FIFA counts: Asia leads confederations in players

The world football body FIFA has revealed its survey of 207 member associations in 2006, many of which do not have accurate player registrations, which provides an interesting insight into the growth of football worldwide, in terms of participation, increasing match attendances and TV audiences. The data for FIFA's Big Count 2006 was collated in the first half of 2006 using a traditional questionnaire and an online survey and achieved a response rate of over 75 percent. FIFA used Big Count 2000, a UEFA survey from 2005 and other internal surveys to supplement missing data from associations and as a plausibility check.

The survey showed that some 265 million male and female players and a further five million referees, coaches and other officials are involved in football, giving a grand total of 270 million people, or four percent of the world’s population.

“Football’s popularity remains undiminished and is actually increasing,” reflected FIFA President Joseph S Blatter. “If you count the relatives and close friends of active participants in football, who share in their passion for the game as fans and support them in other ways, the total number is even more impressive: well over a billion people worldwide are involved in football – at all levels of society and across all borders.”

Here are some of the most important findings of the Big Count 2006:

The overall total of 265 million male and female players is almost ten per cent higher than the number recorded six years ago (242 million). Of the 265 million, 26 million or around ten percent are women;

Since 2000, the number of registered male and female footballers has increased by around 23 percent to over 38 million;

The growth in women's football is particularly striking, with the number of registered players up 54 percent to 4.1 million, while the number of registered players in the men's game has likewise seen an increase of 21 percent to 34.2 million;

The number of unregistered occasional players, which was first recorded in the previous Big Count study, is up seven percent to 226 million; There is now a combined total of over one million futsal and beach soccer players (both male and female);

In terms of regional differences, the Asian Football Confederation 85 million footballers) has a clear lead over the other five confederations (UEFA: 62 million; CAF: 46 million; CONCACAF: 43 million; CONMEBOL: 27 million; OFC: 0.5 million). However, if the proportion of footballers to the total population is taken into account, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and UEFA are ahead of the other confederations with seven percent each;

The number of clubs (301,000) is similar to the figure recorded in 2000. That said, the total number of teams (1.7 million) has increased by approximately 200,000.

The study was scientifically observed by Lamprecht & Stamm SFB AG, a social research company based in Zurich.