry stakeholders.

The idea of community or network supporting a blockchain is essential, because it is this network that ensures the authenticity and veracity of the ledger information. In blockchain, all information authenticated by the network as accurate is stored in a secured database and distributed amongst all members.

In the sporting world, blockchain technology could be used for the facilitation of mass coordination amongst stakeholders via decentralization, build trust amongst stakeholders, reduce costs through the removal of third parties, maintain relationships between clubs and fans, data security and transparency, aid in the development of user experience for the fans, boost funding for sporting careers, aid in the development of event organization and bolster the war against doping.

According to data from LocalBitcoins, Nigeria came second in the world’s peer-to-peer (P2P) Bitcoin transactions in 2017 outpacing major European countries, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. This data shows us that the adoption of BlockChain and Cryptocurrencies can be great in Nigeria if the government can find innovative ways to leverage its usage.

Sports in Nigeria is known to suffer a myriad of problems such as lack of funding, infighting between stakeholders, players strikes, lack of player data, unsafe venues, ticket touting, fan unrest and in some cases doping. Therefore I will go further to discuss the possible solutions to the problems through the use of blockchain technology.

Nigerian sports associations and professional clubs are constantly looking for funding to sponsor athletes to tournaments and most of them rely on the Federal Government for this. Thus there is need for these associations and clubs to diversify their activities so as to give raise the membership and strengthen loyalty. Fan engagement is now a priority and blockchain technology can help these clubs, associations and their fans meet expectations. The blockchain technology could offer a club issued virtual currency which can be used via a decentralized app linked to the club. This app could then allow buyers (sponsors, fans, partners, volunteers) to hire spaces for their events inside the club, vote on the club’s financial and strategic decisions and promote non-club services and activities to members.

Blockchain technology can boost funding for sporting careers of many Nigerian athletes. Nowadays sports institutions are made for top-level athletes who are scouted by sports professionals at an early age. Talents can also emerge outside the top-level sporting framework. So in what way can these athletes have the chance of becoming champions? How can they be aided to attract funding and their sporting data managed? With the use of blockchain technology, athletes can be funded through a digital platform by issuing a token, creation of an athletes pool, organizing contracts between the athletes and investors, providing sporting data on the digital platform with the authorization and authentication by the athlete, funding for athletes that are not part of the top-level framework and creation of a system to manage athletes.

International sporting events organized in Nigeria prompts a lot of ticket sales and resales. Identity theft, falsification and fraud become widespread. Blockchain technology can help create a decentralized platform for guaranteeing the genuineness of tickets, fight circulation of fake tickets and black market resales, give holders an opportunity to share and monitise their personal data and create smart contracts for automatic refunds, comment sharing, match analysis and relevant content payment.

Also, most top-level athletes in Nigeria lack regular medical checkup and specialist medical advice. This causes serious issues when athletes seek medical treatment because they need to understand the type of drugs that can be taken so as not be accused of doping. Hence education, prevention, monitoring and transparency are essential as it relates to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), associations, event organisers, clubs and fans. Blockchain technology can help create a decentralized register which contains the full medical records of all athletes thereby facilitating the submission of test results and control monitoring. This decentralized register will be hack proof so that athlete’s medical records cannot be altered, enhance greater awareness of dangerous drugs amongst athletes, and provide the location of athlete’s data at any time for random drug monitoring and controls.

Furthermore decentralized smart contracts implementation would guarantee the automated discharge of particular clauses in the contract. The digitization and transformation of contracts into smart contracts will help ease contract negotiations with added clarity and transparency. This way, contracts will be standardized, thus making way for improved data usage.

It could be argued that the adoption and implementation of blockchain technology in Nigeria may not happen anytime soon, but it is still essential for sports associations and club owners to be aware, educated and prepared for the incoming digital revolution.

The lesson from this article is that Blockchain technology can certainly play a crucial role in driving financial, economic and business growth in Nigeria’s sporting industry thereby aiding its development. However blockchain technology alone cannot achieve this. The Nigerian government also has an important role to play by adapting quickly to technological changes and provide the enabling environment and right regulations to govern its usage.

Article submitted by Dr Kelechi Anyikude, Digital Technology Analyst and a Sports Analyst on Arsenal TV.

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