Dickens; A Tale of Two Cities; social justice championed; aristocracy exposed. Using this heavily-simplified analysis of one of the greatest novels of all time, I can make a tenuous, but perhaps feasible, sporting comparison: A Tale of Two Tournaments – the Rugby World Cup 2015 and the Football World Cup 2014. All fans want from these tournaments is to enjoy watching the sport they love in a global setting, but all to often the governing bodies responsible for the organisation seem incapable of making this happen. While World Rugby seem to have coped well with their mandate, with FIFA it’s a very different story. I am one of many who would advocate the revolutionary overthrow of football’s ruling elite, though perhaps not with such murderous vigour as the French efforts of the 18th century.
As the Rugby World Cup drew to an emphatic close on Saturday evening with New Zealand deservedly retaining their trophy, I was unable to stop myself drawing comparisons with football’s equivalent in Brazil last year. There are sporting similarities to be drawn: phenomenal group stage matches, humiliated hosts and brilliant winners. However, an analysis of off-pitch matters interests me more. Unlike Brazil 2014, England 2015 was not embroiled in a scandal, stemming from the heart of the sport’s governing body; vast sums of taxpayers’ money were not so blatantly wasted; and the human rights of workers were not treated with such appalling disregard. England 2015 was simply a fantastic celebration of sport.
These international sporting tournaments should be just that: a celebration of sport and not riddled with bureaucratic squabble. We have become so used to organisations such as FIFA and the IOC leaving their mark on such events that the lack of interference from rugby’s organisers was both noticeable and welcome. England 2015 was a triumph for rugby the sport, as opposed to rugby the institution. The tournament will be remembered for Japan’s audacious, free-flowing flair, the remarkable achievement of All Black legends and perhaps England’s decision to kick for corner instead of goal.
However, while the sporting legacy of Brazil 2014 will undoubtedly be Germany’s 7-1 annihilation of the host nation, FIFA’s irritable and corrupt interference will also linger in the memory. At every game the fans booed FIFA’s flag and anthem, they loudly chastised the price of drinks and tickets and lamented the iron grasp that FIFA held over everything. At England 2015, the fans, by and large, discussed the game. They discussed the sport.
Of course, the Rugby World Cup is far less global than football’s equivalent. The small group of rugby-playing nations may be growing, but it will be difficult to break the established dominance. As the next edition of the tournament heads into Asia for the first time, organisers would do well to look at the mistakes that football has made in attempting to over commercialise the tournament and allowing financial greed to dominate.
Although the reality for these sports may not be as bleak as it was for the cities of Dickens’ novel, as World Rugby looks to a promising future and FIFA endures its darkest hour, it is perhaps fair to say that England 2015 and Brazil 2014 were ‘the best of times’ and ‘the worst of times’ for their respective governing bodies.