Around Six Nations time we get a hefty dose of rivalry, excitement and fun. But snobbery too
It’s almost impossible to talk about rugby any longer without discussing money. Especially in England and Wales.
A few seasons ago you could have a meaningful chat about rugby if you knew a bit about pod systems. Recently, if you don’t know about financial systems or banking covenants, it’s difficult to get a word in edgeways. The discussion about money in rugby isn’t of course snobbish at all, that’s what professional rugby is all about. You could argue we haven’t discussed it enough and that’s why rugby’s finances are spread thinner than a defensive line with two ‘in the bin’.
But there is one element of the game where snobbery and money do cross paths. And it tends to rear its ugly head during the Test windows. Particularly the Six Nations.
Once it’s all open, some ‘proper fans’ (those who watch the game all season) pop their heads out from rugby’s sash windows, and shout ‘get off my lawn!’ to anyone who hasn’t watched more than 60 hours of club rugby this season or can’t name three scrum-halves from their local team’s academy.
None of these opinions are of course aimed directly at the part-time fans on match days. Instead, it’s hidden in a more coded form, or a dog whistle meme on social media. In a game where fans pride themselves on inclusivity, fair play, and representation for most of the season, they don’t half have a pop at the casual fan come Six Nations’ time.
The most obvious targets for the ridicule tend to be those wearing daffodil hats to Welsh games, big red roses to England games, or gangs of ‘part time’ male fans strolling around in blue jeans and brown loafers. But in general, the target for ridicule is anyone who seems to be having a bit of fun at the game. Something that should be encouraged. Particularly in Welsh professional rugby at the moment, where smiles are rarer than District Representative paying for their own hotels and tickets.
Related: Welsh rugby culture needs reset… And that means you too
Like all things in rugby, things change quickly, and rugby snobbery is no different. In recent years making fun of what people wear to rugby is now no longer enough it seems. Which has given rise to the alcohol snobs.
We can of course all benefit from drinking less in our daily lives, that’s a given. But trying to remove rugby’s association with alcohol seems like a big reach and hardly an achievable short-term goal – let alone a desirable financial goal. One of the reasons alcohol sponsors are so attracted to the sport is because sales of booze are so high amongst supporters of the game.
Alcohol isn’t just limited to its association with the professional game, it’s arguably stronger at the amateur level. When players are paid or given favours by their club, it’s never in gift vouchers for their local supermarket or a family day out – it’s in beer vouchers.
The addition of alcohol-free spaces in stadiums is a great idea and fantastic if you’re taking your family. But despite what you may read, not all games of Test rugby are awash with tides of vomit and oceans of p***. I’ve been watching live rugby for 40 years and can only recount one incident where someone was unpleasant to me or my friends. And weirdly she was a 75 year old women, with her ten-year-old grandson, who repeatedly said abusive things to my English pal.
And the alcohol snobbery – which is understandable to some degree – has since morphed into another offshoot. Whereby if any supporter gets out of their seat and obscures your view, it’s as if they’ve ruined your entire day out and set fire to your house for good measure. It may be the overconsumption of instant media, rapid fire news streams and on-demand TV. But complaining about missing 1.4 seconds of rugby, to let someone pass, seems like the most middle-class-problem since our supermarkets ran out of fresh tomatoes last week.
Even if it happens four times a game, you’ve missed under ten seconds of rugby and added a few extras to your daily step count.
Prawn sandwich brigade
And then of course, there’s the rolling of eyes aimed at anyone who’s watching from a corporate box. These are the people for whom the real match day ire is reserved. If you have watched the game from the comfort of a box, with mythical prawn sandwiches, then immediately after kick-off you must be loaded into a Wicker Man, whilst rugby’s elders pray for your rugby soul.
But here’s the real problem. And for some it’ll take more stomaching than a three-day old prawn sarnie: Rugby needs daffodil wearing, brown loafer-ed, champagne guzzlers more than ever.
Test rugby is keeping club rugby alive to a large degree. And there simply aren’t enough regular fans to keep the regular game going, if there were we wouldn’t be in this mess.
It would of course be more beneficial for the finances of the game if the casual fans were to be converted into regular fans. It would be awesome if they spent a few quid at a club ground instead of just at the national stadium. But there’s one sure fire way to make sure that doesn’t happen, and that’s by plastering memes of them all around social media during the Six Nations.
So on snobbery: the next time you see a causal fan enjoying themselves at a game, don’t pour scorn, because they’re pouring cash into the game that you and I love.
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