Follow me:

Listening Practice: What Can Football Learn From Rugby?

Football Learn From RugbyRugby and football have a shared history which goes all the way back to folk football. They became two distinct games in the 19th century, when famously a public school boy called Webb Ellis picked the ball up during a game of ‘football’ and ran with it. Since then, most boys (and an increasing number of girls) in Britain and Ireland have either been football players or rugby players. But instead of being opponents of each other, maybe the two sports can learn from each other. In this listening report, we wonder how football could be improved by looking at the sport of rugby, currently enjoying the limelight with the Rugby World Cup. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link above, and you can also read the transcript of the report (below). There is also explanations of key vocabulary (in bold). If you have questions or comments, email us at:

Listening Practice: What Can Football Learn From Rugby?

Time keeping

A lot of time is wasted in football when the ball goes out of play for a corner, a goal kick or a throw in. Add to this stoppages for injuries and free kicks and in the last World Cup in Brazil it was found that the average time football was being played in each match was 55 minutes. As a football match is 90 minutes long, that’s 35 minutes lost. Rugby on the other hand has a system that stops the clock when the game is interrupted.

Respect for the officials

Rugby is famous for the saying, ‘the referee’s decision is final’. Any kind of complaint, swearing, or dissent is punished with a penalty, or even moving a kick at goal closer when there has already been a penalty given. In football, in contrast, swearing at the referee, surrounding the referee and complaining, trying to con the referee are all common occurrences. Surely, football can learn from rugby on this one?

Communication with player and fans

Many watching football games, fans, pundits and players, are left confused as to why a referee made a decision (See above). Did a referee allow play on to allow advantage or did the referee think there was no foul. Was the yellow card for dissent or for repeated fouls. Some referees can be very good at communicating their decisions, but many are not so good. In rugby, referees spend a lot more time explaining to players why they made a decision and with access to video, which is shown on the stadium screen, the fans also can see and often hear what is happening.


Although rugby union has more players than football, 15 versus 11, they can use up to eight substitutes. Perhaps football would benefit from being able to bring on more fresh legs. After all, most people say the game has got faster and players need to be fitter than 10 or 20 years ago.


folk football: A traditional game dating back several hundred years; often played on a festival at special days in the year

limelight: Spotlight; a prominent position in the news headlines

stoppages: Events which mean the game has to be stopped; as in stoppage time

swearing: using bad language; inappropriate language

dissent: Arguing; complaining

to con: Trick; cheat

play on: When a referee allows play to continue after a foul, believing the attacking side has an advantage

fresh legs: New players; substitutes; players who have had a long rest

Related words and phrases


To get access to lots more content, please think about become a patron at patreon.comCheck out our glossary of footballing phrases here If you have any suggestions, contact us at

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Hosted by

I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
Google | Facebook | Twitter | Mail | Website

Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More from this show

Football Language Podcast

Football Language Podcast: Heavy

The Learn English Through Football podcast explains the language of football: This week, we look at the word 'heavy' and its use in...