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

Did You Know?

  1. Over 66 % 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: 23 English footballers played in Europe’s five other top major leagues in the 2018-2019 season.
  3. In the 1974 World Cup, just 1.1 % of players had a migration background. In 2018, it reached 13.2 %.
  4. Arthur Wharton is widely considered to be the first black professional footballer in the world. Born in Ghana, he played for Preston North End (1886-1888), Rotherham Town (1889-1894) and Sheffield United (1894-1895), among others.
  5. Emma Clarke is believed to be Britain’s first black female footballer, making 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 Carouseland was written by two Jewish composers: Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
  8. Afghan-Danish striker Nadia Nadim played for Manchester City in 2018 and currently plays for Paris Saint-Germain. She 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 clubs Aston Villa, Leicester City and Liverpool, and the Middlesbrough FC Foundation) is a project designed to help refugees and asylum-seekers develop a sense of belonging as they settle in their new communities. Clubs offer free tickets to matches, and organise stadium tours and football tournaments.
  11. An IPSOS Mori survey carried out among refugees living in Britain found that 42 % 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 % would know how to report it.
  13. In 2018, a survey showed 93 % of French people, 92 % of Brits, 77 % of Germans and Spaniards, and 71 % of Italians said they felt comfortable with a player of different ethnic/racial background representing their national or club team.
  14. The origins of West Bromwich Albion (WBA) supporters singing the “Lord is my Shepherd” goes back to 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.
  15. Hibernian FC fans have turned The Proclaimers anthem “Sunshine on Leith” into their club anthem.
  16. The alternative Liverpool anthem “Allez Allez Allez” is inspired by the Italian disco song “L’Estate Sta Finendo” (‘The Summer Is Ending’) by Righeira.
  17. In 1997, Anwar Uddin, became the first British Asian to sign a Premier League contract with West Ham United. He was the first person of Bangladeshi origin to play professional football in England, and while at Dagenham & Redbridge, became the first British Asian to captain a football club in the top four English football divisions.