To quote Sir Winston Churchill “Rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen.” Yet in recent times, there are happenings that if not stamped out could ruin the sport and its infamously known ‘gentlemen’ like culture.
Sport is a culture and within that are the sub-cultures of sports themselves. Usually some sports can be heavily stereotyped but overall each sport carries its own set of values and quirks that set themselves apart from the rest. Think about it, the experience you have at a football match vs. a rugby match can be quite different. The differences being evident in both regulations, the demographics, the ‘rituals’ per se (chants, banter, food), even down to what you may wear. Both cultures being fun and both having their upsides and downsides.
Just yesterday (Jan 16th) from the BBC it has been reported that there has been a rise in verbal abuse from the side lines at grass-roots level rugby. This coming from both amateur coaches and parents. Since the success of the England 2015 Rugby World Cup which both saw televised and attendance records on the up, a new host of interested prospective players have taken up the sport. In addition, the sport between 2012-2015 grew by over 2 million participants globally this reaching into new unchartered demographic areas, this exposing the game to new cultures. These figures are great for the national governing bodies and for the sport in general. Yet with these things there is always a catch 22, by having an influx of new players which come from families/backgrounds/cultures themselves that have no tie to rugby whatsoever, it brings a new dimension to the culture of the sport itself. One that will be in need of bringing an education element to in how one conducts themselves no matter who or what they are whilst at training or a match.
The game itself has always had the squeaky clean English public school boys charm about itv (as I see it) and as Grainger (RFU Rugby Development Director) stated a lot of those who were involved before were involved due to their parents. But now that is changing, introducing parents and sportsgoers who may have brushed the sport to the side before the surge in popularity.
There to have been incidents at the professional level where rugby players have been called out for ‘diving’ or feigning an injury by pundits and supporters alike. Most recent example being carried out by Welsh side Scarlets flanker Davies who was successful in his dive attempt to have English side Saracens player Skelton sent to the sin bin for a slap across the face (which from my judgement the act by Davies was not worthy of an Oscar). However, I am not saying that genuine injuries should be taken lightly or started to be brushed of as “He/She is just faking it.” Yet in previous times this has occurred within the French Top 14 and Champions Cup. Here are some clips from previous incidents, the Huget (Toulouse) incident led to a meeting in 2015 held by the Rugby Players Association to discuss such happenings.
Now I am not one to heavily bash on other sports but it could be said that this diving and feigning injury is along the likes of what you would see within a football match, it’s true. You watch the replay the whole ‘performance’ looks pretty sad, it makes the acting within infomercials look good. Such acts will throw the reputation of rugby out the window.
Yet back in 2014 former Leicester Tigers coach, Richard Cockerill stated that this sort of behaviour has the potential to heavily influence the game. If cards are started to be easily given out as they have begun to when players (without malicious intent) hit within the air and just by nature of the game one player coming off better than the other, those sorts of plays may start to lack in occurrence. But it is a very difficult call, players welfare and as it should be has climbed and become a top priority within the World Rugby agenda, specifically head injuries.
A possible factor in the diving occurrence could be the growing competitiveness of rugby, the need to win, the need to potentially get that bonus point, all be implicating on how the game is being played. How? After the England 2015 World Cup it was evident that smaller nations within the ranks of Tier 2 didn’t just come to the World Cup for an outing. There was genuine competition and it was fantastic to see. In addition the success of the World Cup in monetary terms is seeing more money being pumped into Tier Two nations, this driving the competition forward as the game becomes more global. No longer is it just the Tier 1 Nation club. CEO Brett Gosper of World Rugby stated the average winning point margin was 20, the lowest ever seen in World Cup history.
However off the pitch within the stands I will recall from personal experience that I have only ever had one incident that made me feel like I wasn’t experiencing the true spirit of rugby. This occurring at the infamous England vs. Australia game during the England 2015 Rugby World Cup (Yes the game in which England met their demise). It was here that the fans were not as they normally are with one another and yes I can see some reason within it as I was slightly embarrassed and I am not even an England supporter. But this is not what the game promotes or values. Overall, I have had some of the best sporting experiences within rugby stadiums for both international and domestic games. The spirit of the game still remains very much intact.
Reference to: BBC Sport, Telegraph, The Guardian.