Football versus rugby – and differently-shaped balls

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Japan’s victory over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup was a proud moment for the Amex.

Japan’s breathtaking victory over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup at the Amex was a proud moment for the stadium and everyone connected with the Albion.

The game will be talked about across the globe for years to come and, hopefully, people will remember where the drama took place.

Every four years, a familiar argument arises: Is rugby better than football? No, is the simple answer to that.

Rugby Union finally turned professional in 1995 when restrictions on payments were removed. As a result, rotund, beer-bellied lawyers, solicitors, and accountants have been replaced by huge, muscular units that can cause serious damage in a tackle. Some argue that footballers spend too much time writhing around in fake agony, while your average rugby player can be totally flattened and get up immediately. Rugby players are tough.

Rugby spectators can drink to their heart’s content in clear view of a match - while football fans are not allowed to view the pitch with a pint in their hand. This is an outdated rule, in my opinion, and at the vast majority of grounds it should be changed.

The rugby matchday experience is Americanised, and somewhat sanitised; amplified music during the game, an abundance of facepaint - on adults as well as children - and a less intimidating atmosphere. Fans attending a league rugby match tend to sit together, with no segregation, whereas football is much more tribal and supporters - with the exception at Fulham’s Craven Cottage - are kept apart. Up until the 1960s, football fans were all in together, but the advent of cheaper and easier train travel, and increased disposable income for young men, resulted in thousands of football fans travelling the length or breadth of the country to follow their team. The away end was born.

As we’ve witnessed, at very close quarters, football fans can be incredibly passionate about their clubs and the thought of moving one from its birthplace is abhorrent. But, it happens regularly in rugby, without a flicker of protest. Wasps, over 100 miles to Coventry; Harlequins and Saracens, around different areas of London; and London Irish, to Berkshire. Many top clubs simply don’t have roots in a community.

Rugby is a great sport to watch, although some of the action does make me wince. It is not a game that ordinary people can participate in - tag rugby doesn’t count - unlike football. You have to be physically strong - and not mind getting frequently pummelled.

Think I’ll stick to playing pedestrian-paced five-a-side football.