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Fan Wars: Rugby vs Football

The old adage “Football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen”may be dated but some may argue it has stood the test of time. Take a look at the security at any football game and one may feel a bit concerned about their safety — the police presence is huge, drinking is often restricted and fans are basically caged in by metal barriers and segregated. A rugby game, on the other hand, can feel downright dignified in comparison.  What’s that all about? Well, it’s anyone’s guess really but it could have something to do with the way players treat refs. There’s a slew of examples of footballers swearing at refs and generally throwing fits, while some pretty heavy penalties are tossed at rugby players who do the same. So maybe it comes right down to discipline, which rugby players have to show in order to avoid breaking a long list of rules. Fans on both sides simply mirror what they see — and that seems to be a whole lot of shady behavior on the pitch from footballers. At least that’s one theory.

One thing is for sure, football and rugby are tops with UK fans and that’s not likely to change anytime soon — bad behavior from players and fans aside, stats show growth across the board. And while football has been the top choice for fans across the country for what seems like forever, rugby fans are growing in number faster than ever, with rugby now ranked the 2nd most popular sport with fans across the UK. In fact, rugby is drawing in younger fans each year, which bodes well for the longevity of its fan base. And more and more women are calling themselves rugby fans, with 1 in 3 fans across the globe being women or girls.

As any sport grows its fanbase it becomes more and more lucrative for those willing to try their luck with a hefty wager or two. UK football betting has been a favourite with punters for sometime now, and claims 70% of the sports betting trade across the globe — worth billions! But rugby fans are catching on and betting more and more each year. And it’s not just fans betting on the growing value of rugby in the uk — sponsorship deals are booming with more than 2500 sponsorship deals popping up in 2018 alone! It’s good business, to say the least, when a brand is plastered over rugby shirts, attaching their name to an iconic player or moment in history.

While it’s never wise to pigeonhole, there are a few things one might fairly say about fans on both sides of the rugby-football question. Passionate to be sure, football fans are sometimes considered tribal and do perhaps get out of hand in the stands, but no one can ever call them boring! While rugby fans may have a more civilized reputation, they sure do have fun and it’s not uncommon to see them dressed up in some pretty outlandish getups!  While fans of both sports have their own unique quirks and behaviors to be sure, enthusiasts on both sides have every right to show their passion for both of these spectacular sports.

This article was brought to you by The Rugby Paper, the UK's best-selling rugby publication, on-sale every Sunday.
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