The English Premier League of Nations

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City and Belgium, takes evasive action. Credit: © CosminIftode /

It was proposed and widely commented upon last week that the British Government had in mind to count and publish levels of foreign labour employed by businesses in the UK.

On Sunday, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon sought to hose down an inflammatory global reaction to the proposals by assuring, “we will not be asking companies to list or name or identify their foreign workers”.

These policy manoeuvres suggest a need to understand more about nationality mix and enterprise performance.  Whilst data on this subject is not readily available, there is one source with a very diverse workforce in which the nationality mix is well known and appreciated: The English Premier League.

This DataBox article will use the Premier League information to explore the relationship between the national composition of the 20 teams and how this may determine their performance on the pitch.

In the Premier League, position is determined by the number of points accumulated over a series of games, with three points awarded for a win, one point awarded for a draw and no points if a team loses.

Here we will create a new league by taking the team’s full squad and allocating three points for a player who is a UK citizen, one point for a player of European Union (EU) origin and no points for a player who originates from the rest of the world (RoW).

We have chosen to base this analysis on the whole of first team squad of each team, as we are often reminded by coaches that football is a team game in which the whole squad participates.  However, different teams have different squad sizes from Burnley with 23 players to Arsenal with 38.

It is therefore necessary to normalise the points tally to the average squad size (28.5 players) to adjust for the different squad sizes.  It is this normalised points total that has determined league position.

The new league based on player nationality shown below has West Bromwich Albion at the top and Watford struggling against relegation.



The graph below compares the league positions presented above with the real positions of each team in the actual Premier League last weekend.

It is clear that there is no relationship at this stage in the season between the actual club league positions and those calculated on the basis of the nationality mix of playing staff.



It provisionally seems that the nationality of players is not important to the performance of teams in the English Premier League.  The players just have to be good at football.

Having great players play in the English Premier League has made the league the most successful football league in the world in terms of revenue.  It is the most successful league in all sports outside of the USA.

What seems to be the case for football could apply more widely for business in the UK.db1016b


By John Egan
DataBox Article