Three Lions

"Three Lions" (alternatively titled "Three Lions (Football's Coming Home)") is a song released in May 1996 as a single by Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds to mark the England football team's hosting of that year's European Championships. The music was written by the Lightning Seeds' Ian Broudie, while comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner—presenters of football-themed comedy show Fantasy Football League—provided the lyric.[2] All three acts (with The Lightning Seeds[3] sometimes being a solo project for Broudie, sometimes a full band) provided vocals for the record.

"Three Lions"
Single by Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds
from the album The Beautiful Game – The Official Album of Euro '96
Released20 May 1996 (1996-05-20)[1]
Composer(s)Ian Broudie
The Lightning Seeds singles chronology
"Ready or Not"
"Three Lions"
"What If..."
Audio sample
Sample of "Three Lions" by Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds

The title comes from the emblem of the England football team, which is in turn derived from the Royal Arms of England. This song is one of only three songs to top the British charts more than once with lyric variants, the others being "Mambo No. 5" (in versions by Lou Bega and Bob the Builder) and "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (by Band Aid, Band Aid 20 and Band Aid 30). It also regularly reappears in the UK singles chart around major football tournaments involving the England team.

The song has been described as the de facto "anthem" of English football since 1996.[4] Its chorus, with the refrain "It's coming home", has become a popular chant for fans at England games in subsequent years.[5]

1996 original song


The lyric, unlike those of most football songs, speaks not of unbounded optimism for victory but instead talks of how, ever since 1966 and the one success of the English football team, every tournament has ended in dashed hopes.[6] However, the repeated failures have not dampened the feeling that England could again reach those heights ("Three lions on a shirt / Jules Rimet still gleaming / Thirty years of hurt / never stopped me dreaming").[7]

The song's intro included samples of pessimism from football pundits:

  • "I think it's bad news for the English game." (Alan Hansen)
  • "We're not creative enough; we're not positive enough." (Trevor Brooking)
  • "We'll go on getting bad results." (Jimmy Hill)

Despite the failures of the past, each tournament is greeted with fresh hopes that this might be the year they do it again: "I know that was then, but it could be again", and the song's chorus proclaimed that "It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming, football's coming home" which refers, like the tournament's slogan, "Football comes home", to the invention of the modern game in England.[8]

The song makes reference to English footballing heroes and famous moments of the past, specifically:

According to Frank Skinner's autobiography, the original lyrics submitted to the FA included the line "Butcher ready for war" instead of "Bobby belting the ball". The former was a reference to a notorious World Cup qualifier against Sweden in 1989, where defender Terry Butcher gave a typically committed performance, despite his head bleeding profusely for much of the match. David Baddiel later revealed a handwritten copy of the lyrics on twitter with "Terry Butcher at war" shown as the replaced lyric.[9] The FA requested that this line be changed, so as to avoid suggestions of hooliganism imagery. The "ready for war" motif was later used in the 1998 version of the song (see below), attributed to Paul Ince.

The commentary of the end of the song contrasts that of the song's opening with positive lines which suggest that England could win a major football championship:

The crowd noise in the intro of the track is in fact Brøndby fans recorded by Ian Broudie at Anfield during a UEFA Cup tie in October 1995.[10]

On the CD of The Beautiful Game – Official Album of Euro 96, there are two tracks which are seemingly recordings of Baddiel, Skinner and Broudie trying to formulate what the song's lyrics should be when in the process of originally writing it. Track one is called "Three Lions Version One", where there are such lyrics as "Three Lions on a shirt / Just near where it says Umbro / The white one shows the dirt / The grey one not as much so...". And "Three Lions Version Two", where they discuss writing the song in parody of Bruce Forsyth after when Baddiel suggests writing about the Beautiful Game, to which Skinner suggests is Play Your Cards Right. Lyrics include (chorus) "Nothing for a pair / Dollies do your dealing..." in reference to Forsyth's usual catchphrases.


The Britpop phenomenon was at its peak in 1996, and the Lightning Seeds were one of its leading acts, so their involvement gave the song very wide appeal. It reached number one in the singles chart, and as England progressed to the semi-finals, stadiums around the country echoed to the sound of fans singing the song after English victories over Scotland, the Netherlands and Spain. It was so popular that even other teams liked it. England faced Germany in the semi-finals, and Jürgen Klinsmann said later that the Germans were singing the song themselves on the way to the stadium, and the German team and the crowd sang the song as they paraded the trophy on the Römer balcony in Frankfurt. The single as a result even made number 49 on the German Singles Chart.[11] The song was later sung by Germany fans during their team's first appearance at the new Wembley in 2007[12] and is still heard frequently on German radio stations.

