Rugby vs Football… who will win? Ophelia Fyfield Kingston Grammar School
Fans of rugby and football are both valuable and destructive and when the line between friendship and conflict is thin, their influence is important.
The fanbases of rugby and football prove both valuable and destructive and when the line between creating friendships and enemies is thin, there is a lot at stake. We are all aware of the significant difference in numbers that follow football as opposed to rugby in the UK. Numerous surveys show that nationally around 40% of people watch the football, a huge number in comparison to the approximately 20% who watch the rugby. Of course we are aware of South Africa and New Zealand being the extreme rugby presences in the world, but globally there are said to be only 101 counties that are members of the Rugby Union. This appears particularly small when compared to the 200 countries that play competitive football. It is clear that there are huge disparities in the sheer size of the two sports followings and this is not just on a national scale. Football is the most popular cultural event in the world, its’ international dominance is displayed by the fact that when speaking to people from the other side of the world, you can cultivate a sense of friendship over both supporting the same team.
However, it is not always a friendly fanbase. Time and time again the media speaks out against violent fans and public deaths as a result of riots and crowds. Some of the largest scale examples include the 174 who died in Indonesia in 2022 and the 97 crushed in the Hillsborough disaster 1989. Not only are there numerous public outbursts at matches but we also know, from research done by the University of Lancaster, that when England loses the football domestic abuse incidents increase by 38% as well as a shocking 26% when the team wins or draws. Considering that these statistics are only including the UK, it is expected that internationally millions suffer annually at the hands of football.
The culture football creates is toxic and violent and contrasts so starkly to that of rugby. That is not to say that rugby fans are without violence but overall the community created is much more relaxed and supportive. Rugby is a sport that unites people and creates a community, much like football, but without the devastating statistics against it. At a recent rugby match at Twickenham stadium Jemima, fifteen years old, said “It’s a great day out! It allows me to have a good time with my friends while enjoying the sport”. She believed there was a sense of camaraderie between the fans, even from those supporting opposing teams.
It is worth noting that football is not intrinsically harmful, it is only the way in which people prioritise and react to it that makes it so dangerous. It is important to consider the implications of our actions as well as working towards creating a respectful and therefore more enjoyable environment for sports.