I have loved this Rugby World Cup so far and have been getting up early on a Saturday and Sunday morning to watch the England games. Watching England at football World Cups’ is normally a pub based sport, so seeing the rugby without a drink opens up a whole new way of watching the game and is highlighting the difference between two of our national sports in exceptional clarity.
So what does the rugby brand have that football really needs, if it is to remain as our national sport of choice?
1. Respect. It’s being spoken a lot in the game of football, but never lived. The level of dissent in football is horrific and can be seen every saturday in kids games up and down the country.
2. Ref’s with authority. Related to the above, but the refs are exceptional, make very few mistakes, rely on their ‘fourth official’, have linesmen who help and do see things and manage a game beautifuly.
3. An advantage rule worth the name. In rugby, the advantage has time to work through, or it comes back to them. It’s a genuine advantage and penalises those who break the rules.
4. Players who care. The England Rugby players look and act like they are genuinely proud to be there. Name one player on the football side whose proudest moment is pulling on his England shirt, other than maybe David Beckham?
5. Players who think about the consequences. During a rugby game, there are fists and fights all over the place. At the end of the game, they are all hugs and hapiness. It’s incredible to see and wonderful. If football could breed better losers, they’d have better winners too.
6. They admit when they get it wrong. Tindall has been a proper fool. No doubt about it, but he did confess and not try and put a press gagging superinjunction, to try and hide it. Getting all the bad news out fast is always the best solution in the long run.
7. The management are more honest too. If their team have been dreadful, they say so. Who believes most of what the football managers say in their post match interviews? It was amusingly refreshing to see Neil Warnock after QPR’s 6-0 thrashing to say they were awful and got thrashed – But he is a rule unto himself and always has been.
So what does this say for the future of the rugby and football brands?
To me, it says that rugby is on the way up as it is a brand built on sustainable and real values. Football is built on money. when this stops rolling, or even slows down, there will be massive casualties and many fans walking away.
Looking at the number of kids on a rugby training pitch these days, i’d be very surprised indeed if it doesn’t become an even bigger participation sport than it is today, into the next generation.