Football versus Rugby Union - Who are the Hooligans?
28th March 2010
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The Beautiful Game Versus the Brutal Game

AFC Telford UTD where Chanting Just Got Louder.


As a South African I am constantly reminded about the differences between rugby and football. The honest truth is that the one was born out of the other, yet bare no resemblances to each other what so ever. Rugby and football are so far removed from one another in terms of culture both on and off the field.


With the amount of money in football, rugby must feel like the poor relative and at times must wish they were the cat the got the cream. But how many rugby clubs are in administration and how many will seize trading before the end of the season.


For many football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, whilst rugby is the opposite. A hooligan’s game played by gentleman. In 1823 a certain William Webb Ellis decided that he had had enough of this game called football and during a school game picked the leather ball up and ran with it. Hence the birth of rugby union as we know it. It has evolved from these humble beginnings and today see a more professional approach both in the way they train and the science behind the way they play a match.


As a foreigner to these shores, I am always dumb struck at the contrasts in cultures. Football is seen as an aggressive non contact sport where discipline is all to regularly replaced by angry exchanges between players and officials. Players are continually reminded of the Respect the Man in Black campaigns, yet are always seen to be shouting expletives at the match officials. Managers will come out on national TV and talk about how poor the referee was and how this had cost them the match. By contrast, the word “Sir” when addressing a rugby match official and the constant respect they get seems to add to the notion that actually these are gentleman. Decisions are only questioned by captains and once made the game is allowed to continue without the constant barrage of foul language abuse that multi millionaire footballers seem to dish out on a regular basis.


Is it not strange that whilst the multi million pound industry of football is failing to see the benefits of TV intervention with regards to assisting the referee, rugby on the other has embraced it fully and use it to good effect. None more so that during the last World Cup final in Paris, where England thought they had scored a try, only for modern technology to prove other wise. The try was disallowed and the game was got on with. The crowd whilst not very pleased stayed calm and the game was allowed to continue. The players whilst upset got on with it, with only the captain speaking to the referee. South Africa went on to win the game and to lift the title, but no discussions were held about was it or was it not a try.

Contrast this with the infamous game during the 1986 World Cup. Argentina with the brilliant Maradona and England with an aging squad. Maradona hits the ball into the net with “Hand of God”. The world cup came to an end and still to this day people still debate would England have won the world cup.


Looking at the two sports in terms of success, both English Rugby and Football have won a world cup. It’s the egg shaped ball who heads the most amount of world cup final appearances. England’s rugby team has made the final 3 times with 1 win. Football however has only ever made the final once, 1966 and only won it once. Will the world ever hear the end of “the Spirit of 66”.


Another comparison I would like to make is that of the players. In football every tackle is deemed to be as though the player tackled has been shot and critically wounded. In rugby, however, stitches are routinely placed in players heads to allow them to continue. In rugby, players still routinely deliver bare knuckle punches on their opponent’s whist in football its more hand bags at dawn.  Discipline in rugby is important. A player being penalised or sin binned for a small infringement is frowned upon and the unit of 15 remains strong to over come adversity.


I firmly believe that you cannot compare Rugby and Football on any level. There is a huge gap in the difference between skill levels needed and there is a huge difference in the respect either set of players give the officials. Money is the driving force now days for any sport, but at what cost.


As a proud South African, nothing will ever take away from the feeling of winning 2 Rugby World Cups in my life time. For me this is the pinnacle of my life as a sports fanatic. The football World Cup in South Africa will be another highlight in a countries history which has used sport to bring its people together, so its such a pity that in the UK egg chasers and their round ball cousins cant support each other or at least support the others sport.


The debate will go on and on and no one will be able to end it.


However if you are a rugby fan but want the football bug, please contact Anton Gunter at AFC Telford United on 01952 567 546 and he will show you how good it is to like both.



About the Author

Mark Luckman

Member since: 10th July 2012

I champion the best businesses in Telford and Wrekin, businesses recommended by you. If you run a local business or know a really great local business that you think deserves to be known by more local...

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