The school of hard knocks:
Now public health zealots want to ban rugby

You would have thought that doctors would have grown tired of preaching to us about public health dangers. Not a chance. After tobacco, alcohol, sugar, sweeteners, microwaves, cholesterol, dairy, trans-fats, fruit juice, sunlight, lack of sunlight, processed meat, video games, TV, baby slings and bottled water, now the medical profession has turned its ire on one of our beloved national sports. More than 70 leading public health figures have called for a ban on tackling in school rugby.

Whilst I am eternally grateful to them for sharing their wisdom with us mere mortals, I am heartened to know that I am in the majority in considering the benefits of contact rugby to heavily outweigh the risks. Most people you speak to who have had even the briefest of dalliances with the sport would agree that they have gained from the experience, especially the former players whose lives have been blighted by concussion.

The case for non-contact rugby has been taken up enthusiastically by the Left (those without medical degrees), supposedly in the cause of public health but if you scratch under the surface you find the vile stench of class hatred.

Zoe Williams, the Guardian columnist, let the mask slip briefly when she appeared on BBC Question Time describing rugby as, “A weird thing that posh people play.” Such is the mindless loathing of the upper class that anything they enjoy would be reviled by the Left, given the chance they’d ban Barbour Jackets and Contract Bridge. (Incidentally, notice how the news coincided with an upsurge in the fortunes of the national team, nothing like a bit of socialist bitterness to try and puncture any sense of national pride or achievement).

If Williams ever ventured out of her effete London bubble she’d know how utterly ridiculous she sounded, writing off a sport played by around 2 million people in these islands as elitist due to a narrow view of the world created by class prejudice. I would love her, or any other Guardianista, to venture into a rugby clubhouse in South Wales, West Yorkshire, Devon, Cornwall or the Scots borders and describe the denizens as ‘posh.’ She’d be laughed out of the bar.

It is interesting to note that 30 years ago the British Left was prepared to push the nation to the brink of civil war to preserve coal mining, an infinitely more unhealthy activity than rugby, to protect working class communities. Yet now they turn on the one thing that has consistently sustained a sense of community in places like Treorchy and Tondu, Castleford and Featherstone.

As childhood becomes ever more sanitized and risk-free it should come as no surprise that the medical profession believes tackling in rugby should be banned for youngsters. But let the debate be framed around evidence and rational thought, not the egregious prejudices of a fundamentalist faction blinded by ideological hatred.

Adolescence should be a time of experimentation and risk and unless we expose young people to pain and failure we do them a disservice, leaving them ill-equipped for the real world. If we continue on this course I imagine my great-grandchildren will be sealed in cotton wool cocoons, catheterized and peg fed, with a permanent wi-fi connection directly to their brain (think The Matrix with Facebook). There they will stay for 18 years until released as soulless drones to enjoy whatever freedoms we might have left.


Martin is a lifelong Socialist who saw the error of his ways, making a sharp right turn. Follow him on Twitter: @righturn79

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty

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