Love Island is well underway with a whole host of singletons currently looking for a soulmate in the South African villa. Among the matchmaking, another common theme also seems to run through every series and that’s the sports people who find their way onto the show.
This is the ninth season of one of the UK’s hottest shows, with the first season airing back in 2015. Since then, the show has exploded in popularity, with four million people watching it by 2018. And millions are now once again gripped by Love Island fever with a new season in full flow.
It’s been mere months since Ekin-Su Cülcüloğlu and Davide Sanclimenti were crowned winners of Love Island 2022. The two were firm fan favourites and comfortably won the show ahead of Luca Bish and Gemma Owen. However, these two feel like a distant memory to those now fully invested in the new series.
One of this year’s contestants, Tom Clare, who arrived as a surprise bombshell, is the latest in the programme’s star islanders having been granted an extended period of leave by his football club, Macclesfield Town.
It’s a growing trend in recent years where the show has featured a number of athletes from different fields, but mostly football. Previous seasons are littered with semi-professional footballers, boxers and more.
One football player who was signed to Oxford City at the time caused quite a stir when he arrived in the villa as he didn’t give his team the heads up he’d be unavailable for a few weeks. The incident led to Oxford City insisting all players insert reality TV clauses in their contracts.
Ten Love Island stars who swapped sports for reality TV
Jamie Allen - Football
Allen featured on Love Island in 2022, and is a footballer. Not only was Allen an international striker for Montserrat, but he had also been a key player for several non-league clubs such as Southport, Dover Athletic and most recently Halifax Town.
Tommy Fury - Boxing
We all know the Fury name is synonymous with boxing, with Tommy’s older brother Tyson proving to be one of the all-time greats. Fury’s stock has risen since appearing on the fifth series of Love Island, he and his long-term Love Island partner, Molly Mae-Hague are nothing short of social media royalty.
Gemma Owen - Dressage
Owen recently finished as runner-up on the eighth season of Love Island. The Owen name first became known in sports circles thanks to her father Michael - one of England’s all time football greats. However, that is far from Gemma Owen’s only sporting link as the star has previously pursued a career in dressage, and even represented Great Britain in the sport.
Finn Tapp - Football
Finn won the first ever winter series back in 2020 with Paige Turley, with the pair remaining together to this day. Tapp had not informed his Oxford City bosses he would swap the football pitch for the villa when he suddenly didn’t turn up for training one day. The incident led to Oxford City insisting that all players insert reality TV clauses in their contracts.
Ovie Soko - Basketball
Ovie was a Casa Amor constant a few years back, and quickly became a huge fan favourite. Prior to his stint on the show, Soko had played a part in Great Britain’s men’s national basketball team and had featured in the 2014 NBA draft.
Jacques O’Neill - Rugby
O’Neill was on the 2022 series but left early to focus on himself. Prior to joining the Love Island cast, Jacques had played rugby league for the Castleford Tigers with the club relieving him of his duties before he entered the villa. The star has preferred a career as an influencer over playing rugby ever since.
Chris Hughes - Football
Hughes featured on the show in 2017, and struck up one of the best bromances with eventual winner Kem. However, before appearing on the reality show, Hughes had pursued a career in a different sport, as he was a semi-professional footballer for Bourton Rovers.
Idris Virgo - Boxing
Unlike most on this list, Virgo found success in the sport since leaving. Making his professional debut in the ring just four months after appearing on the show, Virgo boasts an impressive boxing record of 12-0-1.
Aaron Simpson - Football
Simpson went through the academy system at Wolverhampton Wanderers, before spells at clubs lower down the football pyramid, such as Hemel Hempstead, Maidstone United and Sutton United. Quitting football to appear in series five of Love Island, Simpson has now stepped back into the world of sport, working as a horse racing presenter for Racing TV.
Dennon Lewis - Football
Lewis’ stint on Love Island was short-lived, appearing on the show for just five days. Fortunately, the Watford academy graduate has found more success in football since the show. His career has included stints at Crawley Town, Falkirk and Boreham Wood.