The original version of the song still receives regular airplay in England around the time of a major football tournament. It has been adopted as a terrace chant and is occasionally sung by fans at England international matches today. When it was sung by England fans at the 2006 World Cup after England took the lead against Paraguay, commentator John Motson remarked, "As football songs go, Three Lions is certainly the best".[citation needed] The song has sold 1.6 million copies in the UK as of June 2018.[13]

"Three Lions" re-entered the charts at number 10 (as of 13 June) during the World Cup in 2010. A total of five different versions were present in the top 100 at the time.

The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart again in 2018 following England reaching the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup,[14] with the line "it's coming home" featuring heavily on social media.[15][16] In doing so, it became the first song in history to have four separate stints at number one in the UK.[14] By the following week, following England's semi-final defeat by Croatia, and elimination from the tournament, the single had fallen to number 97, setting a then-record for the fastest ever descent from the top of the charts, until "Last Christmas" by Wham! fell out of the top 100 completely from number one in January 2021.[17]

Original track listing

  1. "Three Lions" – 3:44
  2. "Three Lions" (Jules Rimet extended mix) – 6:14
  3. "Three Lions" (karaoke version) – 3:45


Weekly charts


Region CertificationCertified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[34] 2× Platinum 1,200,000

Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

"3 Lions '98"

"3 Lions '98"
Single by Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds
Released8 June 1998
Composer(s)Ian Broudie
The Lightning Seeds singles chronology
"What You Say"
"3 Lions '98"
"Life's Too Short"

England lost in a penalty shootout against Germany in 1996, and so the song's lyrics rang true once again. It was subsequently re-recorded with different lyrics (under the title "3 Lions '98") as an unofficial anthem for England's World Cup campaign in 1998 (unlike in 1996, when it was the "official song of the England football team") and landed the number one spot in the singles chart for a second time, beating the official England song "(How Does It Feel to Be) On Top of the World?" by England United to the top spot by eight places.

This version of the song begins with the sound of crowds from the 1996 tournament singing the chorus of the original song in the stadiums. It then samples Jonathan Pearce's commentary of the decisive penalty miss by England's Gareth Southgate in a shoot-out with Germany, where England were eliminated at the semi-final stage. Pearce's commentary of earlier rounds of the tournament was also used later in the song.

Where the 1996 "Three Lions" song drew on various memorable moments from the previous 30 years, the 1998 version reflected on the Euro 96 tournament and its entry alongside previous disappointments, as well as the team's performance in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup. The verse mentioning specific players focused this time on the then-current England squad:

  • Paul Ince – "Ince ready for war" – his performance against Italy in a crucial qualifier for that year's World Cup
  • Paul Gascoigne – "Gazza good as before" – the long-awaited return of his 1990 World Cup form in Euro 96, particularly his goal against Scotland
  • Alan Shearer – "Shearer certain to score" – with five goals, he had been the top scorer of Euro 96, despite a poor run of form in internationals before the tournament
  • Stuart Pearce – "And Psycho screaming" – his primal celebration after scoring a penalty in the Euro 96 quarter-final shoot-out against Spain, which lifted the burden he had felt after failing to score in the semi-final shootout at the 1990 World Cup

However, and amid much controversy, neither Gascoigne nor Pearce were selected for England's 1998 World Cup squad, which was not announced until some time after the song had been recorded.

As well as a karaoke version of the new song, the single featured a song called "Tout est Possible" (French for "Anything is Possible") as a B-side. The song was largely composed of a recurring chorus, samples from commentators and pundits, and the occasional short verse. It also started with a French speech sample referring to "La Coupe du Monde" (The World Cup).

1998 video

The video to the 1998 version of the song portrays a match between a group of English fans (including Baddiel, Skinner and Lightning Seeds' singer Ian Broudie) and their German equivalents, most of whom have the name "Kuntz" printed on the back of their football shirts (except for one, who instead has "Klinsmann"). German player Stefan Kuntz had played an instrumental part in Germany's semi-final victory over England at Wembley in 1996, but his name is similar to the disparaging vulgarity "cunts"; the segment was often cut by broadcasters. Baddiel and Skinner had previously mocked Kuntz' name on their Fantasy Football television programme.

