"Football/Soccer is a gentleman’s game played by ruffians/hooligans; rugby is a ruffian’s/hooligan’s game played by gentlemen” is a sports saying, cited in print since at least 1961. There are many variations of the saying, with some including American football.
English Club—Rugby Vocabulary
“Football is a gentleman’s game played by ruffians, and rugby is a ruffian’s game played by gentlemen.”
This old British saying cleverly contrasts football (or soccer) with rugby. “Ruffian” is an old-fashioned word meaning a tough, violent, possibly criminal person. The saying shows the irony of the fact that a rough and dangerous game like rugby was played by polite, well-educated “gentlemen”, while the much gentler and safer game of football was played by tough, lower-class men with a reputation for violence. Even today rugby players might seem to be very polite gentlemen when compared to many footballers, especially those seen swearing at referees and angrily abusing them when a decision goes against them. Some people might even say that this old British saying still applies today.
Some Rugby Quotes
“Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen; soccer is a gentleman’s game played by beasts; football is a beastly game played by beasts.” - Henry Blaha
1 August 1961, Springfield (Manitoba) Leader, “The Passing Show” by Ron Tuckwell, pg. 8, col. 2:
It’s like this (said by the games’ expert) there are two games—called Rugby (football) and Association (soccer)—and the difference is, one is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans, and the other is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.
He didn’t say which was which.
28 June 1964, The Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica), “Sportsbeat” by Sunstaff, pg. 11, col.1:
Ail of which win hearten the old buffers who believe that rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen and soccer a game for gentlemen played by hooligans.
April 04, 1966
Gentlemanly Game For Ruffians
Rugby is an old tradition at the University of California, and the Golden Bears approach the game with a combination of verve and casualness their English forebears might not recognize but surely would applaud
Doc Hudson loves to brag about his favorite old grads. Ray Willsey, the present football coach, was a Rugby ace in the early ‘50s, and so were Pro Football Linebackers Les Richter and Matt Hazel-tine, whose father also played Rugby at Cal. One of Hudson’s finest products is his assistant, Jim (Truck) Cullom, who also coaches the freshman football team.
“He’s a screamer and so am I,” said Cullom. “Rugby in England is a rowdy game played by gentlemen. At California it’s a gentleman’s game played by ruffians.”
21 April 1967, Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, WI), sec. 2, pg. 4, col. 1:
A Hooligan’s Game Played by Gentlemen
Rugby Is Rugged and Non-Stop
By BRIAN DONNELLY
Rugby, so the saying goes, is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen. while soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans.
In fact, rugby combines all the physical contact of American football with the non-stop action of soccer.
By Brian McArdle and Peter Fenton
The classic distinction between soccer and rugby football is: “Soccer is a gentleman’s game played by cads; rugby is a cad’s game played by gentlemen.”
Google News Archive
5 January 1971, The Star-Phoenix (Saskatoon, Sask.), pg. 13, col. 2:
Even so, it has been said that soccer is a gentlemen’s game played by ruffians, rugger a ruffian’s game played by gentlemen, and Rugby League a ruffian’s game played by ruffians!
D. L. FARMER
No. 6C, 1800 Main Street, Saskatoon
Various comparisons have been made between soccer, American football, and rugby football. “Soccer,” said a rugger snobbishly, “is a gentleman’s game played by beasts. American football is a beastly game played by beasts. Rugby is a beastly game played by gentlemen.”
August 1974, Texas Monthly, “The Sport of Rough Gentlemen” by Paul Burka, pg. 42, col. 2:
To this day ruggers belittle soccer, and they will tell anyone who expresses the slightest interest in their game that rugby is “a ruffian’s game played by gentlemen,” while soccer is “a gentleman’s game played by ruffians.”
A personal view
By Tim Pat Coogan
A stock sports joke is that rugby is a bowsie game played by gentlemen, soccer is a gentleman’s game played by bowsies and Gaelic football is a bowsie game played by bowsies.
An anthropological interpretation of conversation in the city
By Nigel Rapport
St. John’s, Nfld.: Institute of Social and Economic Research, Memorial University of Newfoundland
“Well, rugby was always my spectator sport. A hooligan’s game played by gentlemen,’ as they say. As opposed to football — or soccer, as they seem to call it now— which is ‘a gentleman’s game played by hooligans’!”
26 October 1991, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Cup puts rugby in spotlight” by Terry Tomalin, pg. 1C:
In the British Isles, where soccer has been described as a “gentleman’s game played by hooligans,” rugby is the “hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.”
New York (NY) Times
The Smaller the Ball, the Better the Book: A Game Theory of Literature
Date: May 31, 1992, Sunday, Late Edition - Final
Byline: By George Plimpton
A well-known definition is that soccer is a gentleman’s game played by thugs, whereas rugby is a thug’s game played by gentlemen. This might hold, but in fact I don’t know that rugby has produced much of a literature either.
29 September 1992, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “This Prep Coach Has Traded Real Prose for Would-Be Pros” by Sahv Glick, pg. C2:
Quotebook: Henry Blaha, Baltimore Rugby Club captain, on football: “They say that rugby is a beastly game played by gentleman, soccer is a gentleman’s game played by beasts and that football is a beastly game played by beasts.”
(idea) by Frankie Wed Apr 10 2002 at 19:43:44
The gentle art of Rugby Union
An old rugby adage holds that Rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen. I believe it is usually preceded by Football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, which highlights the rivalry that exists between the two sports.
101 Great Goals
“Rugby is a thug’s game played by gentlemen and football is a gentleman’s game played by thugs”
Thursday, August 20th, 2009
(An opinion piece by Hugo Saye)
Apparently rugby is a thug’s game played by gentlemen and football is a gentleman’s game played by thugs. So the saying goes.
New York City • Sports/Games • (1) Comments • Thursday, November 24, 2011 • Permalink
The Rugby sport is also good game.The Gaa Football and Rugby famous in whole world. People are like these games and they enjoyed to play Gaa sports. The Gaa Sports including the both sports.