Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sports Law Pioneer @SnoLegal talks to SportsKenya

Sometime last year, we at SportsKenya were part of a team that engaged in a campaign to get one of the pioneering ladies in Sports Law in Kenya for her studies in Spain. The campaign adopted both online and offline strategies which ran in tandem.
Sarah Ochwada @SnoLegal - Strike a Pose
We have the 
priviledge of bringing you Sarah Ochwada - also known as SnoLegal ( on Twitter @SnoLegal). She also does this blog here. We caught up with her on her exploits in Spain and this is what she had to say;

Q1) Hola SnoLegal! For the sake of our readers, kindly remind us what course you are doing, the institution and duration. 

Hola! I am studying International Sports Law at ISDE which is the acronym for... Wait for it... Instituto Superior de Derecho y Economia...that's Spanish by the way. Although my course is entirely in English. I am learning Spanish, though...but I digress...I shall be having theory lessons until June and then have my internship in Switzerland from July to December. It is a 1-year intensive course.

Q2) From your interaction thus far with sports experts from the rest of the world, what would you say their take is of the Kenyan & African sports scene at large?

Wow! What a question!  Some foreigners actually know a whole lot about African sports, and I'm not just talking about my lecturers but my classmates as well. For instance one of the Spanish guys in my class, Luis ( hello there if you're reading this) was talking to me about East African runners and he named them, knew the statistics from Kenya an Ethiopia dating back years! 
Another one of my classmates from Australia, Tiran (Oy mate!) knew about the Tikolo brothers from the Kenyan cricket team and just some crazy statistics about Kenyan cricketers... I mean it's really impressive how much people outside Africa know about sports in Africa and the athletes.
I also recall having a conversation with one of my lecturers about Kenyan rugby and another about the transfer of Kenyan players to European leagues... I guess there is a lot of interest in sports on our continent because of the talent on the continent which is exposed to the world stage through international competitions. And I think this interest will persist in years to come.

Q3)What is your take on Sports Management in Kenya and the need for Sports Laws?

In the last year or so that I spent in Kenya before coming to Madrid there was a positive change in terms of sports people and federations. Other stakeholders are also making an effort to improve their sports and consequently livelihoods of those involved. 
Management I think is the largest area that needs to be considered since you not only manage events but teams and individuals within the sports realm. And there are so many aspects to management too; finances, public relations, you name it.
What is lacking is tailor-made management for each discipline, each athlete, each federation. A blanket system may not work particularly for Kenya because of the numerous and varying needs of the.different players involved.Understanding each unique set of needs independently will be of great importance. 
As far as Sports Law is concerned, the need is even greater. General practitioners of law may not fully comprehend or appreciate the different facets of sports - from governance to contracts and any problem that may arise from there. 
We are moving into a time where talent pays, and sport is no longer a hobby but a livelihood. And with all livelihoods those in the sports fraternity require experts who will understand deeply their issues and offer sound advice & guidance to avoid disputes or mitigate harm down the line.

Q4 a) With the new Sports Bill in place, there are quite a number of legal hurdles that sports associations and bodies have to go through. Which 3 stick out for you?

Minor correction... Sports Act, not Bill. Once a Bill is passed by parliament it becomes an Act. (SK:..oops our bad, Ms learned friend...)

  • Registration of Sports entities with the Sports Registrar. There surely will be a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to this point... Wait and see. But in a nutshell, all sports entities registered under the Societies Act will have to transition and be registered under the office of the Sports Registrar. (SK:...Note that football clubs crying foul about being targeted? )
  • Disputes regarding registration and non registration. These will probably be the first few cases to be dealt with by the new Sports Tribunal. But I bet even the understanding of how to bring matters to this tribunal will be a major issue, not just for federations and sports persons but for their legal representatives too.
  • The Sports Fund... How will it be run? How will federations receive money from this fund? This will be cause for some contention I believe.
But that being said, I look forward to the debates that will rise from these issues because they will help our sports mature. Bring it on!

Q4 b) Which 3 legal issues do you feel have been left out of the Sports Bill?

Oh my gosh! Now that I have had the opportunity to learn about things... One thing which struck me is, so these federations will be registered afresh, does that mean that they remain as societies or will we have to give them some sort of new name to distinguish them from other legal entities.
The other legal issues I have pondered about, I would rather not reveal at this moment because it is better to see how things unfold and whether we can find creative legal solutions for them as time goes by... But trust me, there is so much we can do. Baby steps for now.
Snolegal at EPL club West Ham's Bolery Ground - Upton Park London - image courtesy of SnoLegal

Q5) What has been your biggest eye-opener since you started the sports law course?

That you can practice Sports Law in any corner of the world but your practice may influence other lawyers in a completely different part of the planet. For example, I have a blog devoted to Sports &Entertainment issues in Kenya. I wrote articles based on what I thought would help Kenyans in these fields improve themselves. Lo and behold, I started getting emails and messages from Sports Lawyers and professors as far as UK, Argentina, Spain, Italy, Greece inquiring about a topic I had written or including some of my articles in their research. I guess I never thought that what I.was doing for my countrymen would have a great impact on other nations. That's totally awesome and incredibly humbling!

Q6) What is your favourite sport and why?

Right now it's Archery. I started as a means of giving myself a hobby that I can take well into my old age. I have come to find it very relaxing. And who knows, maybe in 10 years I can represent Kenya as an Olympic archer! (SK:...make that 2 to 6 years at most, #just saying...)

Q7) After you're done with the course, what next?

I come back home and continue with my practice, but of course there are certain specific targets that I hope to meet maybe in the first 3 years;

  1. Transitioning our national sports federations, such as trying to get their constitutions up to date and in line with the Sports Act, Kenyan constitution and their (respective) International Federations;
  2. (Host) at least 2 free workshops a year on sports law basics and management beginning with national sports federations administrators and then moving on to athletes;
  3. Getting either the LSK (Law Society of Kenya) to have Sports Law as part of the continuous education for Advocates, or at least incorporate some aspects of Sports law into the already existing ones;
  4. Teach. Initially I never wanted to do this but I have received offers from 2 universities in Nairobi to create a curriculum to teach undergraduates Sports Law as an elective module; and
  5. Continue with Sports law commentaries, TV, Radio and Newspaper. I did a little of this before I left but it will be great to pick it up again.
Muchas gracias and all the best in your studies, estudiante graduado de la hembra :-) :-) :-) 

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