With 265 million male and female players and a further five million referees, coaches and other officials, a grand total of 270 million people, or four per cent of the world’s population, are involved in football.

These are the impressive findings of the Big Count 2006, a FIFA survey of its member associations (207 at the time), which, having first been conducted in 2000, was repeated last year with the same criteria to provide an interesting insight into the growth of football worldwide.

“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.”

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 per cent are women;
- Since 2000, the number of registered male and female footballers has increased by around 23 per cent to over 38 million;
- The growth in women’s football is particularly striking, with the number of registered players up 54 per cent to 4.1 million;

In terms of regional differences, the AFC (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).

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 data for 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 per cent.