Rugby and football have a lot of differences both on and off the pitch. How fans interact with each other is a stark difference between the two sports.
Do Rugby Fans Sit Together?
Rugby fans do sit together, they are not separated based on who they support. It is very common for a handful of away supports to be surrounded by home fans. This does not cause any conflict.
Football fans are often in shock when they hear that rugby fans are not separated. They can’t imagine a world where rival fans can sit peacefully together.
Football fans are forcefully separated and are often escorted by police and made to take fenced off paths all designed to keep home and away fans apart. Police are so concerned about extreme violence and riots that they go to extreme lengths to ensure that the two groups do not get a hold of each other.
The atmosphere could not be different at a rugby game. There is little police presence and there certainly aren’t tower fences and imposing barricades preventing home and away fans from mingling.
In fact in rugby rival fans are encouraged to socialize with each other, grab a beer and have a sing. Rugby has an overall much friendlier atmosphere than football. Even if rival fans are being a bit cheeky and reminding the other side about the results of past matches cooler heads nearly always prevail.
Then once inside the stadium rugby fans just like outside the arena are free to walk wherever they choose. There is no designated area based on who you support. The seating is completely mixed. Small groups of rivals fans are able to sit amongst the “enemy” outnumbered 500 to 1 with no issues.
There are always a few security guards assessing the situation to ensure everyone behaves themselves but they are almost never required to intervene. Even if the rival fans start a slightly rude chant or ask the losing side’s fans to check the scoreboard. The atmosphere is still upbeat and happy.
In contrast in a football match, rival fans for their own safety have to be caged up well away from the home fans. They are only allowed to sit in special areas which are blocked off from the home fans and are typically surrounded by security just in case some of them are crazy enough to try and jump the barricade.
The atmosphere within football stadiums is often far from cheery and welcoming. When the home side is losing and the away fans start jeering them things become very tense and you can feel the potential for violence in the air. The home fans will genuinely become angry and start screaming.
If they could get to the rival fans and start bashing them many of the home fans would jump at the chance.
Why Are Football And Rugby Crowds Different?
Football has traditionally been a working class game while rugby is a middle and upper class sport. Rugby hooligans are on the pitch whereas football hooligans are off the pitch.
Everyone knows football crowds and fans are much rougher than their rugby counterparts. A big reason for this is the demographic of the supporters.
Football fans tend to be from lower socio-economic backgrounds and come from higher crime areas in big cities compared to rugby fans who come from middle class and upper class backgrounds, attended private schools and live in safer, upscale areas.
A lot of rugby fans also come from rural areas which don’t have gang or crime issues that many inner city areas of big cities have where the most diehard football fans are drawn from.
The physicality and the violent nature of rugby especially compared to football seems to somehow diffuse the tension in the ground. Rugby fans are happy to let their side battle it out and be the hooligans on the pitch while they peacefully enjoy the match off the pitch.
In contrast the non-violent nature of football seems to be not enough to quench the thirst for conflict and competition among a segment of football fans.
Some football fans are looking for a more intense level of competition that football is not delivering. This leads to them wanting to take things further and have their own competition with rival fans involving their fists.
Rugby fans do not need to segregated they are allowed to sit with rival fans. This does not cause any conflict and results in a unique atmosphere where groups of rival fans can be cheering and singing right next to each other.
Unfortunately in football this reality is not possible due to the threat of extreme violence and the potential for riots. Why football fans can’t act like rugby fans has long been debated. It appears that the different demographics of the two fan bases plays a role and also the nature of the sports. Rugby’s intense violence on the pitch seems to have a calming effect on the crowd.