Edited by John Goddard and Peter Sloane
Chapter 15: Labour market discrimination
Black players have featured in English professional football since the inception of the English League in 1888, though prior to the early 1970s their presence was sporadic. The vast majority of black players who graced the professional game in England in its first 90 years were not indigenous to the country and most came from Britain’s then African colonies. The modest scale of the African influence in the English game over this period contrasts sharply with the experience of France, where by 1938 over 140 African footballers were plying a professional trade in the first and second divisions of the French league, a trend which continued after the war (see Darby, 2010). The emergence in the mid-1970s of indigenous black players in all tiers of the professional game in England largely reflected the shifting demographics of the country’s population. An important landmark event associated with these changes was the arrival in 1948 of the first wave of West Indian immigrants in the country to assist in post-war reconstruction. Census data indicate that by 1961 the percentage of blacks in the UK population was less than 0.5 per cent, rising to about 2.8 per cent half a century later.
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