After last weekend’s rugby clash between England and New Zealand a letter to The Guardian newspaper from a disillusioned England fan sparked a positive – and I use that word carefully – media discussion about the growing lack of respect for the supposed fundamental principles of rugby culture being exhibited by Twickenham crowds in recent times.
Homophobic abuse aimed at Welsh referee Nigel Owens last Saturday. Regular cat-calls and booing directed at the match officials (in response to video replays being shown on the big screen), the place-kickers and even the great All Black captain Richie McCaw as his obligatory post-match television ‘victorious captain’ interview was simultaneously relayed around the stadium. All these left a nasty taste in the mouth …
Ironically, ever since WW1, during which the British establishment saw rugby’s reaction to the beginning of the conflict (swift cancellation of all matches and calls to set an example in terms of volunteering for military service) as morally superior to soccer’s equivalent (fixtures continuing as per normal right through to the 1915 FA Cup) – though, to be fair, after that soccer’s performance was also exemplary – rugby’s authorities have claimed, with self-satisfied smugness, the high ground when it comes to player and spectator behaviour. However, not for much longer, perhaps.
Here’s another excellent article, this time by Oliver Brown, as currently posted on the website of the DAILY TELEGRAPH