Three Lions

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"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

"Three Lions", also referred to as "It's Coming Home" or "Football's Coming Home" due to lyrics contained in the chorus, is a song by English comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner and the rock band the Lightning Seeds. It was released on 20 May 1996 to mark the England football team's participation in that year's UEFA European Championship, which England was hosting.

The music was written by Lightning Seeds singer Ian Broudie, while Baddiel and Skinner—presenters of the football comedy show Fantasy Football League—provided the lyrics. All three provided vocals. The title comes from the England team emblem.

Both the original version of "Three Lions" and the updated "Three Lions '98" peaked at number one in the UK Singles Chart becoming one of only three songs to top the British charts more than once with lyric variants; the others are "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.[2] Its chorus, with the refrain "It's coming home", has become a popular chant for fans at England games.[3]


The Football Association (FA) asked Lightning Seeds songwriter Ian Broudie to compose a song for the 1996 UEFA European Football Championship.[4] He composed a melody he felt would make a good football chant, and asked comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, presenters of the football comedy show Fantasy Football League, to write the lyrics.[4][5] Broudie refused the FA's offer to have football players sing on the song, saying he did not want it to be "England-istic" or nationalistic. He said it was more about "being a football fan, which, for 90% of the time, is losing".[4]

According to Skinner's autobiography, the original lyrics 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, when defender Terry Butcher played despite his head bleeding profusely for much of the match.[6] Baddiel later revealed a handwritten copy of the lyrics on twitter with "Terry Butcher at war" shown as the replaced lyric.[7] 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, attributed to Paul Ince.[citation needed]

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.[8]


The song title refers to the three lions on the England team crest.[4] The chorus lyric, "it's coming home", reflected the fact that the Euro 96 competition was the first football competition England had hosted since the 1966 FIFA World Cup but has evolved to include the concept of the cup returning to the homeland of the sport.[4] The song makes references to several players, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Nobby Stiles and Gordon Banks, who played in the 1966 World Cup winning team.[9]

Among the references in the song are the following:

Unlike those of most football songs, the lyrics speak not of unbounded optimism for victory but instead of how, since England's victory in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, every tournament has ended in dashed hopes.[11] However, the failures have not dampened the feeling that England could succeed again ("Three lions on a shirt / Jules Rimet still gleaming / Thirty years of hurt / never stopped me dreaming").[12] Baddiel said the song was "really about magical thinking. About assuming we are going to lose, reasonably, based on experience, but hoping that somehow we won’t."[4]

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.[13]

Music video[edit]

Pedro Romhanyi directed the music video for the original Three Lions.[11][14] Romhanyi said that while Skinner and Baddiel are comedians, they took the recording seriously, as "this is not about making a pop video; it's about doing something that's good for football."[11] Baddiel recalled that Romhanyi insisted that the music video feel "homely", opening with Skinner and Baddiel making tea while watching television at home.[15]

The video also features much archival footage and images of the referenced 1966 and later teams featuring for example, Bobby Moore, Nobby Stiles, and Gary Lineker. The contemporary pub scene was filmed at The Queen of the Isle in London, which was demolished in 2004. The pub scene includes a cameo appearance by 1966 team member, Geoff Hurst.


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.[16] The song was later sung by Germany fans during their team's first appearance at the new Wembley in 2007[17] and is still heard frequently on German radio stations.[citation needed] Broudie said he was shocked to hear German fans singing the song after beating England at Euro 96.[4]

The original version of the song still receives regular airplay in England around the time of major international football tournaments. 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".[18] The song has sold 1.6 million copies in the UK as of June 2018.[19]

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,[20] with the line "it's coming home" featuring heavily on social media.[21][22] In doing so, it became the first song in history to have four separate stints at number one in the UK.[20] 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.[23]

Track listing[edit]

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


Weekly charts[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[41] 2× Platinum 1,200,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

"3 Lions '98"[edit]

"3 Lions '98"
Single by Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds
Released8 June 1998 (1998-06-08)[42]
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, 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 stadium crowds singing the original chorus. 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.

While 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[edit]

There was also a completely new video made for the 1998 version of the song again directed by Pedro Romhanyi. The storyline is different as the trio are now travelling on a motor coach to France with a group of England fans for the 1998 World Cup.[43] The video later portrays a match between the English fans 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's 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 archival footage was also updated.

The final 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 Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[50] Platinum 600,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

"Three Lions 2010" by the Squad[edit]

"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,[51] 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.[52] The song features added vocals from the ACM Gospel Choir, a soprano (Olivia Safe) and commentator John Motson.[53] It entered the UK singles chart at number 21. The song can be found on England The Album 2010'.

Track listing[edit]

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)[54] 76
UK Singles (OCC)[55] 21

Baddiel & Skinner & Lightning Seeds - re-issues[edit]

"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).[56]

Covers and other uses[edit]

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.[57]

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 taken the song's refrain as disrespect which had additionally motivated them to win the match.[58] In response, England manager Gareth Southgate among others stated the Croats misunderstand English humour.[59][60]

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]