Rugby union fans twice as likely to support tackle height reduction than not
March 6th, 2023, Rishad Dsouza

Rugby union fans twice as likely to support tackle height reduction than not

Rugby union fans have overwhelmingly voted in favour of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) decision to lower the permitted tackle height at the community level, reveals a new YouGov survey. This support could make participation in rugby union more attractive to new players, and to parents of young children.

The poll was conducted using YouGov Surveys between February 3 and February 4 with an overall sample size of 2,099 adults in Great Britain.

Rugby fans are defined as those who follow the sport “very closely” or “somewhat closely” and make up 15% of the British population. Their scores are compared against occasional fans (those who follow the sport, but “not very closely”) and the non-fans who don’t follow at all.

Seven in ten of the rugby fans (73%) and a half of occasional fans (48%) had heard about the development before taking the survey. Additionally, 15% of those who said they don’t follow rugby union at all had also heard about it.

Overall, 61% of rugby union fans said they supported the rule change convincingly outnumbering the share of fans who said they opposed the rule change (32%). Similar share of occasional fans supported the rule change (59%), but only a fifth of them opposed it (19%).

Among the non-fans, supporters (33%) outnumbered the opposers (5%) by six times, with the majority of them not offering an opinion (63%). Somewhat expectedly, non-rugby fans who had heard about the news earlier were likelier to offer an opinion. Among them, over half (57%) said they supported the rule change compared to just one in ten who opposed (9%).

The single-biggest factor driving the support for the rule change was the stated goal of the RFU behind the rule change – player safety. Cumulatively, Nine out of ten of those who support the rule change do so for that reason (89%), including 81% of rugby fans, 94% of occasional fans and 89% of non-fans.

A fifth of rugby fans who do so support the rule change because they feel it will encourage more people to play the sport (22%), while sizeable portions of them also feel it will improve the flow of the game (14%) and make for better gameplay strategies (13%). Just under a one in ten rugby fans feel it will encourage more people to watch the sport (8%), although non-fans (1%) and occasional fans (3%) are less optimistic about that.

The majority of rugby fans who oppose the rule change are worried that it makes fundamental changes to the game (57%), and two-fifths of them feel it can hinder the flow of the game (42%) and that it might end up resulting in more injuries (42%). A sizeable number of them feel that it could discourage people from playing (33%) and watching (27%) rugby union. A fifth also feel that it could impact rugby’s perception of being a tough sport (20%).

Combined, opposers from the occasional fans and non-fans camps are also most likely to cite the change to the fundamentals of the game as their chief reason to oppose the change (42%).

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Methodology - YouGov RealTime Omnibus provides quick survey results from nationally representative or targeted audiences in multiple markets. This study was conducted online on 3-4 February 2023 with a nationally representative sample of 2,099 adults in Great Britain (aged 18+ years), using a questionnaire designed by YouGov. Data figures have been weighted by age, gender, education level, region, and social grade to be representative of all adults in Great Britain and reflect the latest ONS population estimates. Learn more about YouGov RealTime Omnibus.