Clifton College Website

Student Contributions

James Hanson
Upper Sixth
Moberly's House

Rugby’s snobbish claim to uphold higher standards than football has been proved wrong

Rugby’s snobbish claim to uphold higher standards than football has been proved wrong

The sporting world has been left shocked this week after the rugby player Manu Tuilangi blatantly punched England winger Chris Ashton during a match. Not only was the incident in question of an abhorrently violent nature, but the subsequent punishment of a frankly pathetic 5 week ban has confirmed what I, along with many other football fans, have long suggested — Rugby’s standards of sportsmanship are no better than football.

There has long been the snobbish belief, cultivated at the public schools that are the sport’s life blood, that Rugby Union is somehow a more gentlemanly game than football. Supposedly, it upholds higher standards of decency, its players are more respectful, and its atmosphere more friendly. Rubbish. The sport is as rife with foul play and terrace prejudice and should be condemned for it. Now, let’s make this clear, I am by no means saying that football (my own sport, by admission) is any better than Rugby. I admit that we have our own serious problems involving supporters, players and officials. However I hope this horrendous incident involving Tuilangi finally highlights the hypocrisy of Rugby and its supporters.

Firstly, let’s deal with the incident at hand. Had it been John Terry who had punched a fellow player in the way he did on the pitch, he would be condemned nationwide in the tabloid press. The media fury would probably have called for a criminal prosecution, and his punishment would in all likelihood have been several times more severe than that of the Leicester centre. Yet because it’s Rugby and somehow considered (in a very Neanderthal way) a ‘man’s’ game, people are willing to turn a blind eye.

Secondly, there is the fact that violence is rife throughout the sport. Citations for eye-gouging are commonplace (again, a serious criminal offence if it occurred in the street) and even cases such as Tuilangi’s are not complete anomalies (a similar one involving England’s Delon Armitage springs to mind). Football, comparatively, has far less problems with violence. Admittedly, fights can occur on the pitch; however it is rare that a punch is ever thrown. Thirdly, there is the false accusation that rugby crowds are friendlier than football ones. Well yes, if your definition of friendly involves driving a BMW, wearing clothing from Hackett and making little noise. Speaking as a frequent attendee of football matches I can report than I have never, in all my time of standing on Liverpool’s Kop, heard a single homophobic or racist comment from a fellow fan. Unfortunately, at my very first rugby game I sat in front of a row of rather vulgar ‘supporters’ who saw fit to hurl homophobic language at whichever player they saw fit, to the amusement of their bigoted chums. This is, of course, merely circumstantial evidence, and I am not suggesting that all rugby supporters are bigots — far from it. Indeed, I applaud Rugby for the number of players and referees who have been willing to be open about their sexuality, something football is yet to match. However my point still stands that terrace taunts of prejudice are present among rugby crowds, and therefore the sport cannot reasonably consider itself on a higher moral ground than football.

Finally, I would contend that there is an innate jealousy within the Rugby community of football’s popularity and media coverage. The middle-class males who largely prop up Rugby Union object to working class kids like Wayne Rooney earning upwards of £100,000 per week (remember Rugby players aren’t badly paid either…) and therefore feel they are entitled to hold them to higher moral standards than their own terrace heroes. Sadly, this snobbery can be extended to cricket too…when Freddie Flintoff gets drunk after the Ashes and makes a fool out of himself the next day in Downing Street the reaction is one of ‘good old Fred’. Yet if an England footballer did the same, accusations involving the words ‘overpaid’ and ‘uncouth’ would be volleyed around the Daily Mail editors’ office.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that I in no way consider football to uphold higher standards than rugby. However it is certainly not the case that Rugby enjoys the moral high ground either. Both have problems to be solved, and in the meantime I urge all Rugby fans to stop taking sneering pot shots and the people’s sport and concentrate on solving the problems within their own.

19 May 2011

valid xhtml  |  valid css