Did you know? Facts & figures on football + migration

Commissioned for PopChange

We’ve collected some key facts and figures about the impact that migration has and continues to have on football. We invite you to download our social media pack for graphics that can be shared on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.


Facts & figures in football

1. Over 66 percent of the 565 players named in Premier League squads in the 2018-2019 season hold foreign passports

2. Migration and emigration go hand in hand, there are currently 23 English footballers playing in Europe’s five other top major leagues this season.

3. In the 1974 World Cup just 1.1 percent of players had a migration background. In 2018 it reached 13.2 percent.

4. Arthur Wharton is widely considered to be the first black professional footballer in the world. Born in Ghana, he played for among others Preston North End (1886-1888), Rotherham Town (1889-1894) and Sheffield United (1894-1895). Read more about him

5. Emma Clarke is believed to be Britain’s first black female footballer. Emma made her British Ladies team debut in 1895.

6. Gilbert Saint Elmo Heron was a Jamaican professional footballer. He was the first black player to play for the Scottish club Celtic and was the father of poet and soul jazz musician Gil Scott-Heron.

7. Liverpool FC anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” originated from the musical Carousel and was written by two Jewish composers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

8. Nadia Nadim, the Danish International, Paris Saint-Germain and ex Manchester City player was born in Afghanistan and started playing football in a refugee camp in Denmark.

9. When Chelsea’s first black player, Paul Cannoville took to the field in 1981 he was met by monkey chants and racist abuse from his own fans.

10. The Football Welcomes Committee (supported by Aston Villa FC, Leicester City, Liverpool FC and Middlesbrough FC foundations) is a project designed to help refugees and people seeking asylum develop a sense of belonging as they settle in their new communities. Clubs offer free tickets to matches, organise stadium tours and football tournaments.

11. An IPSOS Mori survey carried out among refugees living in Britain found that 42 percent said that football was one of the three things they liked most about living in Britain.

12. In the UK, more than half of fans have witnessed racist abuse, but only 40 percent would know how to report it.

13. In 2018 a survey showed 93 percent of French people, 92 percent of Brits, 77 percent of Germans and Spaniards, and 71 percent of Italians said they feel comfortable with a player of different ethnic / racial background representing their national or club team.

14. The origins of West Bromwich Albion supporters singing the “Lord is my Shepherd” goes back the power workers and miners strikes of 1972. Power shortages forced a number of clubs, including WBA, to play some of their games on a Sunday. This was very unusual at the time and to mark the occasion a group of Albion supporters started singing the church hymn for a bit of a laugh and it caught on.