Rugby and football have a very…tense relationship. Without football, the sport of rugby wouldn’t exist. However, over the years, there have been lots of comparisons made between the sport, and many fans of each will criticise the other. Still, there are elements of rugby that a lot of football fans and pundits would love to see in their game. For example, micing up the referees so the fans can hear what they’re saying through the TV. Or, the general rules around respecting the referee in rugby – which we can all agree, football needs to implement.
Ironically, we have seen aspects of rugby brought into the game of football. VAR has been introduced, taking notes from the TMO in rugby. A lot of fans of both sports have actually called for the referees in both games to come together so football can start using VAR with the same accuracy and efficiency as the TMO in rugby.
All of this gets you thinking, is there anything that rugby can learn from football? In terms of the game, there probably isn’t much to take. There aren’t really any rules or ideas in football that either doesn’t exist or can translate over to rugby. However, when you look more at sports in general, rugby still has a lot to learn…
Football is marketed so much better than rugby. You can guarantee that most fans will know exactly who is playing on the weekend, and at what time. So many adverts relating to football are shown on TV, there are loads of football live scores apps to download, while rugby is barely ever mentioned unless there’s a big event happening. The World Cup and 6 Nations prove that rugby is popular and can draw in crowds when people are aware it’s happening. More needs to be done to market the sport, particularly on a domestic level.
The social media presence of football teams is so much better than rugby ones. More content is produced, more banter is had with fans – it makes the sport grow day by day. If rugby can replicate some of the marketing strategies of football, the sport would improve.
One of the biggest problems with rugby is that it’s nearly impossible to watch all the matches from all of the big leagues. Yes, international rugby is easily accessible, but domestic rugby from around the world is so hard to find. In the rugby world, the big leagues are The English Premiership, Pro 12, Top 14, Super Rugby, and then also perhaps the Japanese League. That’s five competitions – though Super Rugby is also split into NZ and AU – and each of them is shown by a different broadcasting provider. In fact, the Japanese League and Top 14 aren’t even available in the UK and other parts of the world. If it wasn’t for some last-ditch work by Rugby Pass, Super Rugby NZ wouldn’t be available either.
By contrast, in football, BT Sport will show around six of the main competitions/leagues, Sky Sports have the rights to a few others, Premier Sports shows some, and it’s very easy to pick and choose what you want to watch. Not only that, but you can usually pay for one subscription and get multiple tournaments/leagues with it. For rugby, you have to subscribe to a different broadcaster for every single league. It’s impossible to keep up, which puts a lot of fans off. Something must be done to make the broadcasting more complete and easier for fans – and consistent as well. The rights seem to change hands at will, making it so hard for a fan to follow.
Transfer deadline day
Any football fans among us will know exactly what this is. Football has two transfer windows, each of which culminates in a deadline day. Here, the various broadcasters will be live all day, rounding up all of the latest transfer deals and rumours. It creates so much excitement, getting people talking about the sport on social media, creating a huge buzz.
Rugby should try to implement something like this into its calendar. Have a deadline day where transfers are the centre of attention, and it can help gain more social media buzz. Not only that, but it’s a chance for people to learn more about certain players and teams, which could help them form attachments and grow fanbases.
This post isn’t about rugby vs football and which sport is better. Instead, it’s about looking at the world’s most popular sport and seeing why it is so far ahead of rugby on the global stage. What can our sport learn from football, to make it even better?