Great article from historian Tony Collins. The article itself isn’t that long. I’ve taken out some key paragraphs. http://www.tony-collins.org/rugbyreloaded/2016/1/26/7b7echzh0ea8lnb6bihmnudm5pmm3t The Oval World - Anglo-Saxon Rugby and Global Soccer “Soccer found it difficult to establish itself on a permanent basis in the nineteenth century Anglophone world beyond Britain. This was not because it was viewed as suspiciously proletarian, as is often claimed by historians, but because the Rugby School-based version of football carried far greater cultural weight for the British upper middle-classes who administered the empire - and also for those who wished to emulate them in the United States and France. Thanks in large part to the huge international popularity of Tom Brown's Schooldays, rugby embodied Muscular Christianity and so for the middle classes of the English-speaking world, it was not only fun to play and watch - although whether it provided greater fun than other codes can only ever be in the eye of the beholder - but it also had a much more explicit ideological and cultural meaning. Although the original rules of the Rugby Football Union were quickly modified and in many cases abandoned by American football’s leaders, the cultural significance of rugby remained as part of the gridiron game. Soccer’s lack of a direct link with that ideology gave it much less resonance in the Anglophone world. And, paradoxically, it was that lack of an overt British nationalism that allowed the round-ball game to grow rapidly in the non-Anglophone world in the first decades of the twentieth century. So, in the period that American football established itself as the dominant winter sport in the United States, soccer had a considerably weaker international profile and cultural network. It was incapable of offering the strong and self-evident ideological framework desired by the rising middle classes of the Anglophone world who promoted the rugby codes as an educational and moral force. By the time that soccer had developed a strong international network and ideological profile in the early twentieth century, American football already dominated U.S. winter sport. A similar point could be made about soccer’s lack of prominence in the Australian sporting firmament. Roy Hay and others have argued that it was the perception that soccer was a proletarian sport that caused Australian middle class sporting circles to embrace the more respectable Rugby School-derived codes of rugby union and Australian rules. But, as in the case of America, the popularity of Australian rules and rugby had been established in Australia in the 1860s and 1870s, well before soccer came to be associated with the British working classes. Even more so than in America, rugby and its variations offered a much more compelling narrative of British nationalism for the colonial middle classes who saw themselves as part of a ‘Greater Britain’. Unlike the leaders of the rugby-derived codes who tightly controlled their sport’s international relationships, the intense parochialism, and huge domestic popularity of British soccer meant that its leaders were largely uninterested in the spread of the game to Europe and therefore unconcerned by the formation of FIFA in 1904. This allowed soccer internationally to escape the control of its British founders and develop independently, based on a meritocratic ideology of a game open to all. The legalisation of professionalism by the English FA in 1885 allowed soccer to be unshackled from the restrictive ideology of amateurism by offering an alternative ideology of meritocracy. The informal yet rigid social and cultural controls that prevailed in amateur sport were gradually dissolved by professionalism and English administrative dominance was undermined by the formal equality of professionalism, giving soccer an ‘open’ and meritocratic framework. In short, soccer’s globalization required the defeat of Anglo-Saxon attitudes. And it was the reluctance of rugby’s British leadership to allow its game to spread beyond the narrow confines of the English-speaking middle-classes of the British Empire that enabled the round-ball game to overcome the early global advantages of its oval cousin.” Reading this excellent piece brings up something that has always has baffled me. Australia (and America) are often thought of as being classless, both detesting snobbery... yet, both embraced British upper class culture and their elitist sporting activities. Perhaps the classless thing is a myth as both have elitist academic institutions and it’s here where the British upper class games were adopted. What’s shocking though is how these games spread throughout the rest of the population of both countries. Ruggers (as the toffs call it), and cricket (which the piece doesn’t touch on), the most intrinsically British of private school games, both very un-Australian when you think of Aussies and their working class anti-elitist character, yet such was the reverence for the British toffs Ruggers and cricket both took hold, while football, a British working class game open to all, did not. It’s incredible the hold the British elites had on the people throughout the Empire (and those formerly of the Empire in the US).