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Why the Rugby World Cup Exposes Flaws in the ‘Beautiful Game’

The flow of the game is one of the most attractive assets that football possesses and disrupting it would undoubtedly be an issue. However, the flow of football is constantly disrupted by players feigning injury in order to waste time or deceive the referee. It is also constantly disrupted by players surrounding the referee. All of these issues have been addressed in this analysis and workable solutions have been offered so, here is a suggestion for video technology. Along with implementing punishments for simulation, more respect for referees and the use of the stopwatch, why not allow the referee to stop the game and ask an official to review video evidence on the very rare occasion that he, nor his linesmen, can tell if the goal should stand? In the event of the ball being put in the back of the net and the officials querying an offside or foul in the build-up to the goal, the game would stop anyway before the defending team was awarded a free-kick. In the rare event that the officials cannot determine whether or not the ball crossed the line and play continues, just let him blow his whistle and stop play. How many times has such an incident occurred and from the same passage of play the defending team gone straight up the other end of the pitch and scored a goal? I can’t think of many. If disrupting the game is the issue then what about when the referee is forced to blow his whistle because a player is down holding his head only to get up and run off within a minute of the whistle being blown. Serious head injuries tend to hurt for more than twenty seconds, yet players seem to abuse this rule constantly.

It occurs to me then, that perhaps there is a reason why such glaringly obvious flaws are allowed to mar the beautiful game. If rugby, and many other sports, can avoid the constant controversy that erupts in football by developing the rules to keep pace with the technology available, then why is it that football’s governing body can not? The only logical answer which I can find is that FIFA are well aware of the value of controversy. There is after all no such thing as bad publicity, and in football there is a huge amount of negative press generated every weekend. Watch the post-match analysis of any football match and you will most likely see a discussion about penalties, bookings and refereeing decisions. In fact it would be hard to fill the airtime without such talking points. Similarly it would present a challenge for the newspapers and other media outlets covering the sport. Quite simply, controversy is the infinitely renewable resource that powers football journalism, and as a consequence the sport dominates the back pages. Combine this with the truly unique commercial aspect of customer loyalty that football enjoys and you have a perfect recipe for an ever expanding business. The more controversy there is the more column inches can be filled for fans to consume and debate. The reality is that the irritating levels of controversy, however avoidable it may be, are hugely profitable. The result is that the culture of football has become corrupt and dishonourable, but most importantly lucrative. Beauty of course is subjective and it can undoubtedly be found in imperfection, but I have never found the controversy and flaws in the game to be alluring. I for one would find a sport based on athleticism, passion, skill and teamwork much more attractive than one that has come to rely on it’s faults as a selling point.

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  1. czar

    September 25, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Yes it’s been covered countless times. Rugby is what it is. This rugby world cup like past world cups haven’t generated much interest until the quarterfinals is reached. The earlier rounds are mostly forgettable, pitting David vs. Goliath. Sports is about spectacle and rugby is not much of a spectacle for most people except in the Rugby countries.

  2. Brian

    September 23, 2011 at 9:30 am

    This was covered in an excellent article a couple of years ago – many of your points were covered then and some others. Check out the article on

  3. j

    September 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm


    fifa is a bunch of thieves, burglars and idiots. they put all the wrong priotities first, and that is lucre and abuse in all its forms. and most consumers are perfectly happy with things as they are it seems, if they closed their wallets, things would then be just as they demanded.

    i’ve never bothered to watch rugby, much less play it, but many do say there is a lot to applaud and follow.

    now, i dislike and disapprove of fifa and most football suits, but in keeping the game unaltered they have a powerful, compelling point they haven’t even tried to champion. keeping the sport as unaltered as possible means that it was equivalent winning the first world cup, or the very first professional league, to the most recent. it equates the feats of players across time, and that’s something i respect and applaud, though fifa hasn’t bothered to take that position yet. so england stole their world cup, just as argentina did their first, and as south korea when it got to the semifinals, and real madrid used to bully their way under the franco dictatorship, it can still happen nowadays, and there have been great, irrepresible champions all the same. i have not a problem with that, same rules always, mean you always know what you’re getting into (including possible cheating).

  4. mike

    September 21, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Football should adopt many of the rules of rugby that apply to conduct and video review. Only the captains should be allowed to approach the referee and players that break this rule should be cited, for example.
    Let me offer some other ideas:
    1)if a player is injured such that the game has to be stopped, whether ‘treated’ or no, he should be required to leave the field of play and stay off for a period equal to the length of the stoppage or until his team uses one of their 3 substitutions to replace him.
    Can you imagine David Villa flopping around the pitch for 5 minutes, only to find he now has to stay off for an additional 5 minutes while his team plays short handed?
    2) Have the head referee IN THE VIDEO BOOTH, using all the technology available to him- he can be linked to his 3 ARs, one on the field and one on each sideline, via electronic communication as is currently used between the 3 field officials. What is the point of having the viewing public better able to see and judge the game than the officials asked to police it? It would be far easier for this head referee to monitor the cameras and react via audio link than is currently being done, particularly with regard to play away from the ball- Joey Barton!

  5. chuichui

    September 21, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    Football is the only game that gives every one opportunity especially in the world cup, from asia,africa, europe, australia, usa name it all. Introducing technology will be unfair competition for those in poor nations.

  6. vinnie

    September 21, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Finally, someone put my thoughts in words as I don’t blog!

    As a hardcore football fan, I was never exposed to rugby (league) until 5 years ago and recently, union. The respect (to anyone) and tendency to show their macho (ie, not whinging at any action/decisions going against them) have caught my attention.