The video also featured cameo appearances from Geoff Hurst (who also made a cameo in the music video for the original song in 1996), John Regis, Robbie Williams and Chris Evans.

The scene from the video when Frank Skinner dips his arm into custard while grasping a melon, so it bears a comical resemblance to the World Cup trophy, was shown on German public TV station Das Erste a few days before the final was to be played.



Region CertificationCertified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[41] Platinum 600,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

"Three Lions 2010" by The Squad

"Three Lions 2010"
Single by The Squad
from the album England The Album 2010
Released17 May 2010
GenreBritpop with opera and choir music
Composer(s)Ian Broudie
Producer(s)Trevor Horn

Although Frank Skinner had dismissed the possibility in early 2010,[42] Skinner, Baddiel and Broudie were joined by Robbie Williams and comedian/actor Russell Brand under the name "The Squad" for a new version of the song for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, produced by Trevor Horn.[43] The song features added vocals from the ACM Gospel Choir, a soprano (Olivia Safe) and commentator John Motson.[44] It entered the UK singles chart at number 21. The song can be found on England The Album 2010 as its lead single.

Track listing

CD single

  1. "Three Lions" (2010 version) – 4:17
  2. "Three Lions" (original version) – 3:36

Digital download

  1. "Three Lions" (2010 version) – 4:17
  2. "Three Lions" (2010 edit) – 3:37

Asda CD single

  1. "Three Lions" (2010 version) – 4:17
  2. "Three Lions" (2010 Asda choir version) – 4:16


Chart (2010) Peak
Scotland (OCC)[45] 76
UK Singles (OCC)[46] 21

Other versions

"3 Lions '98" was re-released for the World Cup in 2002, and again on 5 June 2006 for the World Cup 2006 in Germany. It charted at number nine on the UK Singles Chart in 2006. The 2006 re-release was a DualDisc version with both the original version of "Three Lions" and "3 Lions '98" on the CD side and the music videos for the two songs on the DVD side. In 2021, Sony re-issued the two versions on a seven-inch vinyl as "3 Lions: Football's Coming Home - 25th Anniversary Edition", with "Three Lions" on one side listed as The First Half (rather than the A-side) and "3 Lions '98" on the other side, listed as The Second Half (rather than the B-side or double A-side).[47]

Other uses

In autumn of 1996, Labour opposition leader Tony Blair addressed his party's conference with the quote "Seventeen years of hurt, never stopped us dreaming, Labour's coming home", a play on words from the song's chorus and in reference to his confidence that Labour would return to power at the forthcoming general election, having been in the opposition since the Conservatives ousted them from government in 1979. When the election was held on 1 May 1997, Labour won by a landslide.[48]

The indie band Los Campesinos! adapted the song for a track on their fourth album Hello Sadness, called "Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)". The song is based on the lead singer comparing watching England defeated in the 1998 World Cup with his parents' concurrent divorce.[49]

This anthem is also used as welcome song during football games of French club team RC Strasbourg Alsace.

In 1997, German comedy pop duo Original Deutschmacher produced a cover version titled Das W auf dem Trikot ("the W on the jersey") as a tribute to Bundesliga club Werder Bremen. Deutschmacher member Arnd Zeigler, a popular radio and TV host, also works as the club's stadium announcer, and the cover version has since been adopted as official stadium hymn at its home ground, the Weserstadion.

Liverpool comedy trio The Scaffold recorded a reworking of the song, titled "3 Shirts on a Line", for the 2008 charity album Liverpool – The Number Ones Album, the title referencing the three League clubs of Merseyside; Liverpool, Everton and Tranmere Rovers.

