Fleur du Mal (The Flower of Evil)

“Rugby is a game for barbarians played by gentlemen, football is a game for gentlemen played by barbarians.”

It’s a quote that rugby fans and players alike often bring out, especially in times of controversy over brutality in football – a certain bite comes to mind. Rugby certainly sets a good example to football in some sporting aspects, especially regarding attitude to the referee, but it has to be said that there is evidence of double standards over brutality in both of the sports.

Rugby is a much more physical game but why, when a player does something shocking and sometimes life threatening to an opposition player, doesn’t it create anything near the outcry as similar (yet often less serious) incidents do on the football pitch?

This has recently come to the foreground following recent events in the Super League Grand Final, when prop Ben Flower punched a member of the opposition knocking him to the floor and then proceeded to punch in the face again when he was down. He received a six month ban from Rugby League, missing 10 games – conveniently, the ban starts just as the season ends.

In 1995, when the then Rangers striker Duncan Ferguson headbutted a defender, he was, perhaps rightly, jailed for three months, but with rugby seen as a rough sport anyway, and given they don’t dive or talk back to the referee, this more aggressive assault is dealt with by a rather ineffective ban. Why is this? It could be to do with the fact that football is more popular and therefore the violence is exposed to more people, but with the internet and social media there can’t be that much difference in audience reach.

There seems to be a stigma attached to football. Yes, they get paid a lot, and yes Luis Suárez is a psychopath, but Flowers assaulted a player and we’re just told, “that’s rugby!”. Just the other day someone proudly posted a link to a video of a rugby referee telling a player off for challenging his decision, saying “this is not soccer”. No, it isn’t.

[Callum Price – @calprice28]

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