    If one knows the history of football, it was originally a game to prove ones speed and strength, just like rugby. the original offside rule was somewhat similar to rugby, ie, forward pass. So the only way to move forward is to dribble with speed and protect the ball with your strength. Things have changed over the year and football has evolved into such a beautiful technical sport especially for those who lacked the physical strength. Being on the receiving end of the physicality, these population who lacks physical strength tend to exploit the Laws of the Game. You get the idea.

    Regardless of the evolution of football, there is no excuse why the disrespect and cheating can’t be rooted from the game. Football bodies always whinge about it but never took concrete actions to enforce it. Perhaps, like someone mentioned that it is in their interest to create attention among press and tabloids.

  7. Ruru

    September 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    Rugby is boring. Football is exciting. It’s as simple as that. The only thing I’ve ever learned from rugby is how to fall asleep.

    • RURU is wrong

      November 3, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      RURU your so wrong soccer is a girl sport and rugby is for men

  8. trickybrkn

    September 21, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    The only way I can watch rugby is drunk…

  9. scrumper

    September 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    Soccer Limey you obviously don’t know anything about Rugby. There is Rugby Football League and Rugby Football Union. Rugby League is northern teams of working class background. It has elimininated much of the slower aspects of Union such as mauls, rucks and line outs. These are certainly not teams with players from private, grammer and independant schools. The players are very working class, typically bigger and tougher than the Union players with bits of ears and noses missing. There are no superstars in Rugby League.

    I went to a “Grammer” school and we only played football.

    Let’s face facts – one month after the rugby World Cup will anybody be able to remember more than one or two of their names?

  10. Spenser Davis

    September 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Great article, man. I’ve been really getting into the RWC too, actually based on randomly seeing the replay of a US match on NBC one morning.

    @Brett, go with online streaming, just like we all know and love for footy. What really sucks is that about 1/3 of the games begin at like 2-230 in the morning. But at least Universal Sports lets you see the highlights for free online, that helps a bit.

  11. Jjerg

    September 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Excellent! I couldn’t agree more. Along with basketball, football has an inherent disrespect towards officials. This is not only condoned but encouraged by fifa and the top national FAs. The 1st statements out of the EPL managers are always ‘this call hurt us’ and the 1st question by ‘journalists’ usually. Instigated the responce. If the fans of any other sport harmed a national league as bad and disgustingly as the Liverpool criminals did, the sport in general would be outraged. It seems Everton was the main club to be punished by missing their opportunities in Europe.
    We as supporters have to stop rewarding our players and managers for cheating. The honor in a fair win is non existant in modern football and it has nothing to do with the economic background of the players. Its the lack of honor the supporters have for a ‘good’ win (Brian Clough we miss you) and the desire for pounds over practice in the governing bodies.
    This article has been long overdue.

  12. Reborn

    September 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

    I dont agree with the usage of a stopwatch, for the stoppage time is part of what makes football beautiful.
    Countless games have been won, lost and turned upside down during this time.

    Ive come to believe that it is the inconsistencies and reliance on a man’s judgement that make the game interesting.

  13. Yespage

    September 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Interesting article, especially the part about the Refs being the punching bags of the two teams on the pitch. You see much less of that behavior in Rugby.

    I think FIFA should just become aggressive at carding simulation. Often, I do find that the refs are pretty good at making the calls in Football. It is interesting that I’ve rarely seen a Rugby match where I thought the Ref cost a team the match. In just about every other major team sport, that can’t be said. In basketball the Ref control a game’s pace, in the NFL, they can decide the outcome.

    Getting a bit off topic there, sorry.

  14. Lon

    September 21, 2011 at 11:16 am

    This is a football website, stop wasting people’s time with rubbish articles about rugby.

    • jacls7

      September 24, 2011 at 8:41 pm

      it was about football. try reading

  15. Brett

    September 21, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Let me just say I’ve been extremely disappointed that I can’t watch this year’s Rugby World Cup here in the States. NBC, who has the rights, have put almost every match on Pay per View only at $15 and up. The only matches on non-pay per view on the US matches, which is ok I guess, but I suspect most people like me would rather watch the big rugby nations play.

    It seems to me, that I was able to watch way more matches of the last world cup with them on Versus (pre NBC). I know games are in the middle of the night with them being in New Zealand but still what else is being shown between 11pm and 4 am on any channel?

  16. SoccerLimey

    September 21, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Your recommendations carry a lot of credibility and should be considered but to establish the differences between the two sports, you have to look deeper at how the players are developed which highlights some of the cultural differences.

    Particularly in England, football players typically emerge from lower class backgrounds and benefit from a more limited education. They usually leave high school at an early age, and enter the ranks of a professional club at 15-16. Rugby players usually originate at private, grammar, or independent schools where no football is played. They have higher grades and come from middle to upper class backgrounds. They go on to college and become more worldly in approach.

    This all feeds into how rugby players approach the sport. They are easier to coach, faster learners, and more respectful and have the advantage of being able to release aggressive tendencies during the game. Fans of the game are more reserved and typically less aggressive too.

    Difficult to change any of these dynamics.

    • Rory O'Beirne

      September 21, 2011 at 11:30 am

      I disagree with your theory on the socio-economic backgrounds of football players in comparison to rugby players. Although it may be fair to say that footballers tend to come from less privileged backgrounds than Rugby Union players, in the north of England the sport of Rugby League is dominated by players from working class backgrounds.

      Additionally I am writing predominantly about the issue of conduct on the field of play and I firmly believe that the general conduct of football players is underlined by an attitude of dishonourable deception. Changing the punishments for such behaviour is an obvious solution to this problem.

      Although it is inevitable that the culture of the sports will differ, surely it is feasible that they can look to their similarities in order to progress and improve?

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