Why football didn’t explode in 19th century Anglophone nations, and Rugby Union (and cricket) did.

Discussion in 'Soccer' started by DC80, Apr 18, 2018.

  1. DC80

    DC80 Juniors

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    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).
     
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2018
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  2. Game_Breaker

    Game_Breaker First Grade

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    That’s true
    But league overtook union in Australia because of the working class

    One thing I heard during the Folau saga was how union is an inclusive game - that’s crap
    It has historically been an elitist sport played in private schools
     
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  3. Jimbo

    Jimbo Immortal

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    True. Rugby is a game for private school boys when they're not rowing

    Relative wealth or lack thereof is also a factor. Sports like cricket and various codes of rugby require more equipment and infrastructure which makes the sports themselves less accessible. Which is why football has particularly flourished in Africa and South America - all you need are two feet and a ball
     
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  4. DC80

    DC80 Juniors

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    Yep. Tony Collins touches on this on the first part of his article (I had posted the second part in the opening post).

    http://www.tony-collins.org/rugbyreloaded/2016/1/26/7b7echzh0ea8lnb6bihmnudm5pmm3t

    Some key points

    It [rugby union] is played professionally only in around a dozen countries; its global footprint has barely changed since the First World War (of the current world cup sides, only Samoa and Georgia did not play rugby before 1914), and it remains predominantly the sport of the former British and French formal and informal empires.

    The emergence of rugby around the world is essentially a product of the expansion of British imperialism from the mid-nineteenth century. In one sense this is fairly obvious when we compare the world map of rugby with that of the British Empire, but there are a number of different components to it and implications that flow from that.

    Rugby School [in Warwickshire] itself had an extensive imperial network of old boys of Rugby School who actively proselytised for rugby wherever they found themselves - far more than any other public school, the disciples of Thomas Arnold saw themselves as moral and cultural missionaries for the values of Muscular Christianity.

    As it became established across the Anglophone world, rugby also provided a direct link back to the imperial centre for the white British colonies, as demonstrated by tours to and from the colonies, beginning with the unofficial British tour organised in 1888 by Arthur Shrewsbury and Alfred Shaw. But as well as such practical links, the game quickly became part of the cultural glue that connected the colonies to the Mother Country.

    It’s important to remember that there was a great deal of agency about rugby’s imperial role - this was not an unconscious process and individual proselytism contributed to enhancing this role. The sport’s advocates were enthusiastic promoters of its imperial mission. Rowland Hill, the RFU secretary from 1881-1904, declared that international tours were ‘of great Imperial importance in binding together the Mother Country with the Overseas Dominions’.

    Welcoming the 1904 British rugby team to Australia, J.C. Davis, Sydney’s leading sports journalist of the time, echoed this when he wrote that sporting tours created ‘an extended feeling of appreciation and racial sympathy. They have incidentally shown to the muscular Britisher at home that the Britisher abroad and his sinewy colonial descendants are not aliens because thousands of miles of sea intervene.’

    This transnational mobility was replicated in rugby league, although whereas as rugby union’s migratory pattern was based on middle-class occupational and educational links, rugby league’s comprised working-class professional players.”



    As well as the game spreading via the “British upper middle classes who administered the empire”, the racial link of rugby to the white Britisher would explain why it became dominant among white South Africans, whereas football became the sport of black South Africans.

    Don’t really agree with that. With rugby all you need is a ball. In terms of the actual kit football is more expensive with shin pads being the difference. Rugby is accessible, just few play it. Collision based sports - running into another human being - have always ranked low in participation numbers compared to non collision based sports. To use Australia as an example: https://thenewdaily.com.au/sport/football/2016/12/08/most-popular-sport-in-australia/

    Also Tony Collins address this in his seminar in that rugby union (and cricket) were games of the “upper middle classes who administered the empire”, that’s how they spread throughout the Empire, football being a working class game did not. Given that over a century on both union and cricket haven’t grown beyond the footprint of the Empire you can only surmise that without the Empire both sports would have been confined to the middle class private school pockets of England where they originated.
     
  5. DC80

    DC80 Juniors

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    Another excellent piece by Tony Collins, this on why football became global in contrast to rugby union. He touches on two key aspects,

    Its successful long struggle against the rugby code
    Its adoption of professionalism in 1885.

    “These two processes allowed soccer to eclipse rugby’s early Anglophone-centric partial globalisation and enabled it to transcend the control of its British originators, creating a sport that had a modern, meritocratic appeal.”

    He mentions a third reason that other historians use, and one that id agree with, “historians of soccer attribute its expansion around the world to what they believe to be its intrinsic qualities as ‘the beautiful game’. David Goldblatt, in his global history of football The Ball is Round, argues that 'football... offers a game in which individual brilliance and collective organisation are equally featured. ... The game's balance of physicality and artistry, of instantaneous reaction and complex considered tactics, is also rare.”

    There are few team sports where individuals are allowed to shine. This I believe is what has given football (and basketball) a huge advantage over the others. A sport that allows individuals to stand out and express themselves creates household names, which in turn means more eyeballs on that sport, and growth. A video going viral after one piece of skill has a snow ball effect...kids buying a ball wanting to emulate what they have seen (another participant), buying a ticket wanting to see such skill up close (another viewer), buying merchandise (jerseys, posters, magazines etc.). This organic growth is priceless (as opposed to growth via an Empire administered by the upper middle classes).

    https://tony-collins.squarespace.co...4/21/soccer-how-the-global-game-became-global

    Professionalism and sporting modernity


    “What impact did soccer’s legalisation of professionalism and its eclipse of rugby have on its international development?

