The number of South Asian male professional football players in England and Wales has increased for the second consecutive year, according to data from the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).
There are 22 professional players of South Asian heritage aged 17 or over in the top four English leagues this season.
This marks a 29% increase from the 17 players in the 2022-23 season, while there were 16 in the 2021-22 season when the PFA began recording this data.
“The data is encouraging,” said Riz Rehman, the PFA’s player inclusion executive.
“The figures indicate a growing momentum for South Asian players and those seeking pathways within the game.
“Our primary focus will remain on the players as we build on the multiple successes of last year and push forward.”
In 2021, the PFA launched the Asian Inclusion Mentoring Scheme (AIMS) to enhance Asian representation in football by conducting workshops, creating a support network for Asian footballers, and engaging with clubs regarding cultural barriers.
The newly published figures also reveal:
However, the overall percentage of South Asian professional players remains low in England and Wales.
There are approximately 5,000 professional footballers in the UK, with less than 1% having South Asian heritage.
Those who identify as Asian, Asian British, or Asian Welsh make up 9.3% of the overall UK population, according to Census 2021 data.
Rehman told Sky Sports, “When we started this work, we wanted to change the narrative from a negative one to a positive one.
“If we kept focusing on the numbers, nothing would happen.”
Rehman said the PFA has focused on ensuring support networks for young Asian footballers, with mentors including Norwich City’s Danny Batth and Shrewsbury Town’s Malvind Benning.
Sheffield United and England U19 international Sai Sachdev, who is being supported by the AIMS program, said, “The PFA has taken an interest in all our journeys, and the team has come to spend some time with me at the training ground, as well as with my family, which was appreciated.
“I’ve built friendships with other players and attended AIMS events, which have given me a good insight into the different industry pathways.”