In summer 2018, the song enjoyed a renaissance due to the England national team's performance in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, in which they reached the semi-finals, and this caused the song to reach number 1 in the UK top 40. After Croatia eliminated England in the World Cup semi-final, Croatia's captain Luka Modrić said that his team had understood the song's refrain as disrespect which had additionally motivated them to win the match.[50]

When the song reached number 1 on the UK Singles Chart of 13 July 2018 - 19 July 2018[51] it became one of the records having the biggest jump to number 1 (vaulting from number 24) and then, the week after, broke the record for biggest ever drop, slumping to number 97.[52][53] (On 1 January 2021, Wham!'s "Last Christmas" reached number one in the UK and was not placed in the Official Chart Company's Top 100 at all the week after. As this record completely disappeared from the chart, it can be said that "Three Lions" still has the record for the single with the biggest ever drop from the number one slot).[54][55][56]

In 2021, Euro 2020 has led to this song coming back to popularity.


The song has been criticised as jingoistic and triumphalist especially during the 2018 World Cup.[57][58][59][60][61][62][63][64]

See also


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  3. "Biography". The Lightning Seeds.
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  5. "World Cup 2018: Why English soccer fans chant 'It's coming home'". Sporting News. 11 July 2018. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
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  7. Mark Edwards Duckworth Lewis Method's songs about sport" in The Sunday Times, 5 July 2009
  8. Dave Simpson. "The Lightning Seeds' Ian Broudie: 'People didn't know what was on the England badge before Three Lions' | Music". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2015.
  9. David Baddiel (20 May 2021). "It being 25 years since Three Lions was first released, Frank just sent me this pic of this piece of paper. I didn't realise he still had it. Should be in the British Museum, surely..." Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  10. "World Cup 2018: Three Lions on course to top UK singles chart". BBC News. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
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  12. Sven Goldmann. "Prestige-Duell: DFB-Team besiegt England in Wembley". DER TAGESSPIEGEL. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
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  14. Copsey, Rob (13 July 2018). "Three Lions comes home to Number 1, sets new chart record". Retrieved 14 July 2018.
  15. Keh, Andrew (7 July 2018). "England Takes Another Step Toward Bringing 'It' Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  16. Ley, Tom (9 July 2018). "Gather Your Mates And Have A Laugh at England's "It's Coming Home" World Cup Meme". Deadspin. Archived from the original on 9 July 2018.
  17. "Three Lions plummets out of the charts". BBC News. BBC. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  18. "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 13 no. 28. 13 July 1996. p. 20. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
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  32. "Music & Media 1996 in Review – Year End Sales Charts" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 13 no. 51/52. 21 December 1996. p. 12. Retrieved 4 February 2020.
  33. "Top 100 Singles 1996". Music Week. 18 January 1997. p. 25.
  34. "British single certifications – Baddiel/Skinner/Lightning Seed – 3 Lions". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  35. "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 15 no. 28. 11 July 1998. p. 11. Retrieved 26 January 2020.
  36. " – Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds – Three Lions '98" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
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  38. " – Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds – Three Lions '98". VG-lista. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  39. "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 June 2019.
  40. "Best Sellers of 1998 – Singles Top 100". Music Week. 16 January 1999. p. 7.
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  42. "Good_Knight". The Daily Telegraph. London. 28 January 2010.
  43. "3 Lions 2010" by The Squad, ZTT/Parlophone, CDR 6804
  44. "Robbie Williams and Russell Brand Sing on New Version of Three Lions For Football World Cup | Showbiz News | Sky News". Retrieved 14 May 2010.
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  47. "Out This Week / on 4 June 2021 – SuperDeluxeEdition".
  48. Brian Wheeler (21 July 2009). "Election countdown – 1990s style". BBC News.
  49. Campesinos!, Gareth. "Gareth Campesinos! – Every Defeat A Divorce (In Depth)". Drowned in Sound. Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
  50. Mark Mann-Bryans (12 October 2018). "Croatia missed the English humour in 'It's Coming Home' mantra during World Cup run, insists Gareth Southgate". Independent.
  51. "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company".
  52. "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company".
  53. Jack White (20 July 2020). "Baddiel & Skinner and The Lightning Seeds make Official Chart history again as Three Lions records biggest ever drop from Number 1".
  54. "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company".
  55. "UK Singles Top 75 (January 10, 2021) - Music Charts".
  56. "Official Singles Chart Top 100 | Official Charts Company".
  57. "Croatia missed the English humour in 'It's Coming Home' mantra, insists Gareth Southgate". The Independent. 12 October 2018.
  58. Cooney, Gavin. "Lineker Defends "It's Coming Home" And Neville Hits Out At "Disrespectful" Suker In Row Over English Arrogance".