The sports minister, Richard Caborn, has condemned the "stark" difference between the behaviour of rugby players and footballers. He has urged football clubs to emulate the conduct of players and fans who have just returned from the Rugby World Cup.
Clive Woodward's side were a model of good behaviour in winning the tournament, said Caborn, who is a former director of Sheffield United. He recently wrote to all Football League clubs reminding them of their players' responsibility as role models.
Caborn said: "You can win at international level - and rugby is a pretty tough game - with respect for your opponents, respect for officials and respect for other fans. If we start going down that road we can start to get sport to where it should be.
"The debate is going on about the contrast with football and that has been quite stark," he added. "First of all, there is respect for officials, team discipline, fans and the way they conduct themselves.
"You saw in Australia the way the fans mixed with each other and debated the sport they were watching. The appreciation of the sport is uppermost and not the rivalry of the teams. That's something that football can learn from.
"We are seeing now how far the game of football has drifted away from the basic elements of good sport - a good team, supporting the sport. There are many emotions in rugby but they are channelled in the right way and not into rivalry with other teams."
Caborn was speaking after greeting Woodward's team at Heathrow yesterday morning, and he believes that the welcome there underlined the difference between the two sports.
"There were 6,000 people turned out and not a whiff of a problem. One of the most famous people in sport walked out there, and there were no real worries. If that was Beckham it would have been somewhat different, and that is unfortunate. I'm sure football authorities acknowledge that and are addressing it."Reuse content