How rugby can teach the “beautiful game” some vital lessons

The referee watches closely as Canterbury break (picture Philippa Hilton)

It’s nice to see Canterbury RFC’s 1st XV fixture list becoming available so early. Plenty of time to get cracking on organising the trip over to Guernsey in November then.

In terms of the quality of rugby  that Canterbury has, it’s difficult to find much fault. Such quality transcends simply winning matches, though that is rather important, too.

Where rugby really scores, is in the way the game is played and the behaviour of both players and spectators.

It’s a rough game, for sure but fair play and good conduct are at the heart of rugby and those who administrate the game, nationally and locally, work hard to keep it that way.

Sadly, football and to a lesser degree cricket, have let things slip, with slightly less than hilarious consequences. Even footie on the Victoria Rec is now a parody of “the beautiful game” with player behaviour, as seen on telly, being faithfully aped, even by little league players.

Canterbury in action against Richmond

The attitude of spectators, many of them parents, is openly hostile and viciously aimed at the opposition and utterly profane towards the poor old match officials.

Swearing at the ref, or any form of dissent towards match officials in rugby, earns you 10 minutes’ cooling off in the sin bin.

No discussion, no argument. Just walk and have a good, long think about things.

Rugby players are no saints, nor are the game’s spectators any strangers to banter, jeering and salty language.

The difference is, that such badinage (whilst undoubtedly highly partisan, very pointed and loudly delivered) tends to be good-natured and the subject of some post-match joshing in the bar, rather than an ugly punch-up in the car park.

With the World Cup nearly upon us, it remains to be seen if FIFA can get a grip on players’ behaviour and rein in some of their excesses.

Setting a quality example at the top end of the professional game will, in time, filter down and make football as beautiful a game as it is athletic and skillful. It’ll also be a lot more pleasurable and less offensive to watch.

Rugby spectators are no less passionate about their game and the clubs they support. If you want to put my thoughts and observations to the test, watch some local club soccer and then take in a Canterbury RFC match at Merton Lane.

I think the case for tightening up behaviour in football will be visibly and audibly proved.


  1. There are only two laws in rugby – Law One: The referee is always right – Law Two: In case of any dispute, see Law One.


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