The success of the various investments of FIFA in the development of football worldwide not only is noted in the increased number of spectators at games and watching games at home, but also, according to the most recent statistics, in the number of people who play football worldwide. 265 million players, along with more than 5 million referees and officials testify to the popularity of the sport.
A total of 270 million - or 4% of the world's population - participate actively in football. This is the impressive result that FIFA's "Big Count 2006" survey discovered. The survey, administered in the 207 member associations, has been carried out twice, using the same criteria, since 2002, which allows interesting conclusions to be drawn with respect to the development of world football.
For the survey, FIFA's member associations were asked to provide exact numbers, within reason, with respect to the following categories: professional football players, registered players over 18, registered players under 18, futsal and beach football players, recreational players, referees, and officials. All of these categories were further divided, as separate numbers were given for men and women.
Also, the number of clubs and teams that exist in each organization's jurisdiction were also taken into the data collected by the survey. Close to 75% of the member associations that make up FIFA participated in the survey, a similar percentage to the survey taken in 2002, which allows a one-to-one comparison between the two.
Although the accuracy of the information turned in by the associations has improved greatly compared with the study done in 2000, a deeper analysis gives rise to questions about how exact some of the numbers are. For example, in the category "recreational players", it was difficult for the member organizations to estimate how many people belonged in this group, as no exact numbers exist.
To fill in gaps where there was no information or the member associations provided data that was difficult to believe, FIFA used the "Big Count 2000", along with a survey carried out by UEFA in 2005, and other internal statistics. Moreover, the study was supervised by a well-known institute specializing in these types of surveys.