Immigration and its contribution to UK sport

UK sport is in a good place right now. From the strong performances in the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games, to the growing financial strength of the Premier League, to other, though by no means less important, stunning achievements in Formula One, Tennis and Cricket. Our great, but, as we sometimes forget, little, country has provided some of the greatest sportsmen and women throughout the last hundred years. The UK is a great place for sportspeople to develop, with solid academies, good standards of PE in school and numerous clubs to join from a young age, from a range of sports that makes the youth of our nation very much spoilt for choice. We are quite the sporting nation, even if it does not feel like that to everyone.

But there is another reason as to why UK sport is, and has been, in a good place. Immigration. It is undeniable that immigration has had a momentous impact on British sport. Although the self-described anti-immigrants might not like it, it is simply an unavoidable truth when you look at the facts. If you looked at Manchester City, you would see the goal-scoring ability of Sergio Aguero, the creativity of David Silva and the energy of Kevin de Bruyne. Manchester United, take Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and David De Gea. I could go on forever. It is a fact that immigration has helped the Premier League grow into what many people describe as the ‘best league in the world’.

And it is not just the players who have done this. Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Arsene Wenger, Mauricio Pochettino and Antonio Conte have all greatly improved the league with their training methods and managerial insights. In fact, when a non-British manager is appointed (especially one that has limited or no previous experience of the league), fans claim that the aforementioned appointment won’t work out because that manager ‘simply wouldn’t know the Premier League like an English manager would”. This happened to the aforementioned Pochettino, as well as Watford’s impressive Marco Silva and to current Everton boss Ronald Koemen, in his first spell in England as boss of Southampton. What these ignorant pundits forget, of course, is that no English manager has ever won the Premier League.

Other sports have, naturally, benefited tremendously from immigration. The impact of immigration on UK sport is not confined, of course, to people who have come over and improved the qualities of our professional sports whilst still representing their nation. Many have come over from a young age and elected to represent the British nation. Mo Farah, Kevin Pietersen, Nasser Hussain, Luol Deng, Owen Hargreaves, Bradley Wiggins, Justin Rose. All of these players have different contexts. Some have British parents, others were born here, others moved when they were kids. The key, in terms of immigration, is that they, or their parents, were free to move to other parts of the globe. If you were a true sports fan and patriot, you would not care where they were born but only their sporting ability and achievements. And if we can appreciate sportspeople, why not the immigrants who help contribute to societies in other ways; teachers, doctors, nurses, physios, plumbers, bankers; businesspeople… the list goes on, and on, and on.

Immigration, naturally, does not confine itself to people immigrating to Britain, but also people emigrating from our small island. The world of sport is no different. Andy Murray, our greatest tennis player for decades, moved to Spain when he was a young teenager to be able to train. It is part of what created the two-time Wimbledon winner and former number one in the world. He has seldom been criticised for moving countries, because a Brit moving abroad to improve their game helped create a serial winner. Why should people question it when it inevitably happens the other way around?

By James Felton