Rugby should focus on itself rather than continually criticising soccer

“We don’t want to turn into Wendyball.”

It’s a phrase that makes me want to snap some rugby fans’ rose-tinted spectacles over my knee. Some punters, it’s sad to say, have a fixation with football.

Every success in soccer is held up as part of a vapid money-orgy populated by soft prima donnas and thug fans. The players are paid too much, we’re told. They have no heart, it’s said. The ills of their game are creeping into ours so we’d better protect ‘rugby’s family’, we’re warned.

Allow me to shoot holes in this. Firstly, get over the fact that football is the most popular sport on the British Isles. You never hear football fans talking about the rotten culture of rugby infecting their game. They’re too busy being swept up in how much they love their sport. Let’s just focus on making rugby better.

Secondly, footballers may try to get an edge in games, but if you watch any pro rugby game you’ll see as much there. Simulation is dishonest and frustrating, but to say all footballers are soft is nonsense. My father was the team doctor at a professional football team for several years and he has plenty of stories about teak-tough players toiling through the pain barrier.

On that note, please stop applauding rugby players who slam each other in the face with punches, then make up after. If you’re going to lambast footballers for diving, then cheer for a punch-up, your moral compass is spinning away from you.

Thirdly, finances and corruption in football will make your head swim. The numbers are astronomical. But the demand is there and it’s not their fans making that happen. It’s craven tycoons and suits. Football fans pay through the nose to watch their heroes, lining the pockets of those suits. Rugby isn’t exactly a charity, is it? Some people are now getting incredibly wealthy out of the game.

We’re all just fans. We should avoid panning spectators or athletes. Most are honest, hard-working people. It’s the greedy folks exploiting that in all sports you should be angry with.

Oh yeah, and Wendyball? Pretty sexist phrasing there, guys.

This Rugby Rant first appeared in the June issue of Rugby World – but what do you think about this issue?