Football

Rugby vs Football: Sport against a business

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So Super League man of steel in 2012 Sam Tomkins has just signed for New Zealand Warriors for just over £450,000, a new world record, when in football, Samuel Eto'o used to make surplus of £320,000 a week at Anzhi Makhachkala and Gareth Bale has just broken the world record by signing for Real Madrid for £85.3m.

But why is money so predominant in football but not yet rugby, yet being the operative word. I'm set to spark controversy by juxtaposing rugby and football to try to explain how some sports evolve in different ways.

For starters, Rugby was originally based on the idea of amateurism, and amateur rugby teams existed until 1967, whilst the same year in football the world transfer record stood at £300,000 (around 3.5m today), and the top four tiers of English football were fully professional.

Rugby had yet to evolve into a fully professional game, whilst football had already become slowly but surely all about money. Equally, the size of the stadium's during the first stages of professional rugby meant they had very little revenue in comparison to football, as Wembley, Old Trafford, Anfield to name but a few were existent in football.

This meant that football teams could afford to pay their players more as they had more revenue, and had charged excessive prices for a number of years, whereas rugby prices were seemingly more modest. For example, a ticket for the international test between Hull FC and New Zealand in 1985 was £1.30 (around £3 nowadays) whereas a 1985 FA Cup Final ticket was £23 (around £59 nowadays).

More modern football and rugby is far more revealing, clubs have been accused of buying players just so rival teams cannot buy them, and many players have been accused of joining larger clubs to be paid a wage most rugby players make a year in a week, but sit on the bench for the full season and maybe playing those definite win cup games against lower league sides or Moldovan pub teams in Champions League qualifying games.

Chairmen have also evolved the game into a multi-million pound business, with Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Elton John and Roman Abramovich being the most famous and richest owners in the past and present. But, as far as debt goes, rugby league teams are actually richer than premiership football teams. The large percent of football sides are bought with borrowed money, hence why clubs dip in and out of administration.

The "richest football clubs" are just the clubs which borrow the most money. The collected debt across the premiership is 3.3billion. In rugby, however, expenditure often does not exceed profit, and the backup players are usually academy graduates and paid modest wages, with the highest paid player in the Super League only being Tomkins on £250,000 a year(which Wayne Rooney makes a week).

Super League teams also have a wage cap of 1.65m a year for the 25 listed squad players. But in football, the powers of agents and players to bully clubs into demanding more money has increased annual debt for football clubs, whereas in the Super League, the wages are already decided and cannot exceed the cap, so the owners can put aside the money in order to cover the wages already, and run the club on the interest. Dr Koukash is one of the first Super League owners to not be a fan of the club he bought, which is rare in football for a fan to buy a club, and has monopolised Salford City Red Devils.

Similarly to Manchester City, he is a huge monopoly over the other clubs in the league, the difference is that Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Manchester City owner) can exploit his freedom to purchase and pay players by signing players he does not need, whereas Koukash, the richest man in rugby league, has a wage cap to obey and academy players to breed into the first team. 

It is fair to say that both sports could learn from each other. The importance of academy in rugby and home-grown talent should be imported into football as academies and the youth of football have struggled enormously.

Football players could learn from rugby players that playing is paying, and a fulfilment of playing the sport can often trump being paid huge wages for sitting on a chair. However, Rugby can also learn from football, and Dr Koukash could be the first of many foreign and rich owners to embrace the game and try to professionalise the game more, which could be make rugby a very healthy competitive campaign as the clubs leading the Super League seem to change more often than clubs leading the Premiership.

When juxtaposed, Rugby League and football seem very different, but it seems they are slowly becoming similar and ground-shares with football sides and also rich owners slowly coming into rugby are accountable for the shift in modern sport.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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