Foreign Players in the Premier League 2010/2011

The proliferation of foreign players in the Premier League is an often covered subject on radio phone-ins and blogs like this one. I thought rather than offering the same glib observations on foreign players in the ‘English game’ I’d offer some facts on the number of non-English (and non-British) players who currently ply their trade in the Premier League today (or to be more specific last season).

In this article I’ve decided to focus on the number of games started by each nationality as the most important factor. Therefore Oman have 38 Premier League starts over the past season as Bolton Wanderers’ Ali Al-Habsi started that many games last season.

The following table displays the top 20 nations by “Premier League starts” during the 2010/2011 season.

Premier League starts 2010/2011
Premier League starts 2010/2011

So, to the figures. As you’d expect England top the listings with their players starting 2965 games during the 2010/2011 Premier League season. That figure is out of the total possible starts of 8360, meaning that around a third of all players who started Premier League fixtures last season were English (35.47% to be exact).

Unsurprisingly in second place are the largest group of imported players into the UK (France) who supplied 558 starters during last season, with Ireland on 452 in third place. It’s at this point we get to the other UK nations, Scotland in fourth with 348 with Wales in a surprisingly high fifth place with 280 starts. Northern Ireland find themselves in thirteenth place with 139 starts. As a Wales supporter I find these stats quite interesting. Despite the large number of Premier League starters that Wales boast they still find themselves far below the less illustrious Northern Ireland in the world rankings. It just illustrates how irrelevant a lot of these statistics sometimes are.

The largest non-European supplier of Premier League starters in 2010/2011 was the United States with 180 players who started matches. The largest South American supplier was Brazil (168), in Africa the largest contributor was Ivory Coast with 172 and in Asia it was South Korea who just edged past Oman into first place.

Continental share of Premier League starters
Continental share of Premier League starters 2010/2011

The lion’s share of players come from Europe, with 33 different nations from UEFA’s 52 represented. Africa are in second place taking ten percent of all Premier League players during the 2010/2011 season, with 14 different African nations represented. On 461 occasions South Americans started matches in the Premier League last season, 7 of the 9 nations in South America had players who started matches – only players from Peru and Venezuela were not represented in the division last season. 398 North Americans from 9 nations in CONCACAF started games whilst South Korea and Oman are the only two Asian nations who supplied Premier League starters last season, though Australia and New Zealand did supply players.

I’m not sure that the figures show anything significant. I was quite surprised on researching this that United States were the largest supplier of players outside of Europe, and that Italy only supplied a paltry eleven starts during the 2010/2011 season, but apart from that I think the figures were as expected. Obviously these sorts of statistics will be used as a stick to beat the “foreign invasion” of English football with, and ultimately as an argument for restricting numbers in order to help the English national team. The fact remains that 245 different English players started matches in the Premier League last season, and surely that’s enough to pick a competent eleven from?

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