    The legalisation of professionalism decisively tilted the balance of power in soccer in favour of clubs composed of working-class professionals and organised on commercial lines. It opened the way for the widespread acceptance of league competitions throughout the game. In 1888 the Football League was formed, comprising the top northern and midlands professional sides. Within half a decade, almost every soccer club in Britain was part of a league competition.

    Professionalism and the league system gave soccer the appearance of being a meritocracy. It could now claim to be a ‘career open to talents’, regardless of the social or educational background of the player. The introduction of leagues also meant that teams could be assessed objectively on the basis of their playing record rather than their social status.

    Soccer therefore began to move towards a system of formal and objective regulation. This was in sharp contrast to amateurism’s informal social networks that were central to British middle-class male culture, in which the selection of players and the choice of opponents was often based on social status. Amateurism and the ‘code of the gentleman’ placed the informal understanding of the rules above their formal application, favouring the spirit rather than the letter of the law. Amateurism therefore privileged the insider who understood implicit unwritten conventions over the outsider whose understanding was based on the explicit written rules.

    But in soccer, the opposite was now true. Professionalism brought continuous competition, precise measurement and the supplanting of personal relationships by the exigencies of the commercial market.

    The leaders of professional soccer saw themselves as bringing the principles of science to the playing and organising of sport, as much as they did to their businesses. Their enthusiasm for cup and league competitions, and for the fullest competition between players and teams, reflected their belief that opportunities that should be available to them, free from social restrictions imposed from above. This conception of sport as an expression of the modern industrial meritocratic world, in which advancement was based on talent and skill, would be critical in making soccer so appealing to the world beyond Britain and its empire.

    Professionalism meant that an external, objective set of rules for the governance of the game developed. Soccer was no longer based on social status and networks, but ultimately controlled by rules that were independent of whoever led the sport. Soccer’s relationship to Britain was now a conditional one.

    Thus the men who formed FIFA in Paris in 1904 did not need the FA or the Football League for their legitimacy - soccer existed independently of its British administrators and British officials could do nothing to prevent FIFA’s formation. Moreover, the intense parochialism, and huge success, of British soccer meant that its leaders were largely uninterested in the spread of the game to Europe and therefore indifferent to the formation of FIFA or its work. The road was clear for soccer to become part of non-British and non-English-speaking cultures.
     
  6. saint.nick

    saint.nick Coach

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    If Aussie rugby wasn't so f**king exclusive, we'd be consistently neck and neck with NZ.
     
  7. Twizzle

    Twizzle Administrator Staff Member

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    The problem with Australian Rugby is that our national team comes form a handful of private schools in Brisbane and Sydney, its not a true representation of the depth of talent that could have been possible if AFL was not the major winter sport played in Vic, SA and WA.
     
  8. Game_Breaker

    Game_Breaker First Grade

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    Or League being the more popular Rugby code
     
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  9. ANTiLAG

    ANTiLAG First Grade

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    First to post the ol' saying that:

    Rugby is a hooligan's game popular wuth gentlemen but soccer is a gentleman's game popular with hooligans.
     
  10. ANTiLAG

    ANTiLAG First Grade

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    Just turned on ESPN and 1986 WC final is on. So many on the Argentinian team have mullets - more than than the 1988/89 Balmain Tigers.

    Got me wondering - What is Spainish for the mullet hair cut?

    Even some of ze Germans are offending this hair crime.

    One of the coaches is bald in the front but partying in the back - is this still a qualifying mullet?
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2018
  11. RoosTah

    RoosTah Juniors

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    Collins has some interesting points, but plenty are misguided I'd argue.

    This just isn't true in Australia, where the country was effectively split early by an obsession in the northern states with the thoroughly working class Rugby League, whilst in the other states the obsession was with the decidedly ant-British code of Victorian rules.

    Having an old man from WA who is nuts about his AFL and its history (incidentally why I can't bare to watch it), he often talks about how old Victorian media emphasised the almost intrinsically British nature of soccer and the rugby codes, and how that wasn't welcome in the often heavily Irish influenced Australian mining frontier towns in those states.

    Soccer was seen by many as the most intrinsically British and gentile posh sport imaginable - irrespective of whether that's how Brits felt about it - in these parts of the country, and therefore both openly loathed and also heavily and aggressively rejected as being an unwelcome interloper in the land of the home grown and thoroughly non-British Victorian Rules Football.

    In the northern states the rejection of soccer was more incidental in nature - focusing on its soft and effeminate reputation compared with the hard and character building working class game of rugby league, but it wasn't loathed like it was in the south.

    That's a cultural difference you still see - in Melbourne the media and AFL fans are openly disdainful of soccer in a way that the media aren't in Sydney or Brisbane.
     
    Last edited: May 31, 2018
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  12. Canard

    Canard Coach

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    Maybe historically, but for the last 40 years or so, soccer is much bigger in Melbourne then anywhere(media coverage included)